The Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California will host a FOX card riddled with young talent that tend to deliver fun and excitement. Aside from Brad Pickett, Urijah Faber, Eddie Wineland and Takeya Mizugaki the majority of the card is a nest of burgeoning mixed martial artists. The main event between Paige VanZant and Michelle Waterson is a young gun versus a veteran, but their combined age is still 52. Even ten year UFC veteran Cole Miller who fights Mizuto Hirota on the card is only 32 years old.
A main card bout between Sage Northcutt and Mickey Gall is the prime example of some potential future talent but a fight that is flying under the radar is the opening bout of the FOX preliminaries. Irene Aldana will be making her UFC debut against Leslie Smith and it could be as good a barnburner as anybody could ask for. Aldana, the other half of the Team Lobo gym female prospect equation is set to meet a woman who is willing to oblige her in her kind of fight and make it entertaining the whole way through.
Smith is a wild brawler that seems to want to taper her aggression as of late, the great thing about a fight with Aldana is that she won’t allow that. Aldana is a proficient boxer, much has been made of her teammate Alexa Grasso’s hands but Aldana is a specialist. Grasso has a firm grasp of all aspects of striking. her hands are excellent but she can use her feet very well too. Aldana can use her other limbs but the majority of her offense is punches. Even her stance is heavily boxing centered and tends to use traditional bob and weave methods as her defense.
Smith is not a counterpuncher and has no patience, this isn’t a slam against her it is just her nature. Upper echelon striking habits and mechanics can always be thought but Smith is intent to push. Even if she were she to solely focus on the intricacies of striking, her go-to would always be to push the pace and make it ugly.
“The Peacemaker” is in an interesting spot right now. The nickname is most definitely apropos at this juncture. After her quick loss to “Cyborg,” Smith decided to speak out about fighter rights and join an association. Outside the cage, Smith has always been what you might expect her to be, a NorCal liberal who supports the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and animal rights, but this is not representative of her fight style. Peace is the last thing she is looking for in a fight, she is a blood and guts warrior who fights like it is a death match.
Aldana’s slick boxing and power will make the old brawler in Smith come out. The last time the Mexican fought she put a savage beating on Faith Van Duin but not before battling through a little adversity. A few of the former featherweight’s heavy right hands tagged Aldana but she took them, lunged forward and assaulted Van Duin with crisp boxing technique.
The ability to take a beating was evident in Aldana’s title fight against Tonya Evinger, but some questions about her chin were still up in the air amongst some hardcores after her insane battle with Larissa Pacheco. The third round TKO was shocking because it literally looked like Aldana had been zapped with a tazer, the Van Duin fight alleviated some worries that she might be a bit chinny. Smith is notorious for being able to take a beating and dish one out, if you don’t believe that ask top bantamweight contender Raquel Pennington how their bout in 2013 went.
In conclusion, Aldana vs. Smith should be nothing but chaos. Even though an otherworldly brawl took place between Cub Swanson and Doo Ho Choi last week, and although this FOX card features action fighters like Bryan Barberena, James Moontasri, Mike Perry and Alan Jouban, Aldana and Smith are more than capable and highly likely to produce a fight of the night candidate. The Guadalajaran is posted as a favorite in the bout right now but do not doubt Smith. A controversial decision robbed her of a victory against Sarah Kaufman at a time when Kaufman was still considered a top five fighter. Aldana will be tested just as much as Smith will be and both will ultimately come out of this better fighters cause the technical skill differential may be conspicuous, but their drive for victory and adrenaline producing styles are identical.