Molly McCann: 2020 The Year of the ‘Meatball’
The UFC debut of Molly McCann in May 2018 couldn’t have gone much worse. McCann missed weight and was choked unconscious by Gillian Robertson in her home city.
But from the ashes of that defeat, McCann rose and found another level or two to her game.
McCann has been extremely open about her battles with mental illness, and you can only imagine what she must have been going through as she entered 2019 fearing that the UFC would almost certainly cut her if she lost her next fight.
Priscila Cachoeira faced McCann in London in March, and left England knowing first hand what a reborn McCann was all about. Cachoeira marched forward all night long, but must have known she was two rounds down as she entered the final round.
But suddenly the Brazilian had hope, a glancing blow landed on McCann’s right eye, and victory which looked certain now looked anything but.
McCann suffered a broken orbital, and when the referee stopped the action in the final minute, McCann must have felt her night would again end in heartbreak. But she was allowed to continue, and saw out the fight to win a deserved 29-28 decision over her tough opponent.
The win in London gave McCann a little slice of history. The win over Cachoeira was the first ever victory in the UFC by an English female.
Ariane Lipski was next for McCann in May, and the Liverpool favourite was a substantial underdog for their meeting in Greenville.
But McCann put on a technical masterclass, to defeat her much hyped opponent. McCann showed her evolution in South Carolina, a career best performance with a quality that would have surprised many.
Diana Belbita made her UFC debut in October, but her trip to Boston ended in a lopsided decision loss to McCann. Suspected food poisoning affected McCann pre-fight and while the promised finish didn’t materialise, McCann can take much solace from fighting through illness to take home a dominant decision victory.
McCann started 2019 on the brink but leaves it with a 3 fight win streak. The turnaround has been quite remarkable in many ways and McCann can look forward to 2020 with much relish.
A return to the scene of her maiden victory, McCann will make her 2020 bow in March when the UFC returns to London. Ashlee Evans-Smith is next up for McCann, and a another victory should secure a much-coveted ranking in the UFC flyweight division.
McCann isn’t one to rest on her laurels and she knows there is work still to be done if she is to move on to the upper echelons of her division.
Valentina Shevchenko sits at the top of the tree, and as dominant as she currently appears, we know from combat sports history, staying at the top of the mountain isn’t always as simple as it might seem, title reigns can end at the most unexpected time.
Katlyn Chookagian is next for Shevchenko early next year, and if successful she could then face Maycee Barber and maybe square off against Amanda Nunes for a third time.
Some tough fights ahead for the current UFC champion, and McCann and any other flyweight challenger who can get a run together to force a title shot in 2021 could very well benefit from Shevchenko’s difficult schedule ahead.
McCann isn’t being rushed by the UFC and while I sensed a little frustration when I spoke to her a few weeks ago, she also knows in the long run it will benefit her. McCann has time on her side, the grappling side of her game has come on so much in the last year or so, time will add even more to her arsenal.
I doubt the old brawling McCann will ever completely go away, but I prefer the technical side we saw against Lipski and that I believe is where McCann will show further improvement going forward, as well as find the greater success.
McCann has to overcome physical disadvantages in practically every fight, and the Liverpool favourite knows this is something she needs to improve on. But this where McCann impresses, she knows she isn’t the complete fighter yet, and despite the year she has had, McCann knows full well her journey isn’t anywhere near complete.
McCann’s coach Paul Rimmer, believes she is still 5 fights away from being ready for the likes of Shevchenko, and with good grounded advice like that in her ear, McCann is in safe hands.
McCann still has her critics, and many will think a title run is unlikely, but this time last year so was being where she is now, don’t rule it out, 2020 could very well be the year of the ‘Meatball.’