Amanda Nunes vs. Sheila Gaff: Head-to-Toe Breakdown
When Amanda Nunes and Sheila Gaff face off at UFC 163: Aldo vs. Jung in Brazil, fans can almost be assured of frenetic violence.
The card's title fight between Jose Aldo and Chan Sung-Jung will be on the forefront of most fans' minds for good reason. That said, the only female fight on the card is an early darkhorse for Knockout of the Night or Fight of the Night. Nunes and Gaff may well end up looking similar to any betta-fish battle seen inside a small aquarium. That is the kind of fight Brazilians love, and MMA fans worldwide can enjoy.
The out-of-the-gate hectic styles of the two fighters can make predicting an outcome nearly impossible. However, if the two combatants fail to knock each other out early, Nunes could well enjoy a decided advantage.
The Striking Game
The "German Tank" is a powerful and wild attacker. She throws her punches with reckless abandon, adding in a kick to the body every so often.
Gaff loves to get in close, dip her chin into her chest, and punish her opponents with a barrage of over-the-shoulder hooks. When she is too close to land wide hooks, she often switches to Hendo-style straights. At times her punches can look like a cricket hurler's toss; however, it is hard to fault her for the strategy. It has garnered her plentiful success throughout her career, including four knockouts in 30 seconds or less.
“Lioness” maintains a pace nearly equal to her opponent's, but with just a tad more control. Hooks, however, are not her chosen go-to strike.
Nunes utilizes straight punches that start from just outside her opponents range. She is not immune to placing herself within the pocket after beginning her assault, but tends to begin the combo just outside of her opponent's range. This allows Nunes to land the first punch, followed by an assault that ends with the opponent on the mat.
Because both fighters enjoy swinging from the opening bell, the stand-up portion is nearly impossible to predict. Based on past striking battles of the past, we know a fighter who uses straight punches from outside the pocket often gains the upper hand. That said, everyone is aware of Wanderlei Silva, who has made quite a career behind seemingly wild hooks.
The Ground Game
Nunes earned her first career submission over Raquel Pa'Aluhi at Invicta FC 2. The win was a bit tainted given Pa'Aluhi, who is prone to submissions, was a late replacement for an injured Leslie Smith (MMA Rising).
Nunes' lone career submission loss came in her first professional bout back in 2008. She clearly worked on her overall ground game since her early days, avoiding a repeat of the loss.
Gaff's ground game comes only at the tail end of whatever barrage she has laid on her opponent. Of her 10 victories, four have come by way of submission.
What is impressive about Gaff's talent on the ground is the variety of submissions she has pulled off. The “German Tank” has locked two armbars, a rear-naked choke, and a heel hook. It appears her wildness in the stand-up is complimented by an aggressive ground game that has her snatching up whatever she sees as a possible weak link.
Simply due to the variety in which Gaff can finish, she likely holds a slight advantage. The trouble will be if she can get Nunes to the ground in the first place. Nunes does have an edge on quality of opponents in her career, and has shown improvement on the ground, but it is likely that if the fight hits the mat it is only because one woman has been knocked down or out.
Gaff is certain to do do what she does best: Blitz Nunes and stay on top of her until she wilts. Her most used strategy will surely be to close the distance and land shots fast. If that fails and she is tagged, she will have to swim in behind her wild punches punches and take Nunes down. However, it is hard to overcome one's natural inclinations in a fight. Gaff is more likely to be tagged by Nunes early, and respond instinctively with her berserker-like pace.
Nunes must be aware of what Gaff does in her fights. With that in mind, "Lioness” is certain to keep on her bike and strike from the outside, picking Gaff apart. Nunes will need to do everything she can to stay out of trapping herself along the Octagon's walls. Failing to do so exposes her to Gaff's wrath, along with possible takedowns.
Nunes will have worked extensively on popping back to her feet after being taken down or rocked to the canvas. She must come into the fight knowing Gaff can hurt her, and will have hopefully prepared for what is to come afterwards.
The size of the Octagon can be a huge advantage for Nunes, who will want to be constantly moving away from Gaff to set up combinations. If will work against Gaff as she has trouble controlling her aggression during fights. Nunes ability to use range and straight punches as Gaff closes distance is key.
If Gaff cannot keep her composure, or at least curb it now and then, it could be a long and painful night.
As with so many fights this bout will come down to who can implement the strategy that fits her strengths. Nunes has the inside track thanks to straighter punches, aptitude on the mat, and more controlled strategy. Gaff is more likely to gas if the fight goes long, giving Nunes a second route to victory if she can avoid the early storms but cannot put the German away.
Gaff does hold the advantage on the mat (on paper). Getting the fight there is a tall order, however. Her resume does not contain a high-quality shot, and her ability to knock down her opponent has to come from a Nunes mental lapse. Gaff's best strategy is to pick her spots to explode with punches, but history says she likely cannot keep her composure.
The wrench in the entire equation is that both women could simply end up bull-rushing one another. If that occurs the fans of Brazil will be treated to a much smaller, but only slightly less entertaining, Frye vs. Takayama (gifak.net).