3 Ways Felicia Spencer Can Beat Amanda Nunes at UFC 250
OK, let's address the elephant in the room.
Felicia Spencer is not only fighting the reigning UFC featherweight champion this weekend in Las Vegas, but she's also fighting a consensus pick as history's greatest female mixed martial artist.
Amanda Nunes, for those somehow uninformed, wears both hats. Oh, she's the promotion's bantamweight champion, too.
So the suggestion that Spencer will actually compete with the dual-belted "Lioness" at UFC 250, let alone beat her, is often met with cynicism, criticism and skepticism—as evidenced by a fight-week betting line at the William Hill Sports Book, where it'll take a $600 wager on Nunes just to win $100 while a $100 risk on Spencer would return a $450 profit in the event of an upset.
In fact, it seems everyone is on the Brazilian belt-holder's bandwagon. Even Spencer herself to a point.
But that doesn't mean she's conceding Saturday's main event. Far from it.
"I love it. I mean, she is great," the challenger said.
"I know people value her and I know all of her accomplishments are real. Everything that she's done is real. She's made a statement in her career and now it's my turn to make mine. So I hope people do hold her up in high regard and just make it that much sweeter when I win. That just makes it even better."
Indeed, upsets do happen in the Octagon.
And in the spirit of Holly Holm, Forrest Griffin and Keith Jardine—authors of three of the UFC's biggest surprises over Ronda Rousey, Shogun Rua and Chuck Liddell, respectively—we assembled a short list of ways in which the unheralded Canadian might put herself on that list come Sunday morning.
Click through to see how your list jibes with ours.
No, we're not at all suggesting that confidence alone will topple a two-division champion.
Still, any student of combat sports will tell you that plenty of fighters with skills to burn have been beaten long before the first bell has sounded, thanks to a shortcoming in the self-belief department.
For Exhibit A, might we suggest nearly every foe of Mike Tyson in the 1980s.
And with an opponent as decorated as Nunes, it'd be understandable if Spencer had similar concerns.
But it doesn't seem like a problem for the once-beaten five-year pro, who fights out of Orlando, Fla. and until last month, moonlighted as a sixth-grade algebra teacher with the state's virtual school.
Spencer was just the second UFC fighter to go the distance with Cris Cyborg—dropping a three-round decision at UFC 240 last year— and as 6-to-1 underdogs go, she seems downright buoyant about her chances here.
"I'm not here to just show up and fight. I'm here to win," she said.
"You're going to see the best version of me. I think you're going to see a version of me that hasn't been in the cage before. I'm so ready to have another chance to fight a legend and this time to take it home."
Let's face it, sometimes confidence just isn't enough. It could turn out that in addition to bravado, it will take some good fortune for Spencer to strike it rich in Las Vegas.
But it's not as if it's never happened before.
When she faced a heavily favored Cyborg last summer, a timely Spencer elbow forced the terrifyingly named phenom to taste her own blood for the first time in a 14-year career and made her look, well...human.
It changed the tenor of the fight from one-sided beatdown to nip-and-tuck struggle, and though Spencer's effort wasn't ultimately rewarded on wider-than-perceived scorecards, it did make her feel like the distance between her and the top of the MMA mountain wasn't quite so daunting.
And if she's able to cut Nunes or land something that creates some other form of physical malady, she'll be ready to finish the job.
"I'll be able to take control of it and just impose my will," Spencer said. "I don't think it's going to be a cakewalk but I do believe in myself that I can finish the fight."
Most people wouldn't dare sleep on a person holding black belts in taekwondo and jiu-jitsu.
And after Saturday, Spencer seems pretty sure no one will ever be tempted to again.
Though she insists she'll feel comfortable if the fight with Nunes becomes an upright battle of strikes, she all but admitted getting it to the ground and getting it to the late going will be her ticket to ride.
Her lone title fight—for the Invicta FC featherweight crown in 2018—ended in a fourth-round victory by rear-naked choke, and three more of her eight career wins have been via the same method.
The four others, though, have been split between unanimous decisions and TKOs by elbows and punches.
Whichever path Spencer takes, it needs to be consistent and high-energy in its composition. If it's vertical, it needs to be ugly, with Nunes forced to cede ground and fight off the fence. And if it's horizontal, it needs to necessitate Nunes emptying her gas tank in order to avoid submission situations.
"I'm not expecting a version of Amanda not ready to go five rounds, so it's not really part of a game plan to just make it to Round 4 and then capitalize," she said. "It might point in my direction at some point, but I'm not counting on just outlasting her.
"I don't want to outlast her. I want to finish her. I want to win. I want to win every round. I feel like as this goes on, I get better. The last time I had a five-round title fight, I finished in the fourth round. It was a tough fight and I could see it being sort of similar in that way."
All quotes obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.