UFC 250 is fast approaching and with it comes our second title fight behind closed doors. This time it’s Amanda Nunes’ Women’s featherweight belt on the line against challenger Felicia Spencer. This will be ‘The Lionesses’ first defense of the 145-pound belt since claiming it from Cris Cyborg in December of 2018 as she looks to maintain control of two divisions.
Canada’s Felicia Spencer is the top contender in the UFC’s thinnest division and for that reason, she is the least known about challenger in any of Nunes’ defenses. She doesn’t have an extensive UFC career and only made her pro debut in 2015. So here is a bit of background on the woman stepping into the lionesses cage this weekend. Spencer made her pro debut in Invicta (the same promotion where Nunes made her name) and she stayed with the promotion for her first six fights, winning all of them. She was awarded Invicta’s fighter of the year in 2018 following three wins including winning the vacant featherweight title. Spencer then moved over to the UFC where she defeated Megan Anderson in her debut via first round submission. In Invicta, Spencer had a clear game plan of how to beat her opponents. She would use her black belt in Taekwondo to push her opponents back to the cage, then use her size, strength and black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to control her opponents when in grappling range.
Spencer caught the eyes of many when she was matched against Cris Cyborg at UFC 240. Though this fight saw her lose her undefeated run, Spencer did better against Cyborg than many believed she possibly could do. One first round-stoppage later against Zarah Fairn Dos Santos and she finds herself at the doorstep of the champion. As Cris Cyborg proved, trading shots with Amanda Nunes is not a good idea. For Spencer to win this fight, her size will be key as she is a natural featherweight. Using her kicks to keep Nunes’ power punches away and using her size to control Nunes in grappling ranges like she did in Invicta seems like the path to victory for Spencer. We currently live in strange and unprecedented times, Felicia Spencer pulling off a massive upset against Nunes would only solidify this more.
At this point, what needs to be said about Amanda Nunes. We all know Nunes is a devastating puncher. She manages distance very well and has the power to put you down and out with one shot. This is her clear advantage in this fight and keeping it in boxing range could be key for the champion. In her last defence at 135 pounds against Germaine de Randamie, Nunes showed more of her versatility as a champion, going back to one of her key strengths. She took the dangerous striker down and controlled her, landing ground and pound where she could. Though her hands get all the attention, Nunes is a very strong grappler and this combined with the threat of her power, will make it hard for Spencer to smother her.
Another aspect of this match-up worth exploring is the size. Though Spencer is a natural featherweight and Nunes has only fought once at this weight class in the UFC, Nunes is the taller of the two (the reach is more or less the same). Many people were surprised at how good Nunes looked at the weigh-ins when stood next to Cris Cyborg. The 135-pound champion filled out to the weight class impressively well though we won’t be able to see the size difference until we see them face-to-face.
The clear advantage in this fight is Nunes’ boxing and power. If the champion can keep this fight in the range she wants, it could be a short night for Felicia Spencer. If she is to really challenge the champion, she needs to make it her fight. That being said, it’s far easier said than done when you’re stepping into the lionesses cage.