UFC upstart Barber injures knee in upset loss

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LAS VEGAS — Women’s MMA pioneer Roxanne Modafferi took down one of the top prospects in the sport Saturday, upending a hobbled Maycee Barber by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26) during the UFC 246 preliminaries at T-Mobile Arena.

Barber showed incredible toughness finishing the fight, especially after injuring her left knee in the second round. The ringside physician checked the injury between the second and third rounds and allowed Barber to continue. But she was clearly compromised in the third round, switching to southpaw stance and favoring that knee.

“She kept going like a true warrior,” Modafferi said. “I respect that a lot.”

After the bout, Barber’s coach, Duke Roufus, told ESPN that she was heading to the hospital to get diagnosed.

The 37-year-old Modafferi, who has been a pro fighter since 2003, stunningly won in every aspect of the women’s flyweight fight, dropping Barber in the second round, dominating her in top position on the ground and bloodying her with strikes.

Modafferi was the biggest underdog on the card (+550) and the second-biggest underdog to win in the UFC since 2018, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“I’m still getting stronger,” Modafferi said. “I belong in the top 10.”

Modafferi landed good shots in the first round, took Barber down and got into mount. In the second, Modafferi dropped Barber with a punch, and as she was coming in to gain position, Barber threw a kick, which landed to Modafferi’s midsection and seemed to hyperextend Barber’s leg. Modafferi took top position and bloodied Barber’s face with strikes. In both the second and third rounds, Barber was able to temporarily sweep and get on top to land shots on Modafferi, showing immense courage.

But Modafferi clearly won every round, and has now won three of five fights after losing the first UFC women’s flyweight title fight to Nicco Montaño in 2017. The Las Vegas resident is the most tenured active women’s MMA fighter in the UFC.

Modafferi (24-17) began fighting as a pro when Barber was just 5 years old. She seemed done after The Ultimate Fighter 18 in 2013, but moved from Japan where she was a teacher to train at Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas, where her career has been revived. Modafferi is arguably a better fighter now than she was a decade ago, when she was considered one of the best at women’s bantamweight.

Barber (8-1) came in undefeated and red hot with the goal of becoming the youngest UFC champion ever. Few gave Modafferi a chance to win. Barber, a 21-year-old Colorado native, had won all four of her UFC fights coming in, all by dominant fashion and three via finish. Barber had never been knocked down or taken down in any UFC fight prior to this one.

“I hope my friends and family made some big money from this fight,” Modafferi said, nodding to her big underdog status. “I have taken away several people’s [undefeated records] in the past. I did see that she got injured, so I wish her a speedy recovery. That’s just the way it goes sometimes, I have to take advantage of it and I’m just happy to stay in the top 10.”

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