On The Prelims is a column that focuses on standout performances from the undercard of a top MMA event every week.
This doesn’t feel like the venue to highlight someone who lost a fight. This series is usually the place where we attempt to look at a name that is on the rise and hand a stand-out performance.
However, things are different this week. UFC 271 had nine prelims in total. A lot of interesting things happened on it. Early on the card, Douglas Silva de Andrade had quite an impressive showing against Sergey Morozov. And later, Kyler Phillips concluded a dominant win against Marcelo Rojo with an armbar.
But none of those results ended up the top headline.
The biggest name to highlight from the UFC 271 prelims is Roxanne Modafferi. The trailblazer in MMA had her farewell bout against undefeated prospect Casey O’Neill.
There are so many people in MMA that will be known for being champions or great fighters. That in itself is quite a long list despite MMA just being a few decades old. But besides that, only a few are known for making history in other ways in the sport.
Modafferi has never been recognized as one of the best fighters of all time. She has gone on long losing streaks before, and her career is concluding with just six more wins than she had losses. However, what she did during her time as a fighter most certainly makes her a legend now that everything has been said and done.
Modafferi made her MMA debut in 2003. This was nearly an entire decade before UFC had their first fight involving women. She spent numerous years fighting on small cards around the world.
Her first big MMA appearance was on Season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter” in 2013. She then went to Invicta FC, where she fought from 2014 to 2017.
Modafferi appeared on “The Ultimate Fighter” again in 2017, this time starting the UFC run that would be the final chapter in her career.
Modafferi fought on the UFC roster from 2017 to, well, this weekend, attaining four wins and seven losses.
Modafferi always took the biggest challenges that were given to her. Last year, she lost to Vivane Araujo and Taila Santos – two names who are certainly on the rise at flyweight.
This weekend was no different. O’Neill is a dangerous name at flyweight who finished all three of her UFC opponents in 2021. She entered this fight as a large favorite on scorecards.
O’Neill prevailed in the fight, but it was certainly a much harder battle than expected.
Modafferi engaged in striking exchanges against O’Neill. These were battles that O’Neill won, but she was getting hit and the fight was certainly competitive.
Modafferi got hit and has bruises to show for it. But she gave O’Neill some real trouble and really pushed the undefeated prospect.
And if there’s one way to encapsulate Modafferi’s career, it would be toughness.
When she first fought in the sport, there most certainly wasn’t any real pathway for her to make a living.
When she lost five consecutive bouts from 2010 to 2012, marking the longest skid of her career, it took toughness to climb out of that and keep going.
And countless times she would get put in the cage against someone who was touted as a better fighter. She lost sometimes, and other times she became the underdog that pulled something off. But in the end, none of it was possible without a special type of toughness that you don’t even see even in some fighters at the same level as her.
Modafferi’s parting words on Saturday were a positive message.
“I’m okay with that last fight. I gave everything I had. It’s time for me to pass that torch to the next generation,” said Modafferi in her post-fight interview. “Even if you don’t win every time, you can still have an amazing time.”
The toughness and the mindset. There’s no doubting that Modafferi lived up to her nickname, “The Happy Warrior.”