Opinion: Ribas’ risk could pay off big

Amanda Ribas faces Katlyn Chookagian at UFC Vegas 54
Amanda Ribas faces Katlyn Chookagian at UFC Vegas 54 | Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

Amanda Ribas is moving up a division to take on No. 1 ranked flyweight Katlyn Chookagian at UFC Vegas 54.

Amanda Ribas is coming off an October decision win over Virna Jandiroba, a victory that ensured her spot as the No. 9 ranked fighter in the official UFC strawweight rankings. However, on Saturday, the 28-year-old Brazilian will move up a division to take on Katlyn Chookagian in a flyweight bout on the main card of UFC Vegas 54. Ribas has her reasons for returning to 125 pounds for the first time since she submitted Paige VanZant at UFC 251 in July 2020.

“For me, it’s a huge opportunity. It’s amazing,” Ribas said of landing the fight opposite Katlyn Chookagian, who is currently the No. 1 ranked fighter in the official UFC flyweight rankings.

Ribas is treating this fight as a title eliminator, and she thinks a win on Saturday against a former title challenger—who is on a three-fight winning streak in the UFC’s 125-pound division—will speak volumes to the powers that be inside the UFC.

She has a point.

Current flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko has already fought—and defeated—the top-three ranked fighters in the division. She is currently booked to face the No. 4 ranked Taila Santos at UFC 275 on June 11. With a win on Saturday, the timing would be right for Ribas to slip into a fight against the victor of that contest, a contest where the defending champ is listed as high as a 10-to-1 favorite to retain her title.

Yes, Ribas is taking a risk in facing a bigger, taller, rangier opponent in Chookagian, but it is a calculated risk. If she wins, she immediately walks into the flyweight title conversation. If she loses and is competitive in the process, she’ll likely earn herself a shot at another ranked opponent at flyweight.

And if she gets blown out? Ribas can likely shrug off the loss as nothing more than a way to stay busy and test herself, and then drop back down, where she’s already had lots of success.

After all, it wasn’t that long ago that former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade did the same thing, picking up a win over ‘Blonde Fighter,’ and netting herself an immediate title fight against Valentina Shevchenko for her efforts. That bout may not have gone well for her, but it likely netted her a nice pay bump. And having just recently dropped back down to strawweight with a victory over Amanda Lemos, it doesn’t seem to have done her status as a top-tier fighter at 115 lbs any harm.

Especially given the dominance that Shevchenko has shown in her long reign atop her division, fighters who feel confident in their ability to make weight and compete physically at flyweight are almost certainly going to keep viewing the move as a clear opportunity. Even former bantamweight champ Miesha Tate is getting in on the idea. After going 1-1 in her return to fighting back in 2021, after five years of retirement, she’s headed down for a clash with Lauren Murphy at UFC 276 in July.

“I can absolutely always go back up to 135, so I feel like this is a no harm, no foul,” Tate explained of her flyweight move on a recent episode of the MMA Hour. “It’s something that would bother me if I didn’t pursue it, because it’s been on my mind for a while.”

Win or lose, the decision to face Chookagian looks like a low-risk, high-reward opportunity for Ribas. Seems like a smart play.

UFC Vegas 54 takes place at UFC Apex in Las Vegas. ESPN2 and ESPN+ carry the entire fight card.

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Author: Trent Reinsmith
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