It was only a few weeks ago that Ketlen Vieira (10-1) dropped out of her much anticipated fight with Yana Kunitskaya (12-5). The new lineup pits #8 ranked Women’s Bantamweight Kunitskaya against relative UFC newcomer Julija Stoliarkenko (9-4-1).
Kunitskaya will be entering the ring for her fifth UFC appearance. The Russian fighter has broken even so far in the league and is coming off a loss from last December.
Her initial match-up against Vieira, who is ranked #7 in the division, would have given Kunitskaya an opportunity to move up the ranks. Now, against the far less-known Stoliarkenko, it’s going to be all about staying in the top 10.
Kunitskaya is an accomplished striker, with seven knockouts across her 12 wins. Coming into the ring with a downgraded opponent, look for her to try and dominate, keeping things standing up.
Stoliarkenko, hailing from Lithuania, has fought mostly with her home country’s King of Kings organization. It’s worth noting that of her last five fights (all wins), she finished four with armbar submissions. With a clear preference for ground work, you can likely expect Stoliarkenko to get inside Kunitskaya’s striking to try for a takedown.
With only one previous UFC fight, this last-minute opportunity against Kunitskaya is something the 27-year-old Stoliarkenko will be looking to capitalize. A relative unknown getting a win against a top-10 competitor could change the trajectory of her career in 15 short minutes.
Despite the short notice on the fight for Stoliarkenko (+167), she is only a slight underdog to Kunitskaya (-178) in Vegas. While Stoliarkenko is clearly a force to be reckoned with, I don’t see Kunitskaya caving to the younger fighter. She’s been prepping for a fight to advance her career, so my money is on her bringing some deadly blows into the octagon.