Irene Aldana vs. Karol Rosa (UFC 296)
Irene Aldana and Karol Rosa hold a special place on this list. Of all the fights, this is the one where people did not know what to expect. Whether it's promotion, skillset, or animosity that gets people excited, this fight caught everyone off-guard.
Aldana is a close friend and training partner of current UFC flyweight champion, Alexa Grasso. If there's one thing we know about them, it's their durability and boxing skills. Aldana's last three losses have come against Amanda Nunes, Holly Holm, and Raquel Pennington. She's been at the top of the division, despite some issues with weight cuts, but needed a big win to get back in the title picture.
Rosa represents a new wave of WMMA fighters who are exciting, skilled, and hungry. Rosa's UFC career has floated between the featherweight and bantamweight divisions, but she made her return to bantamweight against Aldana. With a big win, Rosa was also working her way into the title picture.
This was another example of volume striking versus powerful counters. Rosa had a solid game plan by going for the legs of a good boxer. The problem was she threw too many leg kicks too fast. While the damage was done to Aldana's lead leg, Aldana was still able to push forward and land her counters. It got easier to land as the fight went on and landing 13% of her strikes to the body was a big reason for her winning.
Rosa was slowing down as the fight went on but got a last wind in the third round, landing 92 of her 153 strikes thrown. Of her total 204 significant strikes landed Rosa threw 95 leg kicks. Even though Rosa landed more and did significant damage to Aldana's leg, the powerful boxer who pushes forward tends to get the nod. Aldana won the fight via unanimous decision, scoring 29-28 on all three judges scorecards.
This was an incredible fight for both fighters. Whether they enter the title picture or not remains to be seen, but their stock as exciting MMA fighters is through the roof.