In terms of challengers in the UFC’s flyweight division, there’s a couple of standouts. Katlyn Chookagian currently holds the #1 rank at 125-pounds and challenges the unstoppable Valentina Shevchenko for gold at UFC 247 in March. Behind Chookagain – we’ve got Joanne Calderwood, Jessica Eye, and Lauren Murphy as real, legitimate contenders. Eye, has tried and failed to capture Octagon gold against Shevchenko – in quite brutal fashion, and missed weight in her decision victory over Viviane Araujo recently. Potential contenders then come in the form of, Andrea ‘KBG’ Lee – who meets the previously mentioned Murphy in March, and then we have, Maycee ‘The Future’ Barber who returns to the Octagon next Saturday night.
The Colorado-born striker has been nothing short of perfect in her brief Octagon stint. At UFC 246 – Barber meets one of the sport’s most experienced and journeyed fighters, Roxanne Modafferi. Rarely has a prospect garnered as much attention as Barber in recent years, but the well-rounded Modafferi certainly has the ability to bring that world crashing down. At just 21-years-of-age, Barber has already been tipped for eventual UFC champion status – as early as the culmination of this year. Under the tutelage of Duke Roufus at Roufusport in Milwaukee, Barber has settled into one of the most impressive striking-based camps in North America. Former ONE Championship and Bellator welterweight king, Ben Askren, has also spoken of the potential of Barber. Against Delaware native, Modafferi, Barber is met with a stern litmus test – and an opponent which stands between her and possibly the top five of the flyweight stack.
With a firm goal of besting light heavyweight champion Jon Jones’ record for the promotion’s youngest ever world champion – a victory over Modafferi keeps that difficult goal alive and kicking. So far, in just three Octagon appearances since her promotion from Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contenders Series, Barber has finished each and every one of her foes, with aplomb. Hannah Cifers, JJ Aldrich, and Gillian Robertson all share similarities; they’re all major prospects – but they’ve also all been finished by Maycee Barber. Barber made a huge impact with a timely win over Robertson in particular, and off the back of the stoppage, made a beeline for a matchup with Paige VanZant – to no avail.
A matchup with the former Team Alpha MMA trainee certainly would be exciting, but let’s not overlook Modafferi. The 37-year-old is as wily a competitor as they come, with fantastic durability, heart and grappling attributes to boot. In her most recent victory, Modafferi managed a close decision win over Antonina Shevchenko, the older sibling of Valentina, which is certainly no mean feat. Make no mistake about this contest – Barber has her work cut out. It’s a rather testing obstacle for the youngster, but if it’s a course she can navigate successfully – those who have called for the Colorado native to challenge for Octagon gold before the year’s end may get their wish.