Joanne Calderwood
Joanne Calderwood Image Credit: Organisers

Dubai: UAE sport continues to break new ground with Abu Dhabi set to host its first-ever female mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts at Saturday’s much-anticipated UFC 242 fight night.

The explosive 11-fight card, which is headlined by the Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Dustin Poirier lightweight contest, also includes two intriguing fights between Joanne Calderwood and Andrea Lee, and Liana Jojua and Sarah Moras.

Even since two signed female MMA fighters, Rhonda Rousey and Liz Carmounche, squared-off in the main event of UFC 159 in February 2013, women’s contests have become a staple on the ultimate fighting roster.

And since then the likes of Miesha Tate, Holly Holm, Cris Cyborg, Cat Zingano, Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade have shown just why female athletes deserve to share the octagon with their male counterparts.

Women’s MMA received a major boost on Saturday night at UFC Shenzhen in China, when Weili Zhang created history when she destroyed title-holder Jessica Andrade of Brazil to become the UFC’s first Chinese champion.

Andrea Lee

Against this exciting background, the contest between Scotland’s No. 5-ranked Calderwood and the sixth-ranked American Lee assumes more significance as the two fighters will bid to make a lasting impression on fans at The Arena on YAS Island and the millions watching around the world.

Calderwood (MMA recrd 17-13) will be looking for the win to put her UFC career back on track having lost to No. 2-ranked Katlyn Chookagian on her last appearance.

Lee, on the other hand will be hoping to build on her seven-win streak by defeating her Scottish rival and to secure a place in the top 10 of the flyweight division.

Sarah Moras

Given that both Calderwood and Lee depend on stand-up fighting, the three-round contest is sure to serve up a lot of action.

This fight kick-starts Saturday’s card and should set the tone for the evening, which also boasts two very strong contests in men’s MMA highlighted by the co-main event between No. 7-ranked Edson Barboza and No. 10-ranked Paul Felder.

Another potential pot-boiler is the card’s only heavyweight fight between No. 7-ranked Curtis Blaydes and No. 9-ranked Shamil Abdurakhimov, and both fighters will be bringing their A Game to the Abu Dhabi octagon.