The Severe Spotlight: Casey O’Neill

The UFC was back in the apex once again to host Thiago Santos and Johnny Walker. Both fighters looking to climb back up into the lofty heights of the division and knock on the door of the owner of some legendary Polish Power to ask for some spare gold. The night saw Bethe Correia fight what could be the last fight of her career in a loss to Karol Rosa. Jamie Mullarkey picked up a wonderful body shot KO win over Devonte Smith. Alexander Hernandez blasted out late replacement Mike Breeden.

The standout performance on the card for my money was Scottish Aussie prospect “King” Casey O’Neill. At just 23, she improved her record last night to 8-0 (3-0 UFC). Her assignment in the Vegas dunes was Antonina Shevchenko, a long, rangy striker that is improving her own game all of the time.

Immediately what stands out from the opening 30 seconds of the first round is the King’s ability to stalk, and to cut off the cage. Shevchenko has a very useful side kick and roundhouse kick from the lead leg of her southpaw stance, a good way to stop that is to crowd it. How do you crowd it? Back your fighter up to the fence and make them think about anything other than throwing.

O’Neill moved into a grappling exchange, using an underhook, a thigh grip on the right leg and a reverse table takedown to off-balance Shevchenko. To her credit, Shevchenko used a hard whizzer to stop the immediate threat and uses the same whizzer to counter the follow up back take attempt, taking the top position. O’Neill took a few of the signature Shevchenko elbows but capitalised on the movement in base to get a far side whizzer and pendulum her way back up to her feet and a clinch.

Staying calm and working out of bad positions after being overzealous chasing a takedown? A good sign.

The next takedown attempt gets Shevchenko to the mat, and Casey works to land some shots. The round ends with Casey catching a lazy kick, turning it into a ankle pick and landing some solid shots on the ground.

Round two commences and O’Neill is a different fighter. The aggression ramped up, the pressure ramped up, she was landing at a far greater clip, if Shevchenko threw two shots, Casey threw four to win the exchange. Her head movement was better, the eventual double leg she landed was coupled with a gorgeous leg ride to end in a dominant half-guard. After some positional exchanges, Casey hip rides the Shevchenko turtle well and ends up taking the back.

A transition to the mount was the beginning of the end, Shevchenko forced to turn belly down, and Casey began to rain utter hell down from the top. Posting a free hand to push Shevchenko’s head into striking range, and rotating around an arsenal of hammer fists, elbows and hooks. Chris Togoni stops the fight after a barrage of 30+ unanswered strikes.

There should not have been many complaints if the fight had been stopped earlier, the rules read that if you are not intelligently defending the referee should stop the fight, there was not a lot of intelligent defence coming back from Shevchenko.

Casey O’Neill moves on, a really great second round and a lot to take away from the first to learn from. Who would you like to see her fight next?