Undefeated flyweight Casey O’Neill has burst onto the scene in 2021, securing three finishes in her first three UFC appearances. The 24-year old fighter has two TKO and one submission victory to begin her UFC tenure and while already heralded as one of the names to watch in the division, she’s focused on improving her striking skills and hopes to display that in her next fight against Roxanne Modafferi at UFC 271.
The AllStar’s John Hyon Ko spoke with one of the biggest rising stars not only in the strawweight division but across the entire UFC.
Fighting out of Xtreme Couture under coach Eddie Barraco, O’Neill has picked up two victories with her ground striking, but in her UFC 271 fight against Modafferi, she’s ready to showcase more. With wins over Shana Dobson, Lara Procopio, and most recently Antonina Shevchenko, O’Neill leaped into the Top-15 division rankings and faces her biggest test to date on February 12.
Although this is Modaferri’s retirement fight, O’Neill knows she has to continue to improve her game as she climbs up the rankings and she spoke about how she’s looking to advance her striking skillset ahead of this fight.
“Yeah, I mean I definitely want to stand and strike, I’ve wanted to stand and strike in all of my fights. But, it’s just so easy when I get them to the ground, and I know that sounds really cocky or something to say but honestly, it’s true.”
First Career Knockout
As she looks across to the biggest opportunity of her career, O’Neill knows she can make a statement with an impressive performance against Modafferi, and that would only be heightened if she picked up her first knockout victory. Taking her opponents to the ground turned out to be easy work for her, but now she’s ready to showcase more in her arsenal.
“I would just take them down and I would just really feel like nobody was able to move at that point, so the easier path to victory, you walk home with two checks at that point instead of just standing there throwing down and maybe getting injured. I definitely want to show my striking because it doesn’t suck, that’s for sure and this fight, I really want to get my first knockout, so I’ll be looking to get that.”
There’s a difference between going for a knockout which could lead to a Performance of the Night bonus, and a war that could lead to a Fight of the Night, although much more damage, and O’Neill doesn’t want to find herself in wars early on.
“Yeah like I said, I’m 24, I’m trying to fight for a long time, I’m trying to take as little damage as possible. So, if I’m able to just take someone down, beat them up on the ground, and get the win there instead of standing-and-banging for 15 minutes and ending up with cuts and bruises all over my face, the quicker I can get back in the gym, the more I can learn. So that’s definitely going for the Performance of the Night bonus and not the Fight of the Night bonus, and just looking for finishes wherever I can get them.”