Daniel Vreeland takes a deep dive into one of UFC Vegas 36‘s prelim fights. This week: Molly McCann vs Ji Yeon Kim.

The Stats

“Meatball” Molly McCann“Fire Fist” Ji Yeon Kim
10-4 (3-3 UFC)9-3-2 (3-3 UFC)
Liverpool, EnglandIncheon, South Korea
5’4” – 62” Reach5’7” – 72” Reach
Next Generation MMASyndicate MMA
Molly McCann vs Ji Yeon Kim – Tale of the Tape

Leading Up

After losing her debut to Gillian Robertson, Molly McCann went on an impressive run that saw her bust into the UFC’s flyweight top 15. She did so, beating some impressive names in the process. She beat Priscila Cachoeira (who is now on a two-fight win streak with two KOs) for her first UFC win, and the first by a British-born woman. Then she beat touted striker Ariane Lipski. And she closed off that three-fight stretch with a unanimous decision over Diana Belbita. Following those three fights, it appeared as if we had a new contender in the flyweight division and the boxing of McCann was going to help her make a run. However, the next two fights proved to be less than desirable. In her only two fights since the pandemic started, McCann dropped decisions to Lara Procopio and Taila Santos. She’ll look to break that losing streak this time out. 

Kim took a slightly different path to where she is now, even if they ended up in a similar spot. She actually made her debut as a bantamweight, losing a decision to Lucie Pudilova. Shortly thereafter, “Fire Fist” decided a drop to 125lbs was in the cards. It proved to be fruitful as she won her first two fights in the division. Those victories came over Justine Kish and Melinda Fabian, both of which were by split decision. However, she then had a bit of rough luck the next time out, running into a red-hot Antonina Shevchenko. She bounced back in a big way, picking up her first finish in the UFC, a TKO over Nadia Kessem. However, she failed to build on that fight. Her next bout, against the much smaller Alexa Grasso coming up from strawweight, led her back to a unanimous decision loss. That fight took place back in August of 2020 and she has been on the shelf since then. 

Styles Make Fights

Meatball

Molly McCann is a big volume puncher on the feet. Three times in her short UFC career, she’s managed to land over 100 strikes on her opponent. Each of those three fights were her three wins. This likely shows that she needs an active fight in order to pick up a win since that is where she does her best work. While she is always in her opponent’s face, or at least was in those fights, and that’s part of the reason she lands so many, it’s not the whole story. McCann is incredibly accurate with her boxing as well. She cuts angles and places her punches intelligently. As a result, she’s landed at a 50.7% clip, which puts her at #4 all-time in the women’s flyweight division – only behind the two Shevchenko sisters and Jojo Calderwood

She’s landed at a 50.7% clip, which puts her at #4 all-time in the women’s flyweight division

While McCann has received a reputation as a boxer, it may not be all that warranted. Some of that may be a stereotype of fighters from England that is a bit outdated. Some of it may also be due to the success she does have on her feet. Still, she’s had quite a bit of success with her wrestling too. Her takedown style could best be described as double legs that she drives through rather than elevates. She does occasionally score them off the cage in a clinch situation, but the work from a well-timed shot has proven to be much more successful for her in the past. 

Fire Fist

Ji Yeon Kim loves a striking match. Despite getting outworked by Alexa Grasso on the feet last time out, she clearly prefers the fight when it’s striking. However, there isn’t much variety in what Kim does with her hands. Kim is largely a headhunter when it comes to her striking game. In her last fight with Alexa Grasso, Kim threw 188 strikes. Of those strikes, just six of them were to the body and another five were to the legs. That leaves 177 of the 188 thrown to the head. This isn’t an anomaly either, just about all of her fights show a similar trend. As you might imagine with so many head strikes, she doesn’t do much work in the clinch or on the ground either. In those positions, it’s pretty common to land strikes to the body or legs, but she’s almost stagnant in those positions. As a result, the vast majority of her strikes come from distance. To take numbers from that Grasso fight once again, 184 of the 188 strikes came from distance, with the remaining four coming from the clinch. 

Kim sports a 0% takedown accuracy

Kim’s grappling game leaves quite a bit to be desired as well. She attempted just one takedown over the course of her first six fights – and that took place in her debut against Lucie Pudilova. Since she didn’t score that lone takedown Kim sports a 0% takedown accuracy. She also hasn’t been particularly successful in stuffing takedowns. Despite having largely faced women who’d like to strike with her, she’s just 3 of 7 defending shots. That includes giving up one to Alexa Grasso, who had only one takedown prior in six fights. Some of these seem to be due to an element of surprise, possibly due to fighting women who are primarily seen as strikers. Still, it is not a good look. 

The Clash

From the perspective of the striking, this fight will largely depend on distance management. As I stated earlier, Kim does very little work in closed quarters. In the clinch she is mostly looking to get out, and on the ground she does next to nothing. Plus, it’s not only important for her to keep the distance because she becomes passive otherwise, but it’s also because of that reach advantage. She’ll be sporting ten inches of reach over McCann, which is nothing to ignore. Whether she can use that well will really depend on the angles McCann uses to back her up. If McCann can cut her off when she circles away, as I imagine she can, she’ll find success in both getting close enough to strike and bringing grappling into the game. 

If this fight reverts to a grappling match, I believe it will be really one-sided. Kim has a really tough time defending takedowns and does little when she has been grounded. McCann, on the other hand, is underrated with her wrestling ability. She’s also busy on the mat as she showed in the Diana Belbita fight. In that fight she did her best to get Belbita out of there, but settled for some 30-25 scorecards. The only major obstacle for this gameplan is, again, the reach of Kim. If she’s able to use that to stay away from McCann, she could manage to make her shoot from so far away that it’ll be difficult to get her down. However, I think the way that McCann drives through her double legs should be able to combat that issue with enough success. 

Final Verdict

I’m going with Molly McCann by unanimous decision. I think she scores enough takedowns and rides on top long enough to take at least two of the three rounds. For the purpose of this fight, I like the odds of both McCann and the over. Surprisingly, McCann is currently coming in as a +105 underdog. Plus-money on McCann is a gift in this one. Also, while the line is pretty steep for the over 2.5 rounds (currently at -330), I still think it’s safe and maybe a nice piece of a parlay. In twelve combined fights, neither woman has been finished and just one has won by finish – Kim beat Nadia Kassem with a body shot. 

Daniel "Gumby" Vreeland has been an MMA writer for over a decade. He currently hosts The Top Turtle Podcast and is a member of the UFC's ranking panel.