A1 Combat 18 Main Event Breakdown

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More championship action comes your way on Thursday night. If you thought the headlining bout of UFC 298 last Saturday was a great contest, you haven’t seen anything yet.

A packed weekend of MMA begins just a little early than normal when Tachi Palace in Lemoore, CA plays host to another night of fights from A1 Combat, Urijah Faber‘s promotion born in 2022, formerly known as Firepower MMA. 

A1 Combat 18 begins with prelims Thursday at 8 pm ET/ 5 pm PT on the promotion’s official YouTube channel, followed at 10 pm ET/ 7 pm PT with the main card on UFC Fight Pass. If there are no late postponements during fight week, nine bouts are slated to occur during A1 Combat 18.

Women’s Strawweight Supremacy Up For Grabs Thursday

Highlighting the night’s activities is a title-fight twin-bill. Right after the co-main event of the evening for the A1 Combat Lightweight Championship between unbeaten Anthony Figueroa (4-0 MMA, 2-0 A1 Combat), an alumnus of Bellator MMA,  and Christian Avalos (3-1 MMA, 2-0 A1 Combat), the action shifts to the 115-lb. weight class for the headliner.

Taylor Mauldin (4-0 MMA, 1-0 A1 Combat), a veteran of both Fury FC and the LFA, returns for her first MMA fight  in seven months when she meets Invicta FC alumnae Valesca Machado (12-4 MMA, A1 Combat promotional debut) to defend her title in the A1 Combat 18 main event. In accordance with the fight contract, the A1 Combat 18 main event is an advertised maximum of three rounds at five minutes per round to close the activities for the night.

A1 Combat 18 Main Event Fighter Comparison

Heading into the A1 Combat 18 main event on Thursday night, champion Taylor Mauldin stands as the taller contender at 5-foot-5, compared to the 5-foot-4 frame of Valesca Machado. The latter owns a half-inch reach advantage (63 1/2 inches to 63 inches even) over the former.

Mauldin Ready for MMA Return

Taylor Mauldin has yet to lose thus far in her MMA career. Dating back to her lone amateur fight in 2017, she’s perfect at 5-0.

Back in July of last year, she scored a second-round submission (inverted gogoplata) against Laura Gallardo (4-3 MMA, 0-1 A1 Combat) in A1 Combat 12 from Hard Rock Live in Wheatland, CA. Despite her long layoff from MMA fights, she’s kept busy in recent times.

On Dec. 28, Mauldin appeared in the Medusa 5 combat jiu-jitsu tournament as a bantamweight, going 1-1 in that event, including an Americana (keylock) submission victory over Amber Medina during an opening-round contest in the event. During a recent interview with The All-Star’s Hyon Ko, Mauldin discussed how the inverted gogoplata got her the win last summer.

“So, usually I’ll use that omoplata and then you have your entrances, right?”, Mauldin said. “I use the omoplata to just escape to get up. Given the way things had played out when she turned in, obviously, that’s what would click into that series, so I think that’s just what kind of played out.”

During that same interview, Mauldin mentioned that she has aspirations of joining the UFC at some point during her career.

“Short-term, obviously, I want to go 5-0,” she said. “That’s just right in front of me. Long-term, I want to get this win and hopefully get a call from the UFC, get my UFC fight, maybe be able to train full-time, and live the dream, you know? That’s my goal.”

Taylor Mauldin is a fighter with high hopes for the future of her career. A win on Thursday in the A1 Combat 18 main event would be a major stepping stone toward realizing her potential as a strawweight in the UFC.

Valesca Machado Returning After Almost a Year Away

In the other corner, challenger Valesca Machado, a veteran of the 2021 season of Dana White’s Contender Series,  has posted a record of 4-1 in her last five fights, but it’s been a long while since she last fought. To find her last contest, you’d need to go back to two days short of St. Patrick’s Day last year.

That night, in the Invicta FC 52 main event, she dropped a unanimous decision to Danni McCormack (8-2 MMA, 3-0 Invicta) after five rounds in a title fight. Machado was supposed to return on Oct. 27 in Invicta FC 54.

Initially, she had been booked to fight Isis Verbeek in the co-main attraction, a fight which was scrubbed ahead of the event due to the latter withdrawing two weeks prior to the show. Her replacement, Kalindra Faria, was pulled from Invicta FC 54 the day of the card.

Being booked to fight on a card, having a switch in opponent two weeks before showtime, and then having the new opponent getting forced out of action in the final hours before the event, is no doubt frustrating for any fighter. How much ring rust will Machado have to shake off?

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

Stylistically, the A1 Combat 18 main event looks to favor Taylor Mauldin, a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, with Valesca Machado countering as a striker.

Mauldin Dangerous on the Ground

Once Taylor Mauldin gets her opponent to the mat, watch closely because the fight could be a wrap. Just ask Amber Medina, who Mauldin fought on Dec. 28.

After about a minute of inactivity, the horn sounded to force the fighters to the mat, an enforcement of what’s known as the “Get Down” rule. Mauldin secured top position and worked from the open guard, eventually passing to half guard.

She was the aggressor, applying the torque to sink in a keylock in under four minutes. All Taylor Mauldin needs to do is take down Valesca Machado once.

Valesca Machado Can Punch Her Way to a Win

In the other corner, taking Valesca Machado down to the mat is easier said than done. She prefers to do her work with her fists, like she did almost five years ago versus Janaina Soares.

This was an electric fight for as long as it lasted. During the first round, Machado bided her time to wait for the big shot. About 45 seconds in, she moved in on Soares and began teeing off with a variety of strikes.

With Soares unable to intelligently defend herself from the onslaught, the referee called the bout off after exactly 60 seconds of action. If Valesca Machado comes out with fists of fury from the command to fight, she’s got a good chance at unseating Taylor Mauldin as champion.

Final Thoughts

With no other MMA on the docket this Thursday, you’ve got no excuses to not watch the A1 Combat 18 main event. This should be a good one.

Prediction: Taylor Mauldin by Second-Round Submission.

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about combat sports since May of 2018, coming to MMASucka after stints at Overtime Heroics and Armchair All-Americans. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew is a charter member of the Youngstown Press Club. Prior to beginning his professional career, Drew was a sportswriter for YSU's student-run newspaper, The Jambar, where he supplied Press Box Perspective columns every week.

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