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Miranda Maverick wants to put on a show at UFC Fight Night 214: 'I'm ready for a ranked opponent'

After a bounce-back win, Maverick hopes to prove her level as one of the top guns in the flyweight division.

Miranda Maverick isn't one to dance around a question – you ask, and she'll give you an honest, articulate answer without any hesitation. It's the kind of thing that folks often say they want from athletes, but also the type of approach that gets some competitors labeled as arrogant, cocky or disrespectful.

None of those labels should be applied to Maverick (10-4 MMA, 3-2 UFC), the 25-year-old ascending flyweight, who returns to action this weekend in a rescheduled rematch against Shanna Young (8-4 MMA, 1-2 UFC), whom she defeated three years ago on the way to winning the Invicta FC Phoenix Series flyweight tournament.

It's not done for attention and not at all forced – she's simply a confident, talented competitor that believes in her abilities, trusts in her coaching, and is willing to tell you exactly how she feels about whatever fight-related subject you want to broach.

"I finally feel like an MMA fighter," she said, laughing, when asked about her evolution and improvement since relocating to Denver and connecting with the all-star cast of coaches and training partners she now works with on a daily basis. "I started out my career being a grappler – I'd take people down and submit them, and when I had to stand up and strike, I could do it. I won a fight or two like that, but it was against other people that were just grapplers.

"I held my own on my feet, gained technique over time, and by the time I got to the tournament where I fought three times in a night, I thought my striking was pretty good; I was finally starting to catch up.

"When I got out here to Colorado, everything just kind of came together," she added. "I started doing more fakes and feints, being able to mix things together. Everything just got to be more mixed, literally. I feel better in the cage, more comfortable than I ever have, and I feel like I'm one of the best in the division as a result of it."

Though she's currently unranked, Maverick has been positioned in the top 15 in the flyweight division in the past, and remains high on the list of top young fighters on the UFC roster.

After running her winning streak to five with victories in each of her first two octagon appearances, the Missouri-raised talent landed on the wrong side of a debated split decision verdict in a clash with Maycee Barber last summer before getting outworked by Erin Blanchfield at UFC 269 last December.

The two-fight skid caused her to fall from the rankings and her stock to slide a little, but her performance against Sabina Mazo in March served as a reminder of not only what she's currently capable of inside the cage, but how bright a future she has, as well.

"For me, it was a lot of pressure," she said of the fight with Mazo, which ended with Maverick earning a second-round submission win. "You obviously don't want three-in-a-row. I didn't want two-in-a-row and, like you said, I don't think it was two-in-a-row, but officially, that's what it says on there, so I was wanting to go in there and make a statement.

"I did get a finish in the second round, but I also wanted to make the statement that I've improved, and I think I did that," continued Maverick, who advanced to 12-4 with the victory. "My techniques were entirely different than I had ever used in prior fights. It wasn't maybe as violent as some of my other fights have been, but it was definitely smarter, and I'm hoping this fight ends up being a little bit of both."

Saturday's matchup is one that caught some people by surprise when it was initially booked for UFC 278 in August.

In addition to Maverick having already beaten Young under the Invicta FC banner, she was coming off a victory over a highly regarded opponent in Mazo, and owns as many UFC wins (three) as Young has appearances inside the octagon.

Although she too was a little surprised by the matchup, Maverick is simply happy to finally get the opportunity to step back into the cage.

"People are like, 'Why aren't you fighting someone higher ranked?'" she said, adopting the confused tone that has frequently accompanied inquiries about this pairing. "I tried. We looked for months, and it just didn't happen, so I was willing to take whatever fight was thrown my way.

"Shanna agreed to fight, and I was happy she agreed just so I could get a fight booked," continued Maverick, who was one pound shy of making weight when she got the call that Young was unable to compete, and the fight was off. "I thought about having a different opponent when this thing got rescheduled, but they offered me her again like two days after that weekend went over, and I was just like, 'Fine – let's just get me a fight! I want to get in the cage, get another fight under my belt, and keep moving up the ladder.'"

There is an understandable mix of frustration and anxiousness in Maverick's tone, the mark of a fighter who doesn't like spending extended periods on the sidelines and is chomping at the bit to showcase the improvements she's continued to make since dominating Mazo earlier in the year.

She'd put in a full camp geared towards competing in August and was a day away from making the walk before the plug was pulled. After a couple quality meals, she had to quickly hit the reset button and grind through another grueling camp to prepare for Saturday.

And now, with short time before she finally gets to stride out to the octagon again, Maverick is eager to stand opposite Young and prove once more that she's the superior talent of the two.

"One of the comforts that I have is knowing how different of a fighter I am than I was, and I don't know if she knows that," she said when asked about facing a familiar foe. "I feel like she's really underestimating my striking prowess now.

"I think she thinks (the first fight) was a fluke, and that's what a lot of people say when someone loses by submission – 'Oh, it's just a fluke. You got caught.' I hate those phrases because, in reality, your defense should come first, survival should come first.

"I feel like the same thing can happen in this fight if I want it to, though I plan on mixing in my striking better," Maverick continued. "I feel more dominant than her in every area, really. If I wanted to keep it on the feet, I'm faster than her, and should be able to strike and outpoint her, and hopefully be able to get a knockout on the feet. If it has to be taken to the ground, so be it."

If everything goes according to plan this weekend, Saturday's fight with be a one-sided affair, with Maverick showing further improvements and development, proving she's on a different level than Young, and setting her sights on someone further up the divisional ladder.

But if a date with a ranked opponent next time out isn't in the cards, that's fine, too – she's more than happy to keep improving, keep stacking wins, and take her time getting back into the rankings.

"I'm hoping to use all the new stuff, but also go in there with way more intensity than I did in the Sabina fight," said Maverick. "(I want to) just put on a show: show where I belong, show this fight is kind of low caliber for me and that I'm ready for a ranked opponent, ready to get in there and climb that ladder.

"After this fight, maybe I will get a ranked opponent – I'm definitely going to ask for a couple – but it's one of those things where every contract gets better, and I'll take my time climbing up the ladder; I have no reason to rush it."

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