Arizona’s Tracy Cortez hopes to shake rust off at UFC’s Fight Island

Arizona’s Tracy Cortez (right) here trading punches with Vanessa Melo of Brazil, is participating in the UFC’s Fight Island Saturday night in Abu Dhabi.(Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Tracy Cortez is seeking to build on her seven-fight win streak. All that stands in front of her is 8,000 miles, jet lag and a skillful Swiss fighter on a streak of her own.

Welcome to Fight Island, Tracy Cortez.

The Arizonan will showcase her skills on Saturday night’s ESPN prelims. This will be the seventh edition of UFC’s Fight Island, taking place at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi.

Cortez (7-1) is making her second appearance at bantamweight (135 pounds) fighting out of Scottsdale under the Fight Ready gym banner. The 26-year-old hones her craft under a buffet of head coaches, including wrestling coach Angel Cejudo (brother of UFC double champ Henry Cejudo).

She will have some rust to shake off in this dance as this appearance marks almost one year removed from her UFC debut in Brazil last November. Cortez’s debut against Vanessa Melo (10-8) showed her to be less of a graceful ballerina, but more of a contemporary dancer who blends striking, cage control and wrestling.

“I wanted to showcase my hands and my kicks a little more,” Cortez said at a post-fight presser. “I know what I’m capable of on the ground and I feel like I got the best of it.”

The showcase will need to continue for Cortez to keep her streak alive against an unknown, late-replacement opponent – Switzerland native Stephanie Egger (5-1), who is on a three-fight win streak.

“I don’t know much about her,” Cortez said at a pre-fight presser.

Egger didn’t even know she was going to be making her UFC debut until two weeks ago. She is a replacement for Bea “Bad News Barbie” Malecki (4-0).

“This came earlier than I expected,” Egger said with a big smile at a pre-fight presser.

While there is some level of mystery coming from both camps, what is known is that Egger is a savant on the ground. She holds a black belt in Judo and has captured gold at the ADCC world grappling championships. Think of her as a master sommelier when it comes to the ground, recommending vintages of chokes and armbars as opposed to cabernets and merlots.

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Even though Egger’s taste for the ground is sharp, every fight starts standing.

Egger’s stand-up game is rudimentary at best and is often sloppy as she uses her striking primarily to bull rush into her opponent and initiate a takedown. Cortez, on the other hand, uses her striking, which includes a variety of right hands and left hooks, in an attempt to hurt her opponent.

Egger uses strikes as smokescreens; Cortez uses strikes as grenades.

Egger stands at 5 foot-7 (Cortez is 5-foot-5) with a longer reach and is the naturally bigger and stronger fighter due to Cortez being a natural flyweight (125 pounds). This would give her a large physical advantage — not technical — if she chooses to stand with Cortez.

While Cortez showed in her last fight that she is indeed very hittable — especially in the third round due to fatigue and sparse head movement — she displayed a granite chin and willingness to sit in the pocket like a quarterback and exchange punches.

In this match-up, look for Cortez to test the conditioning of Egger and press the action with a high-pace plan of attack, mixing hard right hands and left hooks on the inside as well as using her clinch control and wrestling to place the 32-year-old Egger in unfavorable positions against the cage.

Cortez will likely win a unanimous decision as she has too many tools in the toolbox for Egger.

The odds have started to narrow as Cortez is now only a -190 favorite via William Hill sportsbook (-400 at the start of the week).

With a victory, Cortez will most likely go down in weight to her natural weight class, flyweight, and test the waters there.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Christopher Lopez is an Arizona native who expects to graduate in December 2020 with a master’s degree in sports journalism.