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The Volnogorsk hooligan: Maryna Moroz out for blood (and Jedrzejczyk) at UFC Fight Night 74

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Mike Roach, Zuffa LLC

Maryna Moroz was 14 years old the first time she got into a real fight. In a many ways, it was inevitable. While other young girls in Ukraine played with dolls or traded gossip, the self-described hooligan from Volnogorsk waged wars with the neighborhood boys whenever she wasn't stuck working the fields on her parents' farm. Over time, one common theme emerged from all those minor scuffles: the slight farmgirl with the dark brown eyes and unkempt ponytail, yeah, she could hit like a truck.

Nine years later, Joanne Calderwood found that out firsthand.

The funny thing about Moroz's 90-second upset over the then sixth-ranked strawweight in the world at UFC Fight Night 64 was not the cruel chaos of the game we play, nor the myriad of excuses that followed. It was the fact that for one woman in the arena, it was all so damn unsurprising.

A few rights and a few lefts to get Calderwood on the ropes. A guard pull straight into an armbar, down goes the next title contender. And there's Moroz, the anonymous debutant, perched upon the cage wall, talking noise to the UFC's bloodlust queen inside her own backyard. The bold, 23-year-old with the stones to call out the champ while the rest of Poland tries to process exactly what the hell just happened and who is this girl owning the mic.

"My driving motive is to be a UFC champion," Moroz told MMA Fighting through a translator. "To stop such idle talk, give me the most powerful fighters. Give me the fight with the champion, [and we'll] know who is who."

In the age of MMA globalization, stories like Moroz's are becoming increasingly common. How an unbeaten Ukrainian woman can appear, as if from thin air, and upend divisional truths in less than two minutes. It's all so oddly enigmatic in a way, though for the unknown prospect turned No. 8 strawweight in the world, it's just the culmination of lifelong conviction.

When Moroz was a teenager, her penchant for fisticuffs landed her in the Department of Boxing at the Institute of Physical Education and Sports in Kiev. By 19 years old, she was among of the country's most decorated female pugilists, a national team member and Master of Sport in both boxing and kickboxing. Training camps, tournaments, and cold sweats were her life. Mike Tyson was her idol.

But for however much she enjoyed the thrill of competition, boxing for women in Ukraine lacked in opportunities to make actual, legitimate money. So Moroz's gaze began to wander, and that's when her husband introduced her to mixed martial arts, and the blazing trail that was beginning to be ignited by Ronda Rousey.

"I liked [what I was doing], but it was too hard to implement a boxing career in Ukraine, even for the talented girls," Moroz said. "Just at that precise moment my husband proposed me to try myself in MMA. So the hard work began. There were tears, blood, sweat, but my husband always believed in me. Nobody believed that the boxer could become a UFC fighter. But now I'm in UFC, as you can see.

"Every year more and more girls come in MMA, [wanting to be] just as top fighters such as Ronda Rousey and Gina Carano."

Moroz was the biggest underdog on the card when she danced with Calderwood. The oddsmakers won't make that same mistake again. Already as high as a two-to-one favorite, sporting the makings of a rivalry with the division's champion, Moroz strolls into her sophomore effort Sunday at UFC Fight Night 74 with genuine star potential.

All six of her professional victories have been finishes. Five of those wins ended in less than four minutes, just as five of those wins ended with an armbar. Calderwood can attest to that. Considering Moroz's age, the UFC appears to be taking the road of a slow build. Her opponent, Valerie Letourneau, is a perfect 2-0 inside the Octagon, but is unranked and has fought only to decisions against lesser competition.

The makings are certainly there for a showcase performance, allowing Moroz the chance to prove the Calderwood fight wasn't just some fluke against a 50-percent there fighter. The momentum is there too, and aside from No. 1 contender Claudia Gadelha, the division is wide open for the taking. Moroz has only to reach out and grasp it.

"I am going strong," she said. "I'm [coming] for the champion's belt and no one will stop me."