Calgary Sun: Jiu-jitsu champ looks for early night

Sheila Bird's fought inside MMA cages three times.

Not once have her opponents made it out of the first round.

So, when the six-time world jiu-jitsu champion steps into the cage Friday night at Aggression Fighting Championship 12: Domination (7 p.m., Telus Convention Centre), she's well aware of what audiences are expecting.

"My past few fights have ended in pretty spectacular fashion, and I think that's something people are going to be looking forward to seeing again," Bird said.

"The women's fights are always going to be the most exciting on an MMA card. We bring that extra emotion that, sometimes, the guys don't bring."

Bird (3-0) only has two professional MMA fights to her name -- her other victory was an amateur fight in 2006 -- but was the first Canadian woman to earn a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has won more than 100 competitions in the discipline.

So, experience isn't much of a concern.

Her opponent at AFC 12, Winnipeg's Christina Barry (0-1), is no slouch on the ground either, holding a brown belt in jiu-jitsu.

But Bird doesn't have any intention of changing her gameplan to suit her opponent's strengths.

"I've studied my opponent a lot and I've looked at her previous matches, so I know what to expect," the Calgarian said. "My best areas are grappling and jiu-jitsu. I'm confident that I can take the fight to the ground, and I expect to win."

For fight fans who prefer the stand-up game, the AFC 12 card will be headlined by a match between local heavyweight Ryan Hunter (3-0) and former CFL defensive lineman Paul Cheng (2-1), of Vancouver.

Hunter's combination of muay thai and jiu-jitsu skills have seen his stock soar in Calgary MMA circles, but AFC Calgary president Steve Fader believes that against Cheng, whose biggest strength is boxing, Hunter will rely mostly on his striking skills.

"I anticipate this fight most likely being a stand-up brawl," Fader said. "(Cheng) likes to come forward, so it should be a really interesting matchup between these two monsters."

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