As is generally the case in mid-December, MMA’s proverbial “ticker” has recently unveiled a number of match-ups over the past few weeks destined to dot cards scheduled for the world’s viewing pleasure in celebration of the New Year. With offerings from the UFC, K-1/DREAM, and Sengoku the educated fan is likely looking forward to countless hours of action from a number of their favorite fighters.

However, little attention is given to the countless hours of preparation and sacrifice going into each individual bout. While the average individual may enjoy time back home with family and friends, or a destined-to-be-foggy evening out into the wee hours of 2011, things most people take for granted around the end of the year are luxuries Mixed Martial Artists scheduled for high-level competition aren’t afforded.

Such a fighter is Roxanne Modafferi, the 28-year old grappler whose smile matches her intellect in terms of brightness. “The Happy Warrior” recently announced she would be testing her abilities against veteran vice-grip of the ring Hitomi Akano at “SRC – Soul of Fight” on December 30 in Tokyo. Five Ounces of Pain recently caught up with Modafferi who talked about her forthcoming foray in Japan, as well as what it feels like to face someone of Akano’s caliber in attachment with one of the nation’s famed New Year’s events.

“I respect her very much as an opponent. I can’t take her lightly at all,” she began. “(Akano) seems very strong and tricky, especially on the ground. I think her striking game is underdeveloped, but she makes up for it in other areas. I’m not exactly a striking genius either, but I’ve been working hard on it.”

Modafferi has one win in her fifteen career victories by way of strikes – a TKO against Vanessa Porto in 2008 – but has shown improved stand-up in recent contests including a split decision over 19-2 Tara LaRosa earlier this year. Then again, that’s not to say she is expecting to exchange a huge number of punches with Akano.

The Japanese 135-pounder has emerged successful thirteen of sixteen times courtesy of her ground skills with the other three involving the judges’ scorecards. However, the only time she’s been beaten outside of points in twenty-four total appearances came in the third round, to Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos no less, so she’s a tough out regardless of how things unfold.

“I have no idea where the fight is going to take place,” explained Modafferi. “I know where I want it to take place, and that’s where she hasn’t gotten a hold of my legs or arms in some kind of submission hold.”

Of Akano’s total wins an outstanding percentage of her tap-outs involving some form of armbar (twelve) including her submission of Carina Damm in the opening round of Strikeforce’s single-night female welterweight tournament this past August.

While there’s no doubting Modafferi’s enthusiasm for the opportunity, there’s also no denying the fight comes with a price outside of the physical toll paid.

“I have lots of mixed feelings about the end of the year event,” said Modafferi who works in Japan but is from the Northeastern United States. “I always go home for Christmas, and I’m actually pretty crushed that I couldn’t get time off from work to go back. On the other hand, if I went back, I wouldn’t be able to take this fight. It’ll be the first time in my life I won’t be with my parents for Christmas.”

That being said, anyone familiar with her disposition knows Modafferi isn’t one to frown for long. Well-aware of not only the significance of the Sengoku show’s timing, but a fight with one of her division’s top tests, closing by expressing she is “…excited and determined to win this fight, and honored to be fighting on a big card like Sengoku.”

Joining Modafferi vs. Akano on “SRC – Soul of Fight”, respective featherweight champions Hatsu Hioki and Marlon Sando will offer a special “super-fight” to fans in the evening’s main event. Also slated for the line-up, well-rounded Polish middleweight Mamed Khalidov locks horns with Yuki Sasaki, PRIDE star Kazuo Misaki looks to break a two-fight losing streak including a “Fight of the Year” against SRC champ Jorge Santiago in August against King of the Cage veteran Mike Seal, as well as fights featuring Dave Herman and Keita Nakamura.