There are a whole lot of big MMA events this weekend — the UFC, Bellator and the next rung down with the Legacy Fighting Alliance, Cage Fury Fighting Championships and more. With that comes some interesting female bouts. I am going to touch on three of them here. We’ll start with Bellator and the bout between Veta Arteaga and Desiree Yanez on Thursday. Then, on Friday, the LFA gives us a title bout between champion Vanessa Demopoulos and Lupita Godinez. We end on Saturday with UFC’s Cortney Casey against Priscilla Cachoeira. So let’s get started.
I absolutely love this fight. There’s no way that this fight is anything less than a war. This is a fight I suggest you go out of your way to see.
Arteaga comes in off consecutive losses, but those setbacks were in a title fight against Ilima-Lei Macfarlane and a bout with former title challenger Alejandra Lara, so no shame in those.
I expect a lot of this fight to be fought in the clinch — my favorite area of a fight — so let’s talk about what can happen in there. Most likely it will be Yanez putting Arteaga’s back against the cage. Yanez is really strong there, so first and foremost, Arteaga needs to get her underhooks right away. This can accomplish two things. One, it will let her control the clinch a bit more and avoid takedowns, and it could also perhaps allow Arteaga to reverse the position and maybe break off the clinch. Arteaga also has good knees in the clinch. She shouldn’t be afraid to throw them, but she can’t be reckless with them and get off balance. If she does, then it would let Yanez take the fight down. Arteaga does have very good takedown defense, which she likely will need here, but if she gets taken down, she must get her guard and not let Yanez gain a dominant position or else she is in trouble. The best bet is for Arteaga to just try to stall it, hold Yanez close, and hope the ref stands them up.
When they are in the center and throwing, I like Arteaga’s straight right. She should throw it often. Yanez can be hit and at times lowers her head when she is throwing. If she can keep the fight at a good distance where she keeps Yanez in range but not close enough to where Yanez can force the clinch, then Arteaga can have success. However, Arteaga does sometimes lower her hands when throwing kicks. She can’t do that here. Yanez is capable of throwing some wide power shots, and if Arteaga lowers her hands, then Yanez can counter and hurt her.
Yanez is coming off one of her two pro losses, a split decision to Melissa Martinez in Combate in a fight many felt she won. Yanez is so strong in the clinch, and I love that she doesn’t commit herself to one kind of takedown. She will go up and down the ladder, so to speak. She will look for one, like perhaps a double leg. If it’s not there, she can quickly try an ankle pick. If that’s not there, then she’ll move back up and look for something else. This is so good because it keeps the opponent guessing and on the defensive. It also limits strikes coming her way.
If Yanez gets this fight to the ground, then she is going to be in a great spot. However, even if she doesn’t actually get the takedown, she can still control the clinch and win the rounds there. Arteaga might try to stall her out even there. If she feels Arteaga is doing this, then she should keep moving. Even if she’s not doing any actual damage, she can still keep moving and give the impression to the ref that there is action going on.
Away from the clinch, Yanez can be hit and Arteaga can hit, so Yanez needs to keep those hands up. When throwing, she can’t lower her head. When she comes in throwing, that head goes down sometimes and she might walk right into Arteaga’s power shots. Also, she has to watch Arteaga’s initial kicks. She should counter those kicks, land punches and then decide if she wants to keep standing or rush in with those punches and get the clinch. If she can get the timing down on the kicks, she can also blast in for a double leg when Arteaga’s not perfectly balanced and get the takedowns that way.
Demopoulos is coming off a loss on Dana White’s Contender Series to Cory McKenna after winning the title she will be defending here. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind what Demopoulos will want here. She wants it on the ground. On the feet, Demopoulos is not bad at all, but she can be hit. In her title win against Sam Hughes, she was losing the fight on the feet before pulling off the submission. What she will have going for her in that department is that Godinez comes forward, which should give Demopoulos opportunities where Godinez is in there close. However, she can’t expect to avoid getting into situations where they are standing and trading, and it might serve her well. Godinez is freakishly strong for a strawweight, so taking her down might be hard. Perhaps her best bet is to shoot in while they’re in the midst of throwing strikes at each other, when Godinez maybe isn’t expecting it or is not in as good a position to defend it.
Godinez has good takedowns of her own, and I don’t think she will shy away from them. If Demopoulos gets put on her back, keep an eye out for Godinez’s limbs. Godinez can leave them out there, and Demopoulos is outstanding at being creative with submissions and pulling them out from nowhere. So, even if Demopoulos looks to be in a bad spot, don’t expect her to panic and just look to survive. She will still be down there, being smart and looking for finishes of her own.
Godinez comes into this fight having won her first four pro outings. If this fight ends quickly, it’s probably because she won. Demopoulos can be hit, and Godinez has very good striking. Her head movement and footwork are very solid as well. She mixes up her striking very nicely. What she does on her feet is what is going to make it hard for Demopoulos to get it to the ground. Godinez moves, lands and is aggressive — all things that can put Demopoulos on the defensive. These are also things she is going to need to do, because Demopoulos will pounce if she gets stagnant.
Godinez’s strength is going to help her if the takedown attempts come from the clinch, but Demopoulos can get takedowns from a variety of ways. The footwork, movement and aggression is what will help Godinez in those non-clinch takedowns. Demopoulos is also a very confident fighter. Her opponent can be beating her and she’s still going to believe she’s going to pull out the win. So, Godinez can never be content. She can’t think Demopoulos is folding or getting desperate.
As good as Demopoulos is on the ground, I don’t think Godinez will totally shy away from going there. She might very well try to put Demopoulos on her back. This is fine, but she must protect her limbs — don’t leave them sitting around where Demopoulos can grab one — and be aware of the sneaky submissions from Demopoulos, who can have one on an opponent before they even know she is going for it.
Casey comes in looking to get back on track after a loss to Gillian Robertson. She falls into that “better than her record indicates” category. Casey has a 9-8 mark, but look at the names who have beaten her. In addition to Robertson, there are top fighters like Claudia Gadelha, Cynthia Calvillo, Michelle Waterson and Seo Hee Ham.
In this fight, Casey’s goal is pretty point blank: she wants to get it to the ground. She will have a sizable advantage there. How does she get it down? Well, she can use Cachoeira’s game against her. The Brazilian comes forward looking to engage, so Casey can perhaps use her movement till she is at an angle she likes and then shoot in while Cachoeira is moving forward and doesn’t have an ideal balance. Another route could involve Cachoeira’s right hand. While Cachoeira has power in that right hand, she has a tendency to swing it wildly and off target. So, Casey can circle away from it and wait till Cachoeira throws it, then come in under it and get the takedown.
Casey is not someone who will shy away from engaging on the feet, but her best bet is not to engage there for very long. She needs to have some patience. There’s no need to take it down right at the bell. Set it up, move, get those angles, and wait for the opening. The same thing holds true if Casey gets it down. If she does, she can be systematic about it. She can take it one thing at a time, be it passing, advancing, grabbing a submission, ground-and-pound, or whatever she elects to do. Don’t rush it. Don’t try to do two things at once and give Cachoeira a chance to escape. Five of Casey’s nine wins are submissions, and she can get them from different positions. All she has to do is to be patient and wait for the right moment. Odds are there will be an opportunity that presents itself.
Cachoeira comes in having ended a three-fight slide with a very quick win over Shana Dobson. More than just getting a win, she needed that for her confidence, even though those three losses were to quality opponents.
Cachoeira is going to want to keep this fight on the feet and try to land her right hand. She can’t chase, though. She needs to cut off the cage and try to keep Casey in range to land the right. The Brazilian should also see if she can get Casey to slide toward her right hand. One way to do this might be to land some kicks to Casey’s right leg and maybe make Casey think of moving to her own left side to keep away from those. Even if Cachoeira can’t pull this off, it’s still about cutting off the cage and keeping Casey in range. Cachoeira wings that shot sometimes, and she can be a second or two late. She has to set it up, and she can’t become overly reliant on it. Don’t view it as “I need to land this,” because it’s really not her only weapon.
If the fight goes any length, odds are that at some point Cachoeira is going to be taken down. If she is, then she needs to try to get to the cage or shrimp and see if she can get a little space to try to shove Casey away with her feet. Escape is her better option as opposed to engaging in a grappling match with Casey. If Cachoeira lands on top, Casey will look for an arm. The Brazilian has to keep the arm safe and off the mat, and preferably look to get the fight back on the feet.