Saturday’s UFC Fight Night: Edwards vs. Muhammad card continues a streak for the UFC of some exciting and interesting fights. We have Angela Hill against Ashley Yoder in a bout rescheduled from a few weeks ago. In addition, Cortney Casey takes on JJ Aldrich and Jinh Yu Frey battles Gloria de Paula.
Let’s jump right in and take a look at each of these three fights.
This is a rematch of a 2017 bout that Hill won by decision. This contest was just put together about a week ago, and you would assume that by accepting it, both ladies are in fight shape. They both are very aware of what their opponent will want to do, so it’s not as if they need to study much tape.
Hill comes in with a record of 12-9 after losing in her last two appearances. Those setbacks were very close split decisions against Claudia Gadelha and Michelle Waterson. Yoder stands at 8-6 after a decision win over Miranda Granger in November. The victory was possibly Yoder’s best performance to date.
Hill is a great striker. She mixes up her strikes as well as anyone and will be very happy if a fight stays on the feet for the full 15 minutes. In this outing, she will give up five inches in reach, which can be very problematic. However, Yoder lets opponents come forward and get inside. Hill will use her jab a bit more frequently, because she will want to close the distance. It sounds very basic to say, but Hill really just has to be her typical self in order to win.
Hill will want to be careful throwing her kicks, though. Yoder, in looking for a takedown, will be open to trying to catch those kicks and convert from there. With the speed at which Hill throws those kicks and how well she mixes them in, this will be a hard task for Yoder.
Hill can be pushed to the cage. It is in her best interest to try to avoid this scenario against Yoder, who can definitely get takedowns from there. In those situations, Hill has to have her mind on defending the takedown rather than throwing strikes. If she tries to strike, then she won’t be ready to defend. Hill is also good at throwing strikes when breaking off the clinch, and this could make Yoder think twice about trying it again.
If the fight does go to the ground, it would be a losing battle for Hill to try too hard to compete with Yoder. Instead, she has to look to scramble or find an escape. If it’s not there, then she must slow down Yoder, hold her close, and wait for a stand-up. Hill has a good sprawl as well, but she shouldn’t try to engage from a successful sprawl unless she has a very dominant position. She should just back off and get back to work on the feet.
Yoder does let opponents get inside on the feet, but she needs to avoid that here. She has a huge reach advantage and will want to be sure to use it. Her two best striking weapons will be the jab and her leg kicks. By putting the jab out there, she keeps Hill off her and doesn’t need to get into lengthy exchanges where Hill’s speed and experience provide her with an advantage. Kicks to the legs and body can also help slow down Hill. Yoder can throw these kicks without worry, because Hill isn’t looking to time them and score takedowns.
The next step for Yoder is to get it to the ground. She has options. Hill can be pushed to the cage, so she can look to use the jab and punch her way into a clinch. From there, Yoder can get a double leg, a trip, or a throw. Whichever she chooses, she will want to make sure it pulls Hill off the cage a bit so that Hill can’t use the cage to get back up. Yoder has to watch her head, though, because Hill will be throwing in that clinch. Yoder can also use the jab to disguise a shot. She could land a couple and then shoot in. She shouldn’t shoot from a distance, though, which she is sometimes prone to do. Such shots give Hill ample time to sprawl, move away, or plant a kick right to Yoder’s head. Of course, Yoder could also pull guard. She will happily allow herself to be on the bottom.
If Yoder pulls guard, then she has to keep working. She can be very sneaky off her back with submission attempts and also throws strikes from there. Hill will be looking for an opportunity to stand, so Yoder has to be active and look for a limb. Meanwhile, if Yoder is on top, she must be active in throwing strikes. This could cause Hill to turn and give up her back or at least allow Yoder to advance into a more dominant position.
I get why no one is talking about this fight, but I wish they were. I am so excited for it. If I were to predict a “Fight of the Night” winner, then it would be this one. These fighters are better than their records indicate, and they stylistically should put on an exciting fight or what some people for some reason call “a banger.”
Casey comes in at 9-8 after a submission loss to Gillian Robertson. While this mark might not look impressive on the surface, the losses came to the likes of Cynthia Calvillo, Felice Herrig, Claudia Gadelha, Michelle Waterson, Seo Hee Ham and Joanne Calderwood. None of those ladies were able to finish her either.
Aldrich is 8-4 after a close decision loss to Sabina Mazo. She, too, has lost to some very good fighters. The biggest unknown here is all the time off. Fifteen months is a long time. Will there be cage rust (Dominick Cruz says it doesn’t exist, I say it does)? Furthermore, we don’t really know what Aldrich has been working on, where she might have improved, and what she might have changed.
Casey, while having a two-inch height advantage, will actually give up a half inch in reach to Aldrich. That’s nothing noteworthy, but the height advantage could work for or against her. Before we get to that, let’s talk about what to expect here. Casey throws hard. In this fight, she’ll need to. Aldrich has good movement and comes forward in spurts while also throwing hard. Casey will not want to chase after Aldrich. She should let Aldrich circle and move while trying to get the timing down when Aldrich comes forward. Then, Casey can land her power shots. While Aldrich’s forward spurts work well for her, she does sometimes run into a punch. If Casey can time that, then she could literally get Aldrich to run right into a punch.
Another good weapon for Casey will be her leg kicks. She throws some nice ones. If she lands, then she can slow down Aldrich and keep her opponent in front of her in the so-called “phone booth.” Casey will have the power advantage there, while also taking away Aldrich’s preferred method of striking. Casey has the leg-length advantage, so she can throw kicks from slightly farther away. She can even get Aldrich to circle into them. When Aldrich is moving, Casey doesn’t need to chase. Instead, she can slide with Aldrich and get her to move right into them. Casey can also end combos with those kicks. While kicking any part of the leg will work, Casey should target the outside.
Now, about that height advantage maybe working against her. Casey at times will stand up straight. When she does this, she leaves herself open to takedowns. I don’t know if Aldrich will have any interest in taking her down, but there is always a chance. Aldrich might want to fight in the clinch, and, again, if Casey is standing up straight, then it will allow Aldrich to come in lower and push Casey to the cage. Casey needs to correct this by getting a little bend in those legs. This also will make body shots easier for her — we’ve seen from Maycee Barber how much those can hurt Aldrich.
If Aldrich does decide to shoot for a takedown, Casey has to make sure to not let Aldrich manipulate her position. Casey is fine on her back, so she doesn’t have to fight the takedown too hard and burn energy. She can pull Aldrich into her guard and have success there.
Aldrich’s best weapon here is her straight left. She throws it beautifully. When she comes forward, she will want to lead with it if she can. If she lands it and hurts Casey, then Aldrich can follow up with additional shots more easily. She can also use that straight left in concert with her movement. If she gets Casey to follow her to the right, then Casey will be walking toward that punch.
When Aldrich comes forward with flurries, she doesn’t stay too long. She lands and gets out. Granted, she does at times get tagged, but she’s good at realizing danger and backing out. This is good, because she doesn’t want to get into extended exchanges where Casey can be her most dangerous.
Casey is really good at using feints and moving her hands, almost as a confusion tactic so that her opponent doesn’t know when the punches are actually going to come. Aldrich has to be aware of this and not expect that the first forward hand movement is actually going to be the strike that Casey throws. A good way to do this is to use her own feints. Aldrich can make Casey think the strikes are coming and cause her to extend her own punches. This is when Aldrich can come forward. Aldrich is a very good defensive fighter, especially from distance. She gets her hands up where they need to be and blocks well. This can give her some additional confidence that she will be able to block those extended punches from Casey.
It would be a good idea for Aldrich to shoot in when Casey is standing up straight. However, she should not actually do work on the ground. She can shoot in once or twice, just to put the thought into Casey’s mind and slow her reaction time. An early shot could pay dividends later on. Just shoot, get the takedown, and get back up. Aldrich should not try to compete with Casey on the ground, just use the threat of the takedown to open up her own strikes.
This is an interesting match-up that should end up contested mostly on the feet between two fighters who both have power. There isn’t a ton to really break down here. Both fighters have a basic strategy. I don’t say basic in a bad way. What I mean is that each fighter will have an area on the feet where they can excel.
De Paula comes in at 5-2 for her UFC debut after making an appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series. Frey is 9-6 after dropping her first two UFC bouts, the most recent of which was a decision loss to Loma Lookboonmee in October.
De Paula has great striking from range. With a two and a half inch reach advantage, she should be able to dictate the range against Frey. She has a really beautiful straight right hand that hurts when it lands. She also throws some very nice combos. Her right hand will really set up everything else. The Brazilian can begin or end combos with it, and she can also mix it in between. However, I’d expect a lot of leading with it. It’s her best punch, and it can allow her to land something hard and then follow up when in close.
With Frey’s speed, de Paula could have trouble in close. However, if she initiates and hurts Frey, then she should be fine in there. So much of this fight will be about who can land first in exchanges, and that reach advantage could give de Paula the edge.
Both fighters are the type to want to come forward. Neither lady is much for retreating. I really want to see de Paula try to be the aggressor. I think that is important here because of where Frey can excel: in putting de Paula’s back to the cage. If de Paula allows Frey to be the one coming forward, then it allows Frey to have an easier time putting her against the cage.
In addition to the aforementioned combos, de Paula can avoid this by throwing kicks to the body. Frey can maybe catch one and use it to push the Brazilian to the cage or take her down. Frey could also retaliate with her own kicks. However, kicks to the body can slow down Frey. They hurt and make the fighter have to work harder to breathe.
There isn’t likely to be much of a feeling-out process here, but de Paula should use the first round to set up what she plans to do in rounds two and three.
Frey, like de Paula, has a hard straight right that will be a weapon for her here. The difference will be in how she will look to land it. Whereas de Paula can lead with it, Frey, with the sizable reach disadvantage, will be better off setting it up. If she doubles and triples up on her jab, then she can distract de Paula and get in closer where she can then throw that right as a follow-up. Frey also has very powerful kicks, so she could launch a combination of maybe a jab, jab, straight right, and leg kick. It can really be beautiful to watch and quite effective.
As alluded to earlier, Frey can also have success if she gets de Paula’s back to the cage. This will be a challenge, though. She can try to feint some takedowns early on, which could make it easier to get inside and force the clinch. She could even actually commit to a takedown and really put the thought there. If Frey puts the takedown thought in de Paula’s head, then she might get a slight hesitation out of the Brazilian that will allow her the opportunity to get inside.
I am in no way implying that de Paula is no good in the clinch, just that Frey can excel there. Frey has very good strikes in that position and can unload with elbow strikes to do damage. This is Frey’s best chance to work the body of de Paula as well and maybe slow her down.
While neither lady is going to put the brakes on and slow down, Frey has to try to conserve some energy. She is in as good of shape as any woman in the sport, but she has a lot of muscle. The more muscle you have, the more oxygen it needs. De Paula is not going to slow down. The Brazilian is going to keep throwing bombs. So, Frey needs to keep up with that as the fight goes on by saving some energy.
That is it for this week. Enjoy the fights!