Jinh Yu Frey (Kiara Kaiser/Combat Press)

Women’s MMA Weekend Preview: UFC on ESPN 28 and Bellator 263

This weekend Bellator MMA and the UFC are going head to head on a Saturday night and both cards have some interesting women’s MMA bouts. We’ll take a look at two of the three fights that UFC is offering, as well as the lone women’s fight at Bellator 263.

Gloria de Paula vs. Cheyanne Buys (UFC on ESPN 28)

I hope people are aware of how exciting this fight could be. The breakdown is very easy and doesn’t require a lot from me, but that is why it might be so exciting. I hope they spend a lot of time in the clinch. Both of them are very good in that position. The pair jockeying for the advantage in the clinch will be fun.

De Paula comes in at 5-3 after a March decision loss to Jinh Yu Frey. Assuming we get the clinch battle that I mentioned, de Paula has the edge as far as being able to get it and do damage in it. The main reason is her height and reach advantage. With the reach advantage, she is able to reach for it first. And with the height advantage, she doesn’t have to reach up to pull Buys’s head down.


I expect de Paula to start out throwing lots of kicks. She has several things that make her kicks so dangerous. She throws them quick, making it hard to react and defend. And since she throws them hard as well, they may spell trouble for Buys. She will also double them up. She will go low with one and seconds later go high.

With the height advantage, I think she can do damage with her kicks. Don’t be surprised to see her first focus strictly on low kicks to get Buys thinking about them. Then de Paula can quickly go high and if Buys falls for it, de Paula can get a finish.

If we do see a clinch battle, and I would bet that we do, de Paula can do serious damage with knees. If we see a finish from de Paula, I think it is most likely to come here. Look for her to try and drill Buys with knees to the head. What she doesn’t want to do in the clinch is let Buys put her back to the cage. Buys is also good in the clinch and she can do damage as well.

In the event Buys goes for a takedown and gets it, de Paula has an active guard. She is tricky trying to throw up submissions. She has long legs and an armbar will be available to her. But if she senses Buys advancing, she will want to focus more on just keeping that guard. She does not want Buys to be in a position to land ground and pound.

Buys comes in at 5-2 following a decision loss to Montserrat Ruiz in March. The reason I say this is easy to write and preview is because Buys mostly wants what de Paula wants. She just has to go about it in a different way.

Buys has a lot of power in her punches, but the reach disadvantage makes it harder to get in and land. I want to see her invest in body work early. First and foremost, it is going to help her get inside. If she can land a lot to the body, even just jabs, she can use that to close the distance. She can then start feinting low and come over the top with power shots to the head. Watch for Buys to try and end this fight with her overhand right.

The other purpose of going to the body is that once the body is hurt, you naturally start protecting it. Doing so requires you to bend a little. This makes the height a little closer to even and Buys can then be the one looking for the Thai clinch. Just like de Paula, Buys has great strikes in the clinch, specifically knees. I don’t expect to see her as reliant upon it, though. She may use it to put de Paula against the cage and then move on to the next step.

What is the next step? I expect Buys to look to get takedowns. Not right away, but eventually. If Buys follows the game plan that Frey had against de Paula, she can get it down to the mat. While she has to watch out for submission attempts, she should be able to pass into good position and land strikes. If were to get a stoppage, this is where I think it happens.

Like I said, not a lot of detail. But not a lot of it is needed in this match-up. I really have high hopes for this fight and think we might see an incredibly fun fight.

Ashley Yoder vs. Jinh Yu Frey (UFC on ESPN 28)

What’s interesting to me about this fight is that, in many ways, each of these ladies is fighting the perfect type of opponent. What I mean is each one is fighting someone who they can have success against.

Yoder brings an 8-7 record into this one after dropping a decision to Angela Hill in March. She will be at a disadvantage on the feet against Frey, for the same reasons that gave her trouble against Hill. On the feet, Yoder tends to move backwards and Frey is a good striker. Yoder will give up the center of the cage and can be hit. She often hesitates in her strikes.

So what I want to see are things that will keep Frey from coming forward. Nothing overly complicated, just things as basic as push kicks can halt forward momentum. Yoder can not trade strikes with Frey, she doesn’t have the speed, nor the power. But that doesn’t mean she has to shy away from striking altogether. She just has to be smart with her striking.

I mentioned things to stop Frey’s momentum. But Yoder cannot be hesitant. At times, she appears to want to throw a punch or kick, be near throwing it and then not throw it. Frey will pounce if she does this. What Yoder does do well is use her jab. There will be extended periods where its just jab, jab, jab and jab from her. Now, yes, you want to mix up your strikes, but I think there can be a benefit here. Yoder will have the reach advantage, so if she sticks with jabs and mixes in some low kicks, she might then open up power punches.

Another thing Yoder can do is switch stances from time to time. Not so much because of opening up opportunities, but because it’s a good way to keep a fighter from coming forward and guessing.

Eventually Yoder needs this fight on the ground. How can she get it there? Yoder has a nice head-and-arm throw if she can get the clinch. And she has the right height to land it on Frey. But Frey is as strong as it gets and that throw might be a bit harder against her. Making matters worse is Yoder tends to get hit a lot in the clinch while looking for takedowns. Frey happens to be a good striker in that clinch.

Shooting is her best option and that is where that jab comes back into play. If she is doing well pumping that jab, she can shoot behind it and look for a variety of takedowns. She could look for a single leg, a trip, the options are endless if she can get there. On top of the reasons mentioned, I like this route because I’d prefer to have takedowns in the middle, away from the cage. This will give Yoder more options for submission attempts.

Frey comes in at 10-6 after getting her first UFC win in March against Gloria de Paula. In the fight with de Paula, Frey had a ton of success taking the fight to the ground and staying on top. But in that fight, she was facing someone who’s ground game is still a work in progress. It made strategic sense to get it to the ground. That is not the case here; Frey wants it standing.

Frey is an easy one to talk about here. She is a fast, powerful and aggressive striker. The kinds of strikers that have had success against Yoder have had one of those attributes. Frey has all three. Furthermore, Frey likes to come forward and is at her best when she is the aggressor. I don’t want Frey to limit it to just punching because Yoder will eventually get her timing down and figure out a way to shoot.

Frey has good kicks, but her low kicks are really hard and really fast. I want to see her use them early and often. If she’s landing them and doing damage, she is going to make Yoder a more stationary target. If Yoder stands in front of her, Frey is going to have a lot of fun. Frey can make her high kicks look like they are going to be low right up until the moment they go high. Similar to how Rose Namajunas dropped Weili Zhang in their fight.

In general, Frey just wants to be aggressive. But, she wants to be smart. Frey does not want to be on the ground here, so she needss to make sure that aggression doesn’t lead her right into the arms of Yoder. If that happens, what does Frey do? She will want to hurry and push it to the cage. Yes, Yoder can get a takedown from there as well, but she will take damage while working for it. In the clinch, Frey wants to get underhooks. That will make the takedown harder and gives her more control of the clinch.

Vanessa Porto vs. Ilara Joanne (Bellator 263)

Porto comes into this one at 22-9 after dropping her Bellator debut against Liz Carmouche in April. The fight with Carmouche did not live up to my expectations for excitement. In all honesty, it was a pretty boring fight. Porto did not give a typical performance. But she can be an exciting fighter and Joanne might be the opponent to help display that.

Porto is what you’d call a well-rounded fighter. If this fight stays on the feet, she a very capable striker. She is facing someone who is unorthodox. Porto’s more technical striking is going to help keep her from getting into a brawl and getting caught. She likes to counter and she can do so with her right hand in two different ways. She can throw a hard straight right and sometimes more of an overhand right.

Porto has good defense in her stand-up, she keeps her hands up and blocks shots well. That will also be of importance here. Porto will look to entice Joanne to throw first. By doing so, she can try and gauge what Joanne is throwing and then counter. Porto going first can lead to bad things because Joanne also disguises her strikes really well.

Eventually Porto wants this on the ground. Actually, eventually is probably the wrong word. I expect Porto to look to take it there early. How can she do that? Porto is outstanding at jabbing her way into a clinch. She will throw several jabs in a row and get right to her opponent and clinch. From there, Porto is very strong and is usually able to get the fight to the ground. Porto also has great jiu-jitsu.

Once on the ground, Porto will want to use come caution at first. Joanne will not hesitate to try and be offensive off her back and throw up submissions. But Porto is someone who will recognize the attempts and stay out of danger. Once she gets firm control, look for her to try and distract Joanne. What I mean is lots of movement from the hips down, attempts to pass, trying to put a knee on Joanne’s knee or shin. This is where Porto can open up. With Joanne distracted, Porto can throw strikes, attempt submissions or both.

Joanne comes in at 9-5. This is her first fight since being stopped by Kana Watanabe in December of 2019. From a style standpoint, this is a dangerous fight for Joanne. She’s going to have to try and make it ugly and land something big. But she is capable of that. In talking about Porto, I mentioned how Joanne disguises her strikes very well. She is also an accurate striker with a lot of power.

Joanne will have to make Porto go first. Not easy since Porto is more of a counter puncher. So Joanne will want to use feints, to try and get Porto to react. Even if Porto’s reaction doesn’t include actually throwing a punch, any little reaction can help. Maybe it makes her step in closer to power shots or drop her hands. Any reaction can help Joanne.

Joanne has the power to hurt anyone. If you watch the fight with Watanabe, she had her hurt early in the fight and didn’t follow up enough. Had she done that, she might have gotten the win. If she can stay unpredictable with her combos, it will be key. The punch that hurts the most is the one you don’t see.

The other important strike for Joanne will be her leg kicks. She has a nice lead leg kick and if she can land a lot of those early, it will slow down Porto’s entries on her takedowns. It can also make it harder to plant and get power behind her counters.

Joanne is going to be put on her back at some point. She likes to throw up submission attempts off her back, and that is fine. But the first sign of it not working, she should look to pull guard. She cannot try and force something to be there. The longer you stick with something that’s not working, the more you allow Porto to get in a position to do something that will work. Just be defensive and don’t take risks.

That is it for this week. Enjoy the fights.