Angela Hill (Jeff Vulgamore/Combat Press)

Women’s MMA Weekend Preview: UFC 265

UFC 265 has plenty of women’s MMA action and was supposed to feature a co-main event of Amanda Nunes defending her title against Julianna Pena. Unfortunately that bout was pulled when Nunes tested positive for COVID-19. While we miss out on that fight, we still have three fights on the card.

Tecia Torres vs. Angela Hill

This fight features two of the most fun strikers in the division in a rematch of a 2015 fight that Torres won by decision. We know what we are going to see here don’t we? This might be the most basic preview I have had to do, but that is a good thing. These two are going to put on a striking display and it is that simple. And as simple as it is, I am really excited for it.

Torres comes in at 12-5, riding a two-fight winning streak. She most recently stopped of Sam Hughes in December. I’ve said before and will again, Torres is among the most underrated fighters in the UFC. She had a four-fight losing streak, but look at the names: Marina Rodriguez, Weili Zhang, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Jessica Andrade.


Torres will be at a height and reach advantage, but she is good at minimizing it. She has to get inside against another outstanding striker, which makes it harder. But her speed will help with that. If she is looking to keep it a kickboxing match, her best bet is to flurry and march forward. She can just throw 1-2-1 combinations. With her speed, she will land before Hill can respond. When she’s in close, she will give Hill more options, so there is risk.

That is why I would like to see Torres on the outside using her movement. It serves a few purposes. It allows her to frustrate or tire Hill by making her chase a bit. But more importantly, while Hill is a smart striker and will cut the cage, it will allow Torres to actually be a bit of a counter puncher. That when she is most effective.

Another place I would like to see Torres get this fight is the clinch. Not in the center, because she isn’t going to win there. But against the cage. If Torres can put Hill’s back on the fence, she is strong and can control the position. She can tie up Hill’s arms and do damage with knees and short punches.

Lastly, I wouldn’t mind seeing Torres mix in a takedown or two. Torres actually has a very nice ground game. We just don’t get to see much of it. She is the better grappler and if she can take Hill down, I think she has the ability to do a lot of damage and maybe even work towards a submission.

Hill enters at 13-9 after a March win over Ashley Yoder. Hill, like Torres, is really underrated. Her record may not look great on paper, but consider three losses are split decisions that could have gone her way. This includes top contenders Michelle Waterson and Claudia Gadelha.

Hill’s route to a win is even more simple to explain. She wants to keep Torres at the end of her punches. With her reach advantage, her punches will get there first if she keeps Torres at range. She needs to pump her jab and it will prevent Torres from getting inside. If she can do it for a length of time, it will frustrate Torres and make her desperate. That is when Hill can start opening up with her strikes.

Her other big weapon on the feet will be her leg kicks. Hill loves to throw them often and hard. This is a fight where that is needed. The leg kicks will obviously do damage, that is priority No. 1. But it also can limit what Torres can do. If Torres wants to get inside, it limits the explosion of Torres when she throws flurries. It makes it harder to plant and push off. If Torres wants to move around a lot on the outside, it’s a lot harder to do so when your leg is hurting.

Lastly, while I like the idea of Torres clinching against the cage, I like the idea of Hill getting the clinch in the center. Hill will have the height advantage and limb length. If they are tied up, she can throw knees to the body. She can also get the Thai plum and then really let go with knees and elbows.

This might not be the fight people are talking about, but do not be surprised if this fight ends up being the “Fight of the night.”

Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Jessica Penne

Kowalkiewicz needs a win badly as she is on a four-fight losing streak. She most recently dropped a decision to Xiaonan Yan in February of last year. Hopefully she addressed some of things that hurt her in that performance.

Kowalkiewicz is best served to stay out of the clinch and avoid the ground in this fight. Penne is very good in both of those areas. Also, I think it will be important for Kowalkiewicz to get some early confidence in this one. She needs to drill leg kicks. They aren’t the most sneaky kicks, but she lands them hard.

Penne is going to be on the lookout for the kicks, so Kowalkiewicz needs to mix up when she throws them. A few landed kicks will get her in a nice rhythm early, something she hasn’t been able to do in recent bouts. Additionally, it will slow down Penne’s forward movement when she tries to punch into clinches.

Another thing that will help the Polish fighter is movement. But it needs to be better movement than she’s had recently. When I say that, I don’t mean the movement itself, so much as what she does with other body parts during that movement. She often drops her hands and leaves her head an open target. She complicates this by leaving her chin straight up and leaving her head center. All of this combined makes her a target that is easier to hurt

Kowalkiewicz also has a tendency to move straight backwards. She does not want to do that here because Penne will catch up to her. Penne is great at punching into a clinch and Kowalkiewicz would be playing right into her strength. Good side-to-side movement will allow Kowalkiewicz to counter Penne and she can do damage that way.

If Penne gets the clinch, which she surely will at some point, Kowalkiewicz cannot tricky. Penne will out-trick her. She needs to be basic with her defense and get underhooks to prevent Penne from dropping down. Kowalkiewicz can also look to frame, stick her forearm in the neck area, and control Penne’s posture. When those clinches separate, she must keep her hands up. Penne can land nice strikes when exiting the clinch.

Penne brings a 13-5 record into this bout. She made her return to the cage after a four-year absence to take a decision from Lupita Godinez in her last bout. I was really impressed with Penne’s performance. After the time off, who knew what we would get. She definitely still had “it” and more. She did really well on her feet, landing very good strikes.

The plan for Penne in this one is not too complicated. She just needs to do a lot of the same things she did against Godinez. I went over the problems Kowalkiewicz has as far as her backwards movement, low hands, etc. These are things that are perfect for Penne. It allows her to do what she does best.

I don’t even expect to see Penne mess around with lengthy exchanges. She will come forward, land and try to tie up Kowalkiewicz. Picture an ugly, unskilled street fight where someone just runs forward throwing left, right, left, right. Only this will not be a street fight and will be done by someone extremely skilled. This serves the purpose of getting the fight where Penne likes it and prevents Kowalkiewicz from getting anything going.

If Penne gets the clinch, she can control it. She is great at the basics, as well as some tricky things. Even if Kowalkiewicz is able to Penne’s back on the cage, Penne won’t be bothered by it and will keep that clinch. Against Godinez, we saw her swing a leg around to jump into getting the back of Godinez. She might try similar things against Kowalkiewicz.

If Penne gets the fight to the ground, whether on top or bottom, she will be in a great spot. Once there, expect her to look for submissions.

Victoria Leonardo vs. Melissa Gatto

Leonardo stands at 8-3 after a loss to Manon Fiorot in January. Stylistically this fight can prevent problems for Leonardo, but she has one clear path to success.

On the feet, Leonardo is very hittable. Whether it’s punches or kicks to the head or legs, she can be hit. She moves well — she’s not a stationary target — but when she isn’t moving, she get hit a lot. She’s so focused on her offense that she doesn’t think about defense in those exchanges. But in her defense, she has faced some strong strikers and that is also part of the problem.

In this fight, she has two strikes that will serve her well. First off, she has a nice, quick right hand. It seems to come out of nowhere at times. Against someone like Gatto, that weapon is is huge because Gatto will bite on feints. Leonardo can feint her jab and get a reaction out of Gatto, then drill her with the right hand.

The other thing on the feet I really like out of Leonardo is she ends combos with kicks. Those kicks land in different places as well. Gatto can’t prepare for a leg kick because the next one could go to the body. If Leonardo can land plenty of those at the end of her combinations, she can really do damage. I think low kicks will be a weapon she uses often in this fight.

Where I really want to see her take this fight is against the cage. Put Gatto’s back to the fence and just grind away at her. Gatto will give up underhooks. If Leonardo can Gatto pinned to the cage, she can land knees, elbows and punches. The longer she does that and makes Gatto carry her weight on that cage, the quicker she is going to tire Gatto.

The quicker Gatto get tired, her output will slow and Leonardo can use her striking offense. If Leonardo wins this fight, I expect it to be by decision (I have just jinxed it). But, don’t rule out an exhausted Gatto taking a hard body kick and dropping.

Gatto comes into her UFC debut at 6-0-2. She has not fought in nearly three years since submitting Karol Rosa. She has looked outstanding to this point in her career, but she has not faced the toughest of opposition outside of Rosa. While she got the first-round submission on Rosa, Rosa was winning the stand-up and it was Rosa who got the takedown. I am high on Gatto’s potential, but this fight will be telling.

These two have similarities on the feet. Gatto also has a nice right hand and decent movement. If this fight is on the feet for any length, Gatto is best served to make it an ugly brawl. That will mean that Leonardo is in front of her and can be hit. The more technical and slow paced it is, the more it favors Leonardo. Gatto has to brawl.

If I am correct that Leonardo wants to work in the clinch, Gatto will have an opportunity to land something. This is because Leonardo attempts takedowns from too far away and when she does that, she overcompensates with her head low. If Gatto is able to see that, she can land something big to the head of Leonardo.

Gatto might even bait Leonardo into taking her down. I think Gatto will want this fight on the ground and she is extremely active off her back. She will not at all be upset if they hit the ground with Leonardo on top. If Leonardo does get the clinch, don’t be surprised to see Gatto pull Leonardo on top of her. Gatto doesn’t necessarily want to be on bottom, but she prefers this to be on the ground where she can look for a finish.

That is it for this week. Enjoy the fights.