When the fight card was announced for UFC on ESPN: Overeem vs. Harris it was the co-main event that most piqued my interest. The strawweight matchup between perennially top-ranked Cláudia Gadelha (17-4-0, #6 ranked UFC strawweight) and the fightingest female in the UFC, Angela Hill (12-7-0, #15 ranked UFC strawweight) has the potential to be a surprising show-stealer with both fighters’ contrasting styles on display. The Jiu-Jitsu specialist against the standout striker is an intriguing matchup. Both fighters will be looking for the win for differing reasons. Gadelha could kickstart a run for the gold, while a third win of the year for Hill will propel her up the UFC strawweight rankings.
The last time we witnessed Gadelha in the octagon was 10 months ago on July 6th, 2019 at UFC 239. That night, she defeated Randa Markos via unanimous decision to a chorus of boos from the Las Vegas crowd. Gadelha and Markos both fought cautiously, with their objective being to avoid a loss rather than achieve the win. Gadelha achieved her goal that night but will be hoping for a much-improved performance come May 16th.
A standout grappler, Claudinha, has consistently lurked near the top of the strawweight rankings. She has failed to match the consistency achieved prior to competing in UFC, where impressive 11 straight wins were recorded. Gadelha has only once in her UFC tenure not rotated a win with a loss. Two consecutive wins against Cortney Casey and Karolina Kowalkiewicz after losing a UFC Strawweight Championship bout against then-champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk is her best winning streak. Of Gadelha’s 10 UFC bouts thus far, 9 have gone to the judge’s scorecards, with one submission win. Contrast that to her 11 consecutive wins prior to signing with UFC. 8 coming by way of submission or KO and only 3 decisions left in the hands of the judges.
With two Fight of the Night awards against former champions Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Jéssica Andrade and a Performance of the Night award against former championship contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Gadelha has proved that, even though her UFC record is inconsistent, she has the ability to compete with the best.
Since we last witnessed Gadelha in the octagon, Angela Hill has amassed a three-fight winning streak. Hill’s best winning run in UFC is only topped by her four straight victories competing in Invicta FC. Overkill hasn’t tasted defeat since a unanimous decision loss to Yan Xiaonan at UFC 238 on June 8th, 2019. With momentum behind her for the first time in UFC, Hill could be one of the breakout stars of 2020.
Deservedly so, Hill has received plaudits over her willingness to compete and her decision victory over Loma Lookboonmee on February 23rd was her 6th fight in 11 months. A UFC record was bestowed upon her with the most consecutive fights in the least time in 337 days. Even more impressive was Hill fought in Auckland, New Zealand on 17 days’ notice with only a 29-day turnaround from her previous TKO win over Hannah Cifers. While the winning streak is impressive, reviewing the first three fights over her 11-month fighting season tell an opposing story. A decision win over Jodie Esquibel sandwiched between the aforementioned loss to Yan Xiaonan and a submission defeat to Randa Markos.
Taking a closer look at the winning streak though and Hill has not faced a top strawweight contender. Brazilian Ariana Carnelossi was making her UFC debut, and while showing potential pre-UFC, she is a raw talent. Hannah Cifers and Loma Lookboonmee have not achieved anything of note yet in their short UFC careers. UFC winning streaks take more than luck or chance and Hill will want to prove that she can successfully step up to defeat a higher calibre of opponent.
A 2nd degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu renowned as a takedown machine, Cláudia Gadelha is a balanced fighter with top-level Muay Thai striking complementing her ground game. Angela Hill is a former World Kickboxing Association Champion known for her prowess in the striking department.
The strategy Hill will surely adopt will be to keep this as a stand-up fight. Gadelha will be aware of the danger that Hill’s striking possesses. But also of the weakness of Hill’s ground game and will be looking for multiple takedown attempts to keep Hill off her feet as much as possible. Ring rust may affect Gadelha, as time in the gym does not replicate time in the octagon. Hill has proved she is always ready to fight.
Experience will surely be a factor in this contest. Although Gadelha only has two additional career fights, the level of opposition even in losing efforts, has been of a much higher calibre than what Hill has faced. Momentum, though, is crucial in any sport and Hill has that in spades while Gadelha is treading water.
12 months ago, most would have Gadelha as a clear favourite over Hill. You can’t argue that Gadelha has a better career winning record. She has faced more established and experienced fighters. She has won a Fight of the Night award against a UFC Strawweight Champion. Gadelha is overall a more complete fighter than Hill. Hill, though, has racked up significant octagon time in 2019 and 2020. She has matched the level of performance that seen her win and defend the Invicta FC Strawweight Championship in 2016 and has the force of momentum behind her. A more difficult decision to pick a winner now compared to 12 months ago, but the outcome remains the same.
Gadelha to win by judge’s decision.
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