Women’s StrawweightsClaudia Gadelha (17-4) vs. Angela Hill (12-7)
ODDS: Gadelha (-185), Hill (+160)
The upside is still there for Gadelha to reclaim a spot among the best strawweights in the world, but her recent performances have been an exercise in frustration. For years, she racked up win after win as a dedicated grinder, which was enough to beat anyone outside of Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who earned a narrow win over the Brazilian in their first fight and then took apart an exhausted Gadelha late in their championship rematch. Gadelha rebounded well enough from that second defeat, earning one-sided wins over Cortney Casey and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, but her loss to Jessica Andrade seems to have broken her. Gadelha ran headlong into a rare force that was actually more physically imposing than she was, and she quickly tired herself out trying to fight back from a beating that only got worse and worse. Since then, Gadelha has seemed firmly inside of her own head. The gassing issues are still there, but now she knows it, and her surprising loss to Nina Ansaroff in 2018 was a clear example. Gadelha quickly abandoned her wrestling game once Ansaroff was able to fight back, instead seeming content with losing a kickboxing match. Her last fight against Randa Markos was a win but accomplished little else. Markos did not do much of anything, and neither did Gadelha, who was the better of the two in an interminably slow-paced affair. Gadelha is still a physical standout and would be right back in the title mix as soon as she balances efficiency and effectiveness, but she could really use an impressive performance here against Hill.
It has been an up and down career for Hill, so it is nice to see her get a shot against a name opponent. Coming off of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Hill was extremely raw and essentially thrown to the wolves, quickly washing out of the UFC after two straight losses. However, “Overkill” spent 2016 going undefeated in Invicta Fighting Championships and captured the promotion’s strawweight title, so by 2017, she was back inside the Octagon and has established herself as a reliable action fighter ever since. Hill has also been a frustrating fighter at times. She often starts out as an impressively mobile kickboxer, only to slow down and become more of a sit-down power puncher later in her bouts; and after getting blown out of the water by Markos in March 2019, Hill essentially decided to reinvent herself as someone willing to take any fight that was available. She has set a torrid pace—her last bout in February marked six fights over the course of 11 months—and it has paid off. Not only has Hill rattled off three straight victories against Ariane Carnelossi, Hannah Cifers and Konklak Suphisara, but she has secured this opportunity to earn the biggest win of her career.
Gadelha is ripe for the upset, but it is difficult to pull the trigger and say Hill is going to take this. Gadelha just does not press her advantages any more due to the fear of gassing herself out—something that particularly hurts her here. A peak form of Gadelha would easily get this into close quarters and could probably physically overwhelm Hill on her way to a submission, but nowadays, particularly after her last two bouts, Gadelha may just be content with a lukewarm kickboxing match that does not physically test her and could go either way. Still, Gadelha’s physical advantages give her enough of a floor that she is the likelier winner, even if it probably will not be in the most inspiring fashion. Hill has looked good lately, but a through line for her last three wins is that they are the rare bouts where she has been the bigger and better athlete: Carnelossi is a tank, Cifers is not particularly athletic and Suphisara is a natural atomweight. That will not be the case here; and for all of Gadelha’s cardio issues, Hill is not that far off from having the same problem. Hill may still be the fresher fighter by the third round if this goes at any sort of pace, but it is hard to see her being so much so that she can make up for those physical disadvantages. The pick is Gadelha via decision.
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