Hill vs. Andrade: The Best Strawweight Bout to Date
The triumphant return of Chan Sung Jung, now officially billed as The Korean Zombie, was the big story for most at this weekend’s UFC Fight Night. It was the main event, so his success or failure on a return from more than three years out of the game was always going to be the evening’s narrative. But jerking the curtain for the televised main card was the bout which would win the UFC’s official Fight of the Night bonus, and was to this writer’s mind was the best women’s fight in the UFC to date: the matchup between Jessica Andrade and Angela Hill.
There are plenty of fans who don’t care for women’s matches in the same way that there are plenty of fans who don’t care for men’s bantamweight and flyweight matches. It’s hard to argue with the idea that these divisions don’t provide as many finishes and when they were brought into the UFC they were in a very primitive state. I’m sure we can all recall when knocking out Bethe Correia was evidence enough that a woman could beat not only Floyd Mayweather, but many of the ranked male bantamweights. But giving athletes the chance to pursue a career in fighting as full time competitors has done wonderful things for the standard of fighting on display in female fights.
You should be familiar with Jessica Andrade: she’s been a tiny bantamweight powerhouse, and now is a small, but even stronger strawweight powerhouse. In her recent run she finished Jessica Penne with little trouble and snapped up a guillotine choke on the rangy Joanne Calderwood. Penne is a recent title challenger and Calderwood has always been well regarded as a strawweight, so perhaps it came as a surprise that Angela Hill was so effective at points against Andrade compared to those two women. Hill left the UFC with a 2-2 record, painfully inexperience, and most will only remember her for the absolute snoozer when Tecia Torres held her down in half guard, unwilling or unable to advance. Since then Hill has been working over in Invicta and putting together a great streak of wins, noticeably improving from fight to fight.
The strange thing in this one was that the 5’2 Angela Hill would have to try to fight long to stay on the outside. She did this decently considering it’s not her forte, her jab found the mark cleanly on many occasions and Andrade could do little about it. With Andrade now looking at a fight with Joanna Jedrzejczyk, this is worth filing away under ‘consider later’. The important point of the jab, however, was that its range provided a buffer zone. Hit or miss, Hill had space and time to circle out after a jab.
Here Hill uses her long weapons wonderfully before changing levels and stepping in deep for a slower, shorter right hand to the body which Andrade surges in after.
It was when Hill threw her favourite weapon, her right hand, that she found herself in trouble. Squaring her hips and moving in further to reach the target, Hill would find Andrade dashing in on her before she could get her feet back into position to retreat and circle out. Hill’s money punch is an arcing right hand with an inside slip, but her best bet against Andrade seemed to be holding back on it.
While Andrade can get into the habit of running in on straight lines, and Hill’s lateral movement did a good job of exploiting this, Andrade did show some nice pressure and awareness at many points in the bout. Here Andrade gets Hill circling and hits her with that Chocolatito favourite, a short right straight as Hill circles in front of Andrade’s right shoulder.
The above clip also shows one of the interesting tactical decisions made by Hill in the heat of the moment, choosing to attempt to counter punch off the fence. Anderson Silva and Jersey Joe Walcott had decent success clipping off short counter punches amid long, wild flurries from the opponent from these positions, but no one has proven completely immune to the disadvantages of choosing to stand and trade while locked into movement along just two dimensions. Hill uncorked some nice counters on Andrade as the Brazilian opened up with both hands and abandoned all defences, but Hill’s effort might have been better used covering up and looking for the clinch her corner were calling for.
What Hill’s corner wanted her to look for was the double collar tie, and when she found it she saved herself a lot of grief on the inside. The story of the double collar tie as a defensive measure is one of posture. If you can pull the opponent’s head forward of their hips, you can ruin their hitting ability and threaten to angle out and throw up a knee at any moment. But equally there are fighters whose posture is so rigidly upright along the fence that they encourage the double collar tie so that they can hit the opponent’s exposed midriff. The Diaz brothers are among the most obvious examples but even Fabio Maldonado had surprising success here.
Hill was, however, successful in most of her attempts to use the double collar tie to stifle Andrade’s offensive output when she got her grips set. Keeping her forearms as a frame in front of Andrade’s collarbones also served to keep Hill out of the pure clinch for the most part, where Andrade could attempt to muscle her to the floor and make the most of an experience advantage on the ground. The strength disparity was quite apparent when Andrade got the double collar tie, threw Hill onto the fence with it and immediately hammered home blows to Hill’s midsection.
Just a few years ago when Jessica Andrade fought Rosi Sexton in England, she landed over two hundred punches through fifteen minutes, but less than twenty of those were scored against Sexton’s body. Arguably in targeting the head almost exclusively she allowed Sexton to see the final bell as bodywork ‘stays with’ a fighter through a fight whilst work to the head can be shaken off if a fighter is given room to breathe. Andrade’s discovery of body work has bolstered her game wonderfully as a high activity swarmer. The side steps which seemed effortless in the first round became much more laboured as Andrade poured on the body work throughout.
It is worth noting that one knee from the double collar tie opened a cut on Andrade, but Hill was catching no breaks as the cut came in the least useful place possible, below Andrade’s eye. However, Hill’s corner was calling throughout for a left knee off either a legitimate or faked right straight. This might have been something spotted in Andrade’s fight with Joanne Calderwood. Calderwood, MMA’s leading proponent of Schilt style marching lead leg front kick, was able to jam Andrade stepping in with the raised knee which would have become a kick had Andrade stayed out in the open. Hill found good success with the lead knee which gave her room to stiff arm off, circle away, or in the worst case dig for underhooks depending on how close Andrade stuck to the knee as it returned to the mat.
It was also good to see Andrade doubling up when possible. Earlier in her career she had been something of a Wanderlei Silva / early Cyborg Justino style windmiller: one hand then the other, under all circumstances. Now she seems to be adapting to her opponent’s positioning and throwing what she thinks will land rather than relying on what Bill Wallace called the old ‘throw-and-hope’. As when we discussed the smothering infighter Jeff Fenech the other week, doubling, tripling and even quadrupling up is important because the opponent has to adjust or else he is going to be hit in the same place over and over. Against a lot of so called swarmers a fighter can get away with just keeping his guard up and hoping that only one or two get through and his opponent just keeps windmilling.
Even after having her body torn up by Andrade’s punches, a tired Hill was able to stiff arm and circle well where many more experienced fighters would have wound up stuck on the fence and melting under Andrade’s fire.
As someone who has had his eye on Andrade as a prospect since her days as a bantamweight, this writer must give tremendous commendation to Angela Hill and her camp for the enormous strides that she has made since leaving the UFC the first time. While the ground game wasn’t tested much, a good deal of that was due to the preventative measures of her footwork and the double collar tie. While Andrade won the fight convincingly and looked good doing it, this fight never looked unwinnable for Hill and when she used the right tools—her jab, the step up knee, long low kicks, the odd front kick—Andrade had a hard time defending and a hard time getting to her. Of course a fight is an individual occurrence can only give the vaguest hints of how the two participants will match up with the rest of the division, but from the thoughtful, adaptive, disciplined work and vast improvements seen from both fighters, I can certainly say that from a technical and tactical standpoint this was the best bout I have seen from the straw weight division in the UFC so far.
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