Former The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) contestant, Angela Hill, will battle with submission fighter, Michelle Waterson, this Saturday (Sept. 12, 2020) at UFC Vegas 10 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Hill appears to be something of a late bloomer in the mixed martial arts (MMA) world. She didn’t get her start in combat sports until later in life, which is the likely explanation. Regardless, at 35 years of age, Hill is very clearly coming into her own, connecting the dots and finding a greater level of success than ever before. It’s unclear just how high this jump in ability will carry her, but she’s been given a significant opportunity here in this unexpected main event slot.
Let’s take a closer look at her skill set:
Several MMA gyms have a distinct technique or styles associated with them. In the case of Angela Hill, she’s a long-time trainee of Alliance MMA, and her movement-heavy style of kickboxing definitely reflects that relationship.
Also, for whatever little it’s worth, Wikipedia lists Hill as 16-0 in professional kickboxing.
As with many of her teammates at Alliance — most notably, Dominick Cruz — false starts are a huge portion of Hill’s offense. Light on her feet from the outside, Hill is frequently testing her opponent’s reactions by acting as if she’s going to come forward with a combination. The exact movement can differ a bit, but typically, Hill will lower her level, lean over the lead knee a bit, then pull back.
This false start creates a lot of counter opportunities for Hill. If she’s able to trick her opponent into swinging at air, Hill can often follow up with a combination. In particular, Hill does a nice job of answering with several punches and a kick of some kind, which improves her odds of landing something and staying ahead on the volume game.
Historically, one of the problems with false starting often is that it can leave the fighter’s lead leg exposed mid-feint. Hill has definitely eaten her share of low kicks over the years, but she also does nice work in reading the kick, staying squatted low, and firing her right hand as a counter.
The .GIF below isn’t a low kick, but it’s the same concept.
Of course, one cannot solely feint offense without actually initiating some of the time. Mixed among the false starts is actually offense, which much of the time comes in the form of an overhand. Hill throws the strike without fully committing her weight straight forward. As a result, it may be a touch less powerful — though still heavy enough to drop Claudia Gadelha! (.GIF) — but Hill is more easily able to duck her head off the center line as she secures an angle.
In addition to ducking her head inside with an overhand, Hill will also drop her head to the outside and stick out a stiff jab, which can intercept her opponent’s forward movement. As she shifts her head between inside and outside position, Hill will also jump into a left hook.
Between the head-off-line/angular jab, hook, and overhand, Hill can build good combinations, often by finishing with kicks.
Another strength of “Overkill” is her elbow game. On the outside, Hill will look to intercept with elbows, hiding behind her shoulder and presenting her opponent a sharp point to run into. If the distance is too tight for an overhand or left hook, Hill will instead bounce into an elbow.
In addition, Hill’s clinch game is really quite good. She fights for head position really well, which helps ensure she is the one delivering hard knees and elbows (.GIF). Most notably, her right elbow on the break is an excellent weapon. In her bout with Loma Lookboonmee, Hill really proved her clinch skill by going toe-to-toe with the Muay Thai champion and arguably landing the better shots in close (.GIF).
Hill’s defensive wrestling/grappling is historically her Achille’s heel, but it’s also perhaps her most improved area in the last few years.
At this point, Hill is certainly not an easy opponent to take down. Her head position and framing in the clinch are rather strong, meaning muscling one’s way into the double leg along the fence is not going to be an easy task. Hill’s in-and-out movement can be a double-edged sword, as it can draw out bad shots, but if an opponent does time her step forward, it’s likely a solid entry on the shot.
If there’s one wrestling trend I’ve noticed in Hill’s fights, it’s that she’s vulnerable to trips. That may simply be an end result of fighting at Strawweight, where many women attempt shots with trips added in, or it could be a balance/positioning problem. Either way, Hill tends to hit the mat when her legs get entangled, which could prove an issue opposite Waterson.
On the offensive side of things, Hill has grown more confident in her clinch takedowns, mixing her Muay Thai and wrestling well. Opposite Hannah Cifers, for example, Hill managed to secure a double-collar tie then effortlessly sweep out the foot as she yanked on Cifers head (GIF). Against Lookboonmee, Hill baited the Thai athlete into a battle of knees, only to reach down and grab a leg when Lookboonmee grew a bit too comfortable trading strikes.
Hill has come a long way on the mat. That’s not to say she’s a world-class black belt, but she did manage to survive beneath such a grappler in Gadelha, enduring some bad positions without offering up her neck in the process.
Otherwise, Hill’s one notable bad habit is being a bit quick to turn her back in an attempt to stand up. She’s an athlete, and athletic fighters can often get away with this type of stand up. However, when facing top-notch back-takers like Rose Namajunas or Carla Esparza, this strategy can definitely backfire.
Offensively, Hill has twice attempted triangle chokes in recent fights. The bell prevented her from advancing towards the finish against Yan Xiaonan, but Hill did attempt some interesting techniques against Lookboonmee.
Starting in the knee shield position from her back, Hill unclamped her legs and threw her guard high, immediately landing in armbar position. When she lost control of the elbow, Hill smartly transitioned to the triangle. From there, she first attempted to tighten her squeeze by crossing her ankles and extending her legs, similar to a tepee choke. When that didn’t work out, she attacked the “wrong” side triangle, in which the locked legs are over top the head rather than the armpit.
That’s a dangerous variation as well, one that can open up a lot of shoulder look possibilities. Ultimately, Lookboonmee survived, but Hill did effectively use the triangle to threaten a finish, do damage, and return to her feet.
With different judges, Hill could easily be riding a four-fight win streak into the match up and be ranked in the Top 10. As it stands, she can at least achieve the second portion with a victory here, which would stand as the biggest of her career.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 10 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ 8 p.m. ET.
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Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.