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UFC Vegas 25 - New Blood: Judo thunder

Dana White’s Contender Series - Pinheiro v Frausto Photo by Chris Unger/DWCS LLC/Zuffa LLC

Despite nearly a dozen different fights falling apart, UFC Vegas 25 hits UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday (May 1, 2021) with just one Octagon newcomer in tow. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where I keep forgetting about Octagon jitters, we check out a credentialed judoka with newfound knockout power.

Luana Pinheiro

Weight Class: Strawweight
Age: 27
Record: 8-1 (2 KO, 5 SUB)
Notable Victories: Stephanie Frausto

Five consecutive first-round finishes carried Pinheiro to a “Contender Series” opportunity opposite women’s mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran Stephanie Frausto in Nov. 2021. Pinheiro made the most of it, crushing Frausto with first-round punches to secure a contract.

Though known for her judo pedigree, Pinheiro’s shown an admirable willingness to bust heads recently. She’s largely patient on the feet, sending out the occasional probing lead right, until she finds room to storm forward with heavy combinations. It’s not particularly deep or technical, but there is legitimately nasty pop in that right hand — just check out the sound it made as it turned Frausto’s lights out. While I’d very much like to see her try and develop a proper jab or just become less reliant on leading with the right hand every time, it’s a solid foundation.

She hasn’t forgotten her roots, luckily, and remains a very skilled clinch takedown artist. She showed excellent balance when recent foe Helen Harper tried to shoot under a flurry and subsequently countered with her own throw, allowing her to rack up damage with her impressive ground-and-pound. Though she can occasionally lose position, she’s got a nice choke arsenal and knows how to land on the way up.

Pinheiro’s potential is obvious, but her success will come down to polish. Pure power isn’t sufficient to make up for some of the lingering technical deficiencies in her striking, and we still need to see how she holds up when the early finish isn’t there. However her run ends up going, I expect it to be plenty entertaining.

Opponent: She meets The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Randa Markos, who’s presently in a career-worst 0-3 slump. That said, “Quiet Storm” is still plenty skilled and tough as nails, and we’ve yet to see Pinheiro demonstrate the ability to go three hard rounds. I favor Pinheiro, but an upset wouldn’t surprise me terribly.

Tape: Her “Contender Series” bout is on ESPN+, while her second-most recent bout can be found here.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 25 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN2 “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+/ESPN2 at 10 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 25: “Reyes vs. Prochazka” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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