Natalia Silva UFC

Ranked flyweights Natalia Silva and Viviane Araujo will be the only women on the main card of this Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 235 event.

Since her UFC debut, Natalia Silva has been turning heads with her flashy striking and impressive knockouts. She broke into the rankings her last time out with a win over Andrea Lee and is hoping to climb a few more spots with a win over #7 ranked Viviane Araujo.

Viviane Araujo is coming off a big win over Jennifer Maia in October that broke a two-fight losing streak for the Brazilian. Another decisive win over a prospect like Silva would be huge for Araujo in a division cluttered at the top with contenders.

Betting Odds

Silva finds herself as the heavy favorite yet again but will be matched up against arguably her toughest challenge yet:

Fight Breakdown

Viviane Araujo is a veteran of the women’s flyweight division. At 37 years old, she’s fought ten times in the UFC with six wins. She started off hot with the promotion, going 4-1 but since then has dropped three of her last five. Araujo is very strong for this division and she relies on that power in both her striking and grappling.

Araujo is a grappling specialist; she likes to press forward on the feet to draw out strikes from her opponent and time her takedowns off these entries. She’ll shoot under the first shot and get a clean look at the hips to force the fight to the mat where she mainly looks for control. She has great transitions to get to side control and has heavy pressure that makes it harder for her opponent to reverse. When they look to escape, she takes advantage and uses these scrambles to advance to mount or take the back.

On the feet, Viviane can get hot and cold. She has power in her hands that most women can’t match at 125 lbs but with only three knockouts in her career, she doesn’t use that striking power well. Araujo looks to counter strike as she walks her opponent down; she wants to use her timing on the feet to catch her opponent with a jab or straight right hand right as they go to throw. When she extends her combinations, they’re usually telegraphed and she doesn’t explode quickly into them. You can also see her close her eyes and throw wildly in many exchanges which makes her more hittable and less likely to land herself.

Araujo is very susceptible to getting hit with jabs and rangy techniques. Her elbows are wide in her high guard, she reacts often to feints and has trouble seeing the high kick especially from the lead left leg of conventional fighters. As her guard does little to help defend, she has a tendency to lean back out of the way of incoming strikes and when her opponents start to throw more than just one shot at a time, her chin is often there to be hit.

A big problem for Viviane over her time in the UFC has been her fight endurance. She tends to come out and expend more energy than she should in the first round and this leads to a drastic slow in pace in rounds two and three. When she begins to gas, she becomes much easier to hit and isn’t nearly as eager to put her opponent on the back foot. Her slow strikes become even slower and she begins to get outstruck quickly.

Her opponent is the quickly rising prospect, Natalia Silva. The 26 year old has started off her UFC career with four straight wins, two of them coming by knockout. Silva is a striker with a Taekwondo style that relies on lots of movement and hip feints to open up opportunities for her kicks.

Silva uses a lot of lateral movement around the cage to create space which allows for her to have her full arsenal of kicks and explosive combos with the hands. She’s constantly using feints and shifts her hips to get reactions out of her opponent before firing off a lightning quick combination.

She favors the lead left kick to the leg and head as well as the straight right cross from conventional. She likes to switch stances to southpaw from time to time where she is surprisingly effective with her right jab. She’ll use that southpaw jab to set up the left kick – this time to the body – from the more powerful kicking stance.

The speed of both her movement and her striking has made her extremely hard to handle on the feet but also makes it hard to track her down for takedowns. Tereza Bleda found some success in the grappling in her fight against Silva and even got her deep in a triangle before the bell saved Natalia. A lot of the danger Silva got into in that fight was self-imposed as she willingly engaged in the wrestling once Bleda got a hold of the clinch. Against a high level grappler, she could struggle if she isn’t able to stay off the cage and keep herself in kicking range.

While Araujo has the power advantage, Silva has sneaky power in her hands as well. We saw her hurt Andrea Lee, Jasmine Jasudavicius and land multiple hard right hands against Bleda. While that left high kick has been the main method of earning the stoppage, her hands are extremely fast, accurate and powerful.

Araujo will desperately need to find the timing of Silva early if she wants to prevent her from finding her groove. Shel needs to close the distance and make the first round a grind where she’s in control; Silva thrives on controlling the exchanges and Araujo can be too willing to allow her opponents to do so. If she’s forced to chase Silva around and swing and miss on the much quicker fighter, she’s going to find herself falling behind more and more as the fight goes on. If Araujo can get in close and make this a grappling match, she should have the advantage. Silva has shown to make mistakes in her defenses on the ground which Araujo has been great at taking advantage of and securing a more dominant position.

For Silva, she needs to focus early on keeping her distance and getting Viviane to react on feints. Araujo has been susceptible to these feints and tends to give openings that Silva should easily be able to find and land her explosive combinations. Silva’s gas tank is great when she keeps the fight on the feet and we know that Araujo’s abilities fade as the fight goes on, so the more action Silva can force at range, the better chance she’ll have at finding the finish in the later rounds.

Fight Prediction

While Araujo is a great grappler, her inability to fight at a high level over fifteen minutes has made it hard for her to find success against the top contenders at 125 lbs. If her striking was crisper, she’d be able to use her power in a more effective way on the feet which would slow the fight down and allow her to operate at a pace she’s comfortable with over three rounds while still being in position to win the round. However, we haven’t seen that type of improvement in her hands and she still looks uncomfortable when she tries to throw in combination.

I think the feints of Silva will play a big part in this matchup. When Araujo starts to guess and bites on these feints, she leaves herself open on her right side and has a lot of trouble seeing the lead high kick. While her past opponents have been able to land the kick, there are few who land it quicker and more often than Silva. Natalia is great at defending the takedown (92% takedown defense on 14 attempts) and when she isn’t willing to engage in the clinch, she’s been almost perfect at stuffing these attempts.

If she can keep the fight standing, I think Silva has an easy night. Even if Araujo is able to apply pressure early and steal a round, Silva will pull away more and more as the fight goes on. I like Silva to win this one and I think she has a great chance to finish it in the second or third round with that lead high kick.

  • Prediction: Natalia Silva to win (-350 at MyBookie)
  • Best bet: Natalia Silva to win by 3rd round knockout (+1400 at BetUS)

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