Polyana Viana and Jinh Yu Frey will be competing to put themselves back into the win column on Saturday when they meet at UFC Fight Night 214. The two strawweights both found themselves going into their last bouts on two-fight win streaks but fell short, Viana against Tabatha Ricci and Frey against Vanessa Demopoulos.
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However, a win over each other puts them right back on track with a big name. Viana, prior to her UFC debut was the jungle fight strawweight champion, one of the best-regarded belts in Brazil, and a title she never actually lost. Frey was once the Invicta FC Atomweight champion and fought for the Rizin Super Atomweight championship as well.
This contest is very close, according to oddsmakers, with an underdog bet on Frey returning a $108 profit for $100 placed on her.
Viana is a very aggressive and long striker. She fights like a Muay Thai fighter with a tall stance that accentuates her range and has slick kicks, especially to the body, and long whip-like punches. Her ability to keep her distance and sustain that same range as she moves is important because she does tend to keep her head on the centreline as she stands so tall, so distance management is her primary means of defense. However, when opponents do crash forward in an attempt to close that gap, she has weapons on the inside as well.
Elbows and knees in close comes first but more notably, Viana as a brown belt in BJJ has developed a honed skill set off of her back. Being such a tricky problem on her feet invites a lot of opponents to shoot on her, she will immediately attack the neck with guillotines and front chokes and when on her back she will constantly look to isolate one of the arms and start creeping her guard higher and higher. She sets up her armbar in particular by attacking a triangle that she doesn’t really want, forcing her opponents to try to slip their neck out and put their arm in jeopardy where she can secure the finish. Although she is confident on her back and dangerous, looking to attack with elbows and looking for submissions are always risky due to the fact that you give up time in return. If she cannot cause the damage she wants or finish with a submission, Viana can lose out rounds by being stuck, and it’s her willingness to work from her back late in the fight rather than try for sweeps or wrestle up that is the biggest hole in her game.
Jinh Yu Frey is a very technical striker with a sharp left hand. She fights from southpaw with a high tight guard and works her way in with good feints and jabs in order to cut the outside line on the right and get that sniper’s left hand through. She is also good at using her right hooks to step through left straight to force her opponent to circle to their right and into her left hook as she changes stance, this is a trick she utilizes by putting her opponent on the cage and has had success with it numerous times. A major battle to be won in this style matchup is whether or not Frey can force Viana to move backwards into the cage or if Viana can consistently circle out into open space and utilize her kicks.
Frey is going to want to keep it on the feet, but easier said than done. Although Viana doesn’t have the highest wrestling credentials as a preferred guard player, Frey’s affinity for bullying forward with heavy pressure does mean she gets hit with reactive takedowns. If she finds herself struggling with the range and having to burst forward more aggressively to bridge that gap, these opportunities will be even more available. However Frey does have heavy hips when defending on the cage and a powerful base when getting back to her feet. Even if Viana believes she is the better grappler it will be excruciatingly hard for her to just maintain control on top, it will be in the scrambles and situations where Frey extends a limb to frame and get up where the submission opportunities have to be capitalized on.
In eleven wins, Frey has eight decisions and contrastingly every one of Viana’s 12 wins have come by stoppage. This speaks to their fighting styles, Frey walks through opponents and scores on aggression and pressure with tight consistent striking and an ability to avoid getting too wild anywhere. Viana doesn’t fight for points but she is dangerous everywhere. Tactically, I think that the range will help Viana drastically in the striking department and the more thrown off of her game she can get Frey the more her finishing opportunities will present themselves. Even if she does play guard most of the fight I don’t think Frey will entertain just laying on top trying to chip away and either trying to work to her feet or scrambling will play right into Viana’s game.
Prediction: Polyana Viana to win
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.