Ashley Yoder is coming off of her most impressive showing as a member of the UFC roster and hopes to build upon that momentum when she returns to action this Saturday.
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“The Spider Monkey” will face Randa Markos at UFC on ESPN+ 20. The event takes place at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore, and will be headlined by a welterweight bout between Ben Askren and Demian Maia.
After picking up her first UFC win last November over Amanda Bobby Cooper at UFC Fight Night 139, Yoder returned to action in June at UFC on ESPN+ 12 in Greenville, SC. The 32-year-old had as dominant of a performance as you will see without finishing a fight, picking up a one-sided unanimous decision over Syuri Kondo. While many believe it was a breakout performance for Yoder, she still insists there were things she could’ve done better.
While still searching for her first UFC finish, Yoder feels she was able to overcome a major hurdle: her comfort level being under the bright lights of the UFC.
“I really wanted that finish and I feel like the previous fights I had before I got into the UFC I had a lot of finishes,” Yoder told The Body Lock. “I think that being in the UFC you’re on a higher platform. Unless you’re a real fight fan, you probably haven’t seen my past performances unless you were there or started YouTubing stuff.
“In my last fight, I was talking about it in my head. My coach is really visual on training, best scenarios, worst scenarios, right? I’m drilling this all the time every time I had a free moment. The best scenario was the first round, exactly in my head — I’m talking about from the walkout, to how I was feeling, to trying to feel the heat of the lights inside of the Octagon. All of these visual things played out exactly in my head, except I would’ve gotten the armbar.
“I missed the armbar by this much and I was like, ‘Damn!’. I was just trying to be more myself in the cage and it was the most fun I’ve had being in the UFC. I was really excited to control the fight where I wanted it. Just getting comfortable on the big stage is one of the things I’m trying to work on.”
A contestant on season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter, Yoder entered the UFC losing her first three fights: close decisions to Justine Kish — a fight many believed Yoder won — Angela Hill and Mackenzie Dern. With the natural talent she possesses, Yoder felt that one of the things holding her back was overthinking things and trying to be a perfect fighter.
“I always try to be sometimes too… well clearly not perfect, because I make a lot of mistakes,” Yoder explained. “I get punched a lot. I’m bleeding. But I always try to be a well-rounded fighter. The best way it’s been described is that I’m learning on the job. I don’t have any prior experience before I started fighting. I just started fighting. I’m trying to be in an accelerated process while working at the same time. I’m trying to find a comfort zone of MMA [as a whole].”
Yoder returns to four months after her big win in Greenville, which is the shortest turnaround of her UFC career. Having five fights in her nearly three years on the roster, the Team Quest trained Yoder is hoping to be more active as her career progresses. Four months is clearly a more active schedule than she has had, but Yoder is hoping to get even shorter turnarounds moving forward.
“This is perfect timing,” Yoder said of the fight this Saturday. “I was really hoping that it wouldn’t fall on one of my best friend’s weddings — one was in September and the next one is in November. It’s perfect timing having it right in the middle. I wish I would be more active. Last-minute fights would be amazing because I always train. I’m always ready and I keep my weight pretty close so it wouldn’t be a hard thing to do to get a last-minute fight.”
Originally, Yoder was scheduled to face Yan Xiaonan who is currently riding a nine-fight winning streak, including a perfect 4-0 record in the UFC. Xiaonan is on a better career trajectory, but her new opponent in Markos has the more recognizable name amongst North American MMA fans. Add the stylistic perspective to the matchup and Yoder feels that fans can expect a very exciting fight on Saturday.
“It was all in the same message,” Yoder said of receiving the news of an opponent switch. “They were like, ‘Hey, you’re fighting Randa now.’ I don’t think I’m in a place with the UFC to say no to a fight. Stylistically, Randa is more my style, more well rounded across the board. It’ll be more of a fun fight for the crowd because we’ll be everywhere. There’s gonna be scrambles, there’s gonna be punches, we both like head and arm throws so I think, stylistically, it’ll be a funner fight instead of me just getting kicked in the face.
“I’m excited and I think it’s more comfortable for me to go overseas and fight someone that has to do the same. It’s better to have the first overseas fight with someone who has to experience that same time gap.”
When it comes to predictions, Yoder isn’t one to throw out headline capturing quotes. Very humble in nature, “The Spider Monkey” will be thrilled to extend her winning streak to three. More importantly for Yoder, she hopes to continue her evolution as a martial artist in an area that appreciates it more than most.
“Hopefully, all of my hard work, my training, all of my blood, sweat, and tears I put into this camp will really show,” Yoder stated. “Like my last fight, I hope to just keep growing from that.”
With a brand new champion in Zhang Weili, there are a lot of fresh and exciting matchups that can take place in the women’s strawweight division. The division already consistently produces highly competitive, fan-friendly fights but it’s always nice to have a fresh coat of paint. Yoder is motivated to be a part of the divisional transition moving forward.
“There’s a lot of changes going on,” Yoder said. “It’s exciting and sometimes you need to put a fresh face on a division to peak interest. I think as females, we’re fun to watch anyways. But it changes the dynamic of who is going to fight who, and what’s a good fight. So it’s fun when things like this are switched up.”