After winning and defending the Invicta FC strawweight title in 2016, Angela Hill (6-2) is back in the UFC. This Saturday she faces Jessica Andrade (15-5) on the main card of UFC Fight Night: Bermudez vs. Korean Zombie, which goes down at the Toyota Center in Houston, TX.
Hill’s match-up with Andrade was originally set for UFC 207 in December, but USADA nixed those plans. The drug-testing organization prohibits returning UFC fighters from competing without first spending four months within the USADA testing pool. However, just like former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, Hill was eventually granted an exemption, clearing the path for a date with Andrade in Houston.
“It feels really good,” said Hill to Bloody Elbow about being cleared by all parties to compete in the UFC. “I've known for a little bit, so I am happy that the news is finally out. I'm happy to get back in there and put on a show.”
Hill signed a multi-fight deal with the UFC and was given a full release from Invicta Fighting Championship. Hill first competed for Invicta in January, 2016, winning her promotional debut versus Alida Gray with a KO. She followed this up by stopping Stephanie Eggink, also by KO. These victories earned Hill a shot at then-champion Livia Renata Souza. Hill took a split decision over Souza, in an entertaining bout, to lift the Invicta 115lb belt. In November, Hill defended her title with a decision win over Kaline Medeiros.
Asked if she has officially relinquished her belt, Hill said, “I guess” with a laugh. “They haven't really said anything so I'll still call myself the Invicta champ until somebody else fights for it.”
Hill is delighted to be back competing in the UFC, but she remains fond of Invicta and appreciative of what that promotion allowed her to do. “It was really nice being able to build a fan base while I was there,” said Hill. “In the UFC you don't get to see as much personality as you do in Invicta, so it was a really nice run. I wouldn't have minded fighting a few more times for Invicta because it was fun! I got to dress up, I got to engage the fans a little bit more, and I had a pretty good platform to showcase what I was doing.”
Even though she wouldn’t have minded fighting in Invicta a few more times, Hill believes it would have been difficult to make compelling fights for her within that promotion. “I think it was hard for them to find a fight for me last time,” remarked Hill. “It was pretty convenient that Kaline called me out, and I was like, ‘Oh what about Kaline?’ and they were like, ‘Ok let's do her’, but besides from her there really wasn't anyone that stood out who people wouldn't think they were just throwing cans at me. So I think the time was right.”
Far from a can, Andrade finished both Joanne Calderwood and Jessica Penne in 2016 after moving down from the bantamweight division. Hill doesn’t deny Andrade is a tough opponent, but the former Muay Thai fighter has some doubts regarding the Brazilian’s technique.
“She uses her size against the people that she fights,” said Hill. “She's really aggressive, really reckless, and that can throw people off. You expect your opponent to respect the threat of getting kneed or elbowed when they rush in and she kinda doesn't respect that. She just goes head first into the clinch or just plows forwards with hooks and tries to pin that person into the cage. So I think at strawweight she's definitely going to take the bully approach more and just try to toss people around and use her strength and size against them, but I think she's lacking technique. I think she's a tank, she's gonna rush forwards and back, but she really doesn't have much lateral movement so I'm gonna try and capitalize on that.”
Hill, whose last two fights went five rounds, also believes she has a stamina advantage over Andrade. “I feel like she's not used to getting tired,” said Hill. “A lot of people who have been tired in a fight before, even if their cardio is good, they kind of feel things out first and then slowly pick up the pace so that they can finish strong and she just starts like boom! So she might not be used to pacing herself, at least not at strawweight.”
Hill also believes that Andrade, who fought seven times as a bantamweight in the UFC, may struggle with the cut down to 115lbs. Hill described her own weight cut as a little more than a “twenty-four-hour fast.”
After being submitted by Carla Esparza in The Ultimate Fighter’s women’s strawweight tournament Hill defeated Emily Kagan in her pro-UFC debut. After that she lost a decision to Tecia Torres and was then submitted by Rose Namajunas. Hill’s sure a lot of UFC fans are not aware of her 2016 exploits with Invicta and she’s hoping to surprise them on Saturday night.
“People will be surprised that I don't get choked out,” laughed Hill. “That's all people know about, ‘She got choked out on the show’, ‘She got choked out in her fight in the UFC’, but there's a lot more to me. Anyone who has been watching would know that I have a lot more to offer.”
“There's definitely been some evolving since my time in the UFC,” continued Hill. “I feel like I've started to get more comfortable in there. If you watch the Rose fight, you can see I was more comfortable in there, but mistakes happen, and experience was a huge thing that I didn't have. I had been wrestling a lot, I had been grappling a lot, but I didn't have that fight experience and it's a really big thing. People kind of take for granted how you do in training, but once you get in the cage it's a totally different experience. And it's hard to translate what you did in training to when you're in there and you have all this pressure, all these eyes looking in on you, everyone on the edge of their seat waiting for you to make a mistake, and if you make one mistake that could be the end of the fight. I feel like nowadays I'm making a lot less mistakes and it was really experience that I needed in order to compete at the level I knew I could.”
Since leaving the UFC Hill moved to Chula Vista, CA. in order to train with Alliance MMA. For this fight camp she was able to train alongside Bec Rawlings, who also on Saturday (versus Tecia Torres). “I'd play Tecia, she'd play Andrade,” said Hill. “Bec is a really good training partner, very much a team player. I'm always happy when she's around and we can go at it.” In preparation for Andrade, Hill also worked with former UFC title challengers Jessica Penne and Cat Zingano, as well as Alliance head coach Eric Del Fierro.
Despite her breakout year, Hill recognizes that she is entering the fight with Andrade as the underdog. However, that doesn’t make her any less confident. “It's gonna be like David and Goliath, only that I'm taller than her, but she's still bigger than me, and I'm gonna knock her down, so tune into that!”