After a Fight of the Night performance opposite Jessica Andrade at UFC Fight Night 104 in February, Angela Hill returns to action this Friday at TUF 25 Finale: Johnson vs. Gaethje. Meeting her there is UFC sophomore – and fellow Ultimate Fighter grad – Ashley Yoder.
The fight with Andrade was Hill’s first in the UFC since dropping back-to-back decisions to highly ranked Rose Namajunas and Tecia Torres in 2015. After exiting the promotion Hill won four fights in a row in Invicta, winning and defending that organization’s strawweight title. Her entertaining scrap with Andrade went the distance, with Hill losing on the judges’ scorecards. Andrade went on to challenge UFC champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk two months later.
“The Andrade fight was a good fight for me,” Hill told Bloody Elbow. “I felt like I did some really good things in the fight, but she did just a little bit more than me in each round and that’s how she got the win.”
Hill said the contest also helped her identify a wrinkle to her game that needed ironing out.
“That fight showed that I was maybe moving a little too much and that I’ve kinda lost what I was doing when I started out, which was standing my ground and hitting hard; using the ground to get power behind my punches,” assessed Hill. “I feel that if I would have sat down on my strikes a little bit more, I would have been able to do more damage and keep her from rushing in so much. But I do like the fact that I used a lot of movement, I think I just want to start playing around with mixing the two approaches in my future fights, instead of just doing one or the other.”
Hill had hoped to make a statement versus the top-ranked Andrade, one in which she showed that she belonged alongside the best fighters in her division. Though she believes her performance against the Brazilian impressed a lot of people, Hill recognizes that the loss on her official record hurts her chances of recognition among most fans.
“I think the hardest part about going into that fight and not getting the win is, instead of me winning four out of my last five fights, people are remembering me as 0-3 in the UFC – when my story has more depth than that and I definitely have more skills than what that looks like on paper,” said Hill.
“So it’s definitely a tough spot where I am now. I get way more congratulations for losing that fight than any fight that I won in Invicta. It’s kind of a weird one for me; where I’m in this strange limbo where if people look at my record they say, ‘Oh you lost that fight’, and that’s a totally different perspective from those who saw the Andrade fight – and my Invicta run – who think, ‘She’s definitely on the way up.”
Though her gutsy performance against Andrade got the attention of hardcore fans, it was something Hill did before the fight got more buzz than anything she has done in fight sports to date. During the ceremonial weigh-ins Hill dressed as an iconic Street Fighter character, a tactic she used to garner attention during her time in Invicta (where she cosplayed as characters from The Warriors, Afro Samuraiand Fallout).
“My little Sagat stunt was really last minute,” revealed Hill. “I didn’t think I would be able to pull anything off with the amount of time I had, but my little costume that I pulled together in an hour ended up making me more famous than any cosplay I ever did in Invicta. I really felt that power of exposure more so this time around than before, even when we did that crazy tour in Mexico City for the Tecia Torres fight, I still didn’t think people saw me as much as they did for that one thing I did at the weigh-ins.”
Despite her viral cosplay and an exciting brawl with one of the division’s best, Hill still feels the UFC’s eagerness to promote her is as lukewarm as it was in her first run in the promotion. “I really felt like I would have been able to book a fight earlier, seeing how everyone was reacting to my last fight,” she said. “I definitely tried, but it just wasn’t going to happen.”
After the Andrade fight Hill did receive words of encouragement from UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby. Though this meant a great deal to her, Hill understands it’s unlikely that she’ll receive a promotional push right now. “I feel like only three or four people are actually getting the push that a lot of people deserve, but you know, that’s just kind of how the UFC machine works. They only pick a select few and it’s not always merit based…in fact it’s rarely merit based.”
“This time around I feel like I need to have a win in recent memory in the UFC just to be able to get people a little more behind me,” continued Hill. “But you never know what’s going to happen. I feel like the fans are so fickle, the promotion is so fickle, that it really is hard to tell if you’re going to be one of those people who gets pushed or not. Once I have a few wins that people have seen – solid wins where I destroy a couple of girls – then I’ll have more of a leg to stand on when it comes to demanding exposure. Right now I’m not really getting much, but I’m not expecting much either.”
Hill’s next target for a signature win is Ashley Yoder, who made it to the quarterfinals of The Ultimate Fighter season 23. Yoder’s sole UFC fight was a unanimous decision loss to Justine Kish in December. When asked about the booking, Hill joked: “It’s kind of nice fighting someone who is not in the top five!”
Hill acknowledges that her battles with Andrade, Namajunas, and Torres were good learning experiences, but she also believes putting on “good fights” against those women did little for her as far as the UFC rankings are concerned. “All those fights are high pressure and those girls are at the top of their game. They’ve been able to showcase their skills against people who aren’t as highly ranked or highly touted as they are. So for this fight, I think I’m definitely going to showcase my talents a little more than I would against a devastating striker or someone who everyone is afraid of. I’ll be able to open up a little bit more.”
“Every fight is tough, obviously. I’m not taking any credit away from Yoder,” added Hill, who admitted to ‘creeping’ Yoder along with every other strawweight on the Joanna vs. Claudia edition of TUF. “Yoder’s tough. I think she’s going to be really hard to put down, even if I do hurt her. She’s always reaching, grabbing for something. She’s one of those spindly grapplers who always does weird things, like suddenly they’re on your arm, even though you were on their back a second ago.”
Helping her tackle the problems posed by Yoder (whose nickname is the Spider Monkey), Overkill Hill has once again trained with Jessica Penne; who Hill claims is a similarly ‘bendy-style’ grappler. Hill also cites other Alliance MMA regulars such as Paulina Granados and Cat Zingano as being instrumental for her during this camp. Former UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz and flyweight challenger Wilson Reis also had a hand in preparing her for Yoder.
Along with prepping for the fight, Hill has also been planning another costume for this Thursday’s weigh-in. “I’m hoping I don’t get fined for it,” laughed Hill, who refused to give any hints as to what character she’ll be emulating on stage. Though she hopes plenty of people will get a kick out of her cosplay, the former Invicta champ is hoping they’ll stick around to watch her fight…even though she thinks her opponent isn’t great for selling their upcoming bout.
“She’s so boring!” claimed Hill. “She’s literally giving me nothing to work with when it comes to hyping the fight. But I’ll be there, I’ll make it exciting, even if she doesn’t. I’ll show up and do my job and hopefully get a KO win. I’m going for blood. I’m not going to dance around and point fight. I’m going to try and take her head off, so if you want to see a girl get bloodied up, you should tune in.”
Angela Hill versus Ashley Yoder headlines the FS1 prelim card this Friday at The Ultimate Fighter Finale: Johnson vs. Gaethje, live from Las Vegas, NV.