The UFC 252 televised preliminary card was kicked off by Ashley Yoder and Livinha Souza, in what turned out to be a very close strawweight showdown.
Both fighters entered the night looking to bounce back from losses, Yoder to Roxanne Modafferi, Souza to Brianna Van Buren.
Souza appeared to find her stride first. The pair exchanged kicks, and Yoder immediately took the back standing. However she was too high up, and slipped off, allowing Souza to move into her guard. With the pair still dry, Souza had plenty of time to work, and wound up standing up and delivering a huge punch to the face of Yoder while she remained on her back. With both women back on their feet moments later, Souza came over the top with another heavy blow. A lot of power was behind every right hand from Souza. Yoder tried to answer by shooting for a takedown, failed, but did land a kick to the body.
As the round wore on, Yoder began firing a left kick high to negate Souza’s right hand. They’d end up in a clinch along the fence in the final minute, Yoder seeking a takedown. Souza stayed standing thanks to a whizzer, fired a right hand, and ate a push kick as the pair came off the fence.
Ashley Yoder opened round two with her jab, and went on the hunt, pressuring the Brazilian, who backed up to the fence. Souza would fire off her right again, but that attack was anticipated by Yoder who briefly took the fight down in response. Souza popped right up, leading to a clinch. That led to a battle for position, Souza at times using a whizzer to keep upright.
Back in the open, the pair traded kicks, Souza employing an inside leg kick. She’d go back to that kick several times throughout the round. Yoder went after he opponent’s back again in the final minute, and again wound up too high and went over the top.
The third round saw Souza again attack with an inside leg kick. The pair would spend time clinching by the fence, but the fight stayed standing. Yoder was pressing the action, Souza returning fire. Yoder fired off a combo led by her jab, and her output seemed to be a tick ahead of Souza. A low blow on Yoder then briefly halted the action. Despite the interruption, Yoder had found her groove, outside of continually eating the inside leg kick Souza was spamming.
Yoder attacked the back again in the final minute of the fight, leading to a scramble that ended with Souza on top. Something that might have left an impression with the judges, with the fight very much up for grabs.
Three of Yoder’s previous four fights heading into UFC 252 had ended in split decisions. That wasn’t the case on Saturday night — but the final result was a unanimous decision against her. The 30-27 card will likely raise some eyebrows, in what was essentially a very close fight.
Official Result: Livinha Souza def. Ashley Yoder by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)