UFC Vegas 81: Emily Ducote Turns Back Returning Ashley Yoder

Ashley Yoder and Emily Ducote, UFC Vegas 81
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 14: (L-R) Emily Ducote punches Ashley Yoder in a strawweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on October 14, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Strawweight Ashley Yoder ended a two-year layoff at UFC Vegas 81 on Saturday, taking on ex-Invicta champ and Bellator title challenger Emily Ducote.

A pair of shoulder surgeries had kept Yoder out of action; in her return, she was looking to snap a two-fight skid. Ducote was also looking to put back-to-back losses behind her, but had at least been active.

Whatever credence you might put in the concept of ring rust, Yoder came right out with solid movement, pressing forward and getting her hands going. Ducote answered with counters, while Yoder touched the outside of her legs — though the kicks were not particularly impacting. A Ducote right hand was, and Yoder responded by grabbing for a leg, only for Ducote to pull back.

Yoder would gather her composure, and fire a high kick or two as the round progressed. Ducote worked in low kicks of her own, landing on the inside; a Yoder head kick was eaten/partially blocked by Ducote, who didn’t seem any worse for the wear. Ducote finished the round by landing a takedown, but the horn sounded soon after.

In round two, the stand-up continued, back-and-forth. Ducote caught a kick at one point and threatened to dump Yoder, but she stayed upright. The pace picked up a notch, and Docote’s right hand continued to find the mark — the most consistent significant strike of the fight. Yoder tried answering with her left hand, Ducote answered in kind, and Yoder suddenly had a bit of damage showing. Late in the round, Yoder closed the distance looking for a takedown, but couldn’t land it. An entertaining round, and still anyone’s fight heading into the third.

In the second and again the third, Yoder began to mix in knees up the middle. Both fighters went to the body at times, and Yoder began using her length well. Yoder then clinched up, firing more of those knees and smashing Ducote with an elbow off the break! Ducote’s right hand hit its mark again, but if there was a momentum shift it felt as if it was in Yoder’s direction. Yoder continued to land elbows late in the round, but Ducote’s right hand, which hand been there throughout the fight, continued to serve her well. The damage had been adding up on Yoder’s face as a result, and it really showed at the final buzzer.

With Emily Ducote taking the win on the scorecards, Ashley Yoder falls to 8-9 as a pro.

Official Result: Emily Ducote def. Ashley Yoder by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)