Dana White’s Contender Series signee, Tracy Cortez, is the fighter to watch at UFC Sao Paulo on Saturday.
UFC Sao Paulo features several competitors looking to breakthrough within their respective weight classes. While fighters like Jan Blachowicz and Charles Oliveira are trying to jockey for higher slots on the rankings sheet, Tracy Cortez is looking for her breakthrough moment. As she makes her official Octagon debut against Vanessa Melo on Saturday, she stands out as the fighter to watch on this card.
Melo is looking to rebound after a tough loss to Irene Aldana in September at UFC Mexico City. She took that fight on short notice and has done the same against Cortez on Saturday. If Cortez paid close attention to that bout, then one should look for her to implement a lot of pressure in this coming fight. Cortez’s last fight helps show why this is an important aspect of her game at this early point in her career.
When Cortez fought Mariya Agapova on episode six of Dana White’s Contender Series she struggled initially when the fight was at distance. Agapova was able to control the distance striking and it wasn’t until Cortez closed said distance that she started to find success. She forced her opponent against the cage and used that as an opportunity to implement a grappling-first game plan. Working with the likes of Henry Cejudo in Arizona helps as she needed those abilities to circumvent Agapova’s striking advantage. Expect Cortez to lean heavily on wrestling and grappling for Saturday’s bout. Melo is still early in her UFC run hasn’t faced the takedown threat that Cortez poses.
Once Cortez gets her hands on her opponents, she showed that she’s able to improve her position to threaten with both strikes and submissions. Two of her six wins have come from such positions. In her fight with Agapova, she continued the move to her opponent’s back and pepper her with strikes while looking for the finish. Even when Agapova had Cortez’s leg, she was able to sprawl out and turn the defensive position into a positive as she improved to the back and then the mount. Melo won’t want to wrestle with Cortez because it’s an area where the American will have a clear advantage.
What will be interesting to watch is whether Cortez’s striking has improved. On the Contender Series, it was clear that this was a glaring area of improvement in her game. She would throw wild hooks and big shots to get into the clinch. That frantic type of striking leaves one open for straight counter shots. Wrestlers such as Cortez need to be able to threaten with striking well enough to get inside to do their work. If Cortez has improved in this area, she has an opportunity to really show how far she’s grown in the time since her last fight.
UFC Sao Paulo takes place on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, live from the Ginasio do Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Follow along with FanSided MMA for all your live results and highlights.