Prospect in the Spotlight (Dec 20-21): Juliana Velasquez

Introduction

Saturday, December 21st, Brazilian flyweight prospect Juliana Velasquez will be in action for Bellator, where she will be looking to stay undefeated against Bruna Ellen. She will be looking for the victory, as Velasquez looks to score a title shot against the winner of Ilima Macfarlane and Kate Jackson. He represents Team Nogueira, a respected camp in MMA. Let’s take a closer look at this prospect as this week’s “Prospect Spotlight.”

Strengths

Submission Grappling: Velasquez is a high-level judo black belt, so it should come as no shock that her strength is her grappling. Not only that, but she trains under Team Nogueira, who is known for their great jiu-jitsu instructors, helping further round her grappling attack. She has very good takedowns and throws, which helps her get her opponent to her back. She’s also strong in the clinch when grinding on an opponent, showing good balance and great strength in her upper body and core. On the mat, she has effective ground-and-pound, which she uses after transitioning to an advantageous position. Surprisingly, though, she has just one submission victory to her name, an armbar in her Bellator debut over Na Liang. Overall, avoid a mat war with this talented grappler.

Strong Strength of Schedule: Many fighters choose the route of crushing cans in accumulating a good statistical record, but Velasquez is not one of those fighters. Before entering Bellator, she faced strong regional opposition in the Brazilian regional scene, taking out the likes of now UFC roster member Talita Bernardo, Rosy Duarte and Elaine Albuquerque. Under the Bellator banner, she has run a 4-0 record, including finishes over Kristina Williams, Rebecca Ruth and the aforementioned Liang. Add to that the fact that she has a lot of experience against top-level grapplers in her time as a competitive judoka. She’s definitely no can crusher.

Needs Improvement

Striking Defense: Offensively, Velasquez is not a bad striker, considering she comes from a grappling background. However, there are some intangibles and defensive measures she could tighten up. Her head movement could improve, as she tends to keep it on a line that makes her more hittable. This was seen in her win over Alejandra Lara, who touched her chin a bit too much. Also, she should be cognoscente of keeping her hands high at times, as she can get careless with that. That will get her chin touched as well. Add in a little more footwork precision, and you would have yourself a more refined striker and an even bigger all-around threat.

Outlook

Bellator Title Challenger: Velasquez is 4-0 in Bellator, as we mentioned before, so this is likely her audition to challenge the winner of Ilima Macfarlane-Kate Jackson. With a win, I expect Velaquez to challenge for the title, and she could very well earn herself the Bellator title in that fight. She’s 33 years old and has a lot of combat sports experience. She hasn’t shown much in terms of weakness in the cage. She’s a tough out for any 125er in the world. Whether she wins the flyweight title or not will not negate the fact she will sniff around the top of the 125-division for time to come. She must get by a scrappy Bruna Ellen first, though.

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