Prospect in the Spotlight (July 3-4): Victoria Leonardo

Introduction

Thursday, July 2nd, American flyweight prospect Victoria Leonardo will be in action for Invicta, where she will be looking to get back into the win column against DeAnna Bennett. She will be looking for the W, as Leonardo looks to impress the UFC brass in an attempt to earn a contract. She represents Elite Combat Academy, a little-known camp in MMA. Let’s take a closer look at this prospect as this week’s “Prospect Spotlight.”

Strengths

Grappling: Leonardo’s biggest strength is obvious: grappling. Leonardo uses most of her on-the-feet moments in a fight to close the distance on opponents. She likes to take the center of the cage and try to corner her opponent against the cage. When she does get the fight against the cage, she is positionally sound in the clinch. That said, her offensive takedowns could be a bit better, as she relies heavily on brute strength instead of strategy and set up. On the mat, her grappling is very strong. Her transitions are strong, which is why she’s able to advance to finishing positions well. Four of her six wins come by submission, including three rear-naked chokes, proving her ability to advance to finishing positions is strong. She’s also showed that when she’s hurt, she can grapple intelligently through the daze, as seen in the first round of her bout with Erin Blanchfield. After getting absolutely torched with a head kick, Blanchfield swarmed and even got to finishing position. However, Leonardo kept her head and was able to go from being in a choke to getting back to full guard. That’s strong fighter instinct.

Grinder: Leonardo is excellent at wearing out opponents with her clinch and grappling. The reason for that is because she is physically very strong. She has a good build in her upper and lower body. Because of that, she has great takedown defense when opponents look to get her down. See her fight with Hailey Cowan. She has no problem being a wet blanket on her opponent and gassing them. She is very heavy from top, especially when she has back mount. She makes her opponents wear her weight. 

Needs Improvement

Striking Intangibles: One of the things I notice in a lot of Leonardo’s fights is that her striking needs improvement. Many of the things she does can be basic and easy to read/defend against. When Leonardo commits to a strike, especially her punches, her defenses drop and it opens her up to counterstrikes. In her Invicta Phoenix Rising tournament bout against Miranda Maverick, she kept coming in and getting landed on by Maverick in high volume. She also can be prodding on the feet and telegraph punches. She wings her punches many of the time, making her easy to read. Those punches also can come in very slowly. She’s also been caught keeping her hands low, especially in the Erin Blanchfield fight. Blanchfield recognized this and that’s why she dropped her majorly in the first round with a head kick and finished Leonardo in the second round with another violent head kick. Those things need to be addressed ASAP for Leonardo, as the higher level she fights, the higher level the striking will be.

Outlook

UFC Prelim Fighter: There is no doubt in my mind that Leonardo has what it takes to eventually get to the UFC. Physically, she can be imposing. She’s built well. Her grappling will be a lot to handle for some fighters. However, her striking limitations need to be addressed, as it will likely be exposed as she fights up to new levels. The UFC flyweight division has some great strikers with takedown defense such as Valentina Shevchenko, Andrea Lee, Joanne Calderwood and Katlyn Chookagian, among others. DeAnna Bennett is her current opponent, and a great test for Leonardo going forward. Bennett is a UFC veteran who has fought a plethora of top names in women’s MMA. A win over Bennett would really get Leonardo back in the picture, especially since she is coming off such a devastating loss.

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