Fighters have their tendencies. Some like to stand and bang. Some will lay on an opponent for 15 full minutes if the referee allows it. Others prefer to tie their opponents in knots, snapping limbs, coaxing tapout and rendering opponents unconscious in the process. When looking at a fighter’s record, one could deduce that someone with a long list of knockouts wants to stand, or that a fighter with a healthy serving of submission wins has a strong desire to get the fight to the mat as soon as possible. That’s not always the case, though.

Take Vanessa Porto. The 29-year-old Brazilian has just three wins on her record that have come via some form of knockout, compared to 10 submission victories. Ground fighter, right? Guess again.

“I have a good ground game, but I’m a striker at heart,” Porto told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview.

Porto (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Porto (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

A veteran of more than 20 fights in a career spanning back to 2005, Porto has seen her share of battles. She lost her pro debut to Carina Damm. Four fights later, she had Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino in significant trouble on the ground, but couldn’t seal the deal—she lost a decision instead. She has notched wins over Tonya Evinger, Hitomi Akano, Germaine de Randamie, Kalindra Faria and Tara LaRosa. She’s also suffered her share of losses. The women who have topped her include the aforementioned Cyborg and Damm, plus Roxanne Modafferi, Amanda Nunes, Sarah D’Alelio and, most recently, Barb Honchak in a flyweight title fight at Invicta FC 5 in April.

“I thought that I was winning the fight,” Porto admitted. “But you can never leave it to the judges. I thought I was winning the rounds, but the judges saw it different.

“I should have been busier. She was throwing a lot of punches. Most of them didn’t land, but it looks better to the judges. I think that was the difference. I was hitting her with more power shots, but she was staying busier.”

Porto lost the decision in a five-round battle where one judge awarded every round to Honchak and another only gave Honchak the edge by a score of three rounds to two. That loss left Porto with just one win in three tries under the Invicta banner. On Dec. 7 at Invicta FC 7 in Kansas City, Mo., the Brazilian has a chance to rectify that issue.

She has a chance to get back in the win column. Better yet, she has a chance to do so against an opponent who once held a Bellator championship belt. That opponent is Zoila Frausto Gurgel.

“I think Zoila is a good fighter,” Porto said. “She is coming off a loss too, but she is a very tough fighter. I look forward to the fight. I plan on staying busier and landing more power shots this fight.

“I think she has good speed. I feel like I will have more power when I land my shots, but I just have to be careful that she doesn’t stay busier than me in the exchanges.”

Gurgel is only three fights removed from a lengthy hiatus brought on by a torn ACL. In the three fights since her return to action, the taekwondo black belt has just one victory. Her other two fights, against Jessica Eye in Bellator and Jennifer Maia in Invicta, ended in disappointing losses.

“A fight is a fight. Anything can happen,” Porto said of Gurgel’s recent setbacks. “When she fought Jessica Eye, she got caught early and just got caught in a sub. That can happen to anybody. In her Invicta fight, I think Maia fought a very smart fight.”

Gurgel at her best is a far different beast. The key wins in her rise through the Bellator tournament came against Jessica Aguilar and Megumi Fujii. Both were controversial split decisions. If Gurgel has a tendency, it’s to keep fights close and edge out her opponents on the scorecards. This only heightens the need for opponents to hunt for a finish against the 29-year-old striker.

Porto (L) (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Porto (L) (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

“Yes, I want to KO her and not leave it to the judges, but I will be happy with a sub or decision too,” Porto said with a laugh.

The knockout. Again, it goes against the tendency of submission finishes Porto has displayed in her career. She may want to stand with Gurgel, but the multi-faceted nature of MMA means this fight could go to the ground at any moment. What then?

“I haven’t seen much of her ground game, but her husband [Jorge Gurgel] is a black belt, so I’m sure she is good on the ground,” Porto responded. “But I don’t think this fight is going to the ground. If it does, I will be ready.”

Gurgel’s status as a former champion adds an extra component to this match-up. A win over a champ will move Porto one step closer to another shot at Invicta gold, though there may still be other obstacles in her path.

“Yes, I feel that she has a good name and a win over her is big for my career,” Porto said, going on to point out two possible rival contenders. “There is another 125-pound fight on the card with Munah Holland and Nina Ansaroff that will be interesting.”

Porto hasn’t always fought at 125 pounds. Until recently, she was a bantamweight. With the UFC now hosting a 135-pound division and adding a 115-pound division in the near future, Porto has to be disappointed that the flyweight division was skipped.

“Yes, 125 pounds is my best weight class, but after this fight you never know,” Porto admitted. “I’m not thinking about UFC or anything else right now. Zoila is a champion, and I have her in front of me. It would be a tough weight cut [to 115 pounds], but if I do it right I think I can make it.”

Before title shots or the UFC come her way, though, Porto must prevail against Gurgel. Whether she remains true to her word and stands toe-to-toe with Gurgel is still to be seen. Perhaps her ground game will play a more pivotal role than she’s willing to let on. However, there’s one tendency Porto must maintain in order to secure any of those other opportunities. That tendency is to win.

Vanessa would like to thank her husband/coach, Pedro, for preparing her for her fight with Gurgel. She would also like to thank her manager, Chris Vender, who has helped her in her journey, and all of her sparring partners at MMA University. Finally, she would like to thank her sponsors: Combatives Gear, Tussle, Dr. Taverni, Dr Haley, KKG Mouthguards and Outlaw Fight Gear. Follow Porto on Twitter: @vanessaportomma

Top Photo: Vanessa Porto (R) throws a punch (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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