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Viviane Araujo of Brazil reacts after her TKO victory over Talita Bernardo of Brazil in their women's bantamweight bout during the UFC 237 event at Jeunesse Arena on May 11, 2019 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)
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Viviane Araujo: No Moral Victories

Ranked Flyweight Eyeing A Return To The Win Column In Co-Main Event Clash With Jennifer Maia Following Competitive Pairings That Didn’t Go Her Way

Viviane Araujo was originally scheduled to return to action in early September against Casey O’Neill, but her trip to Sydney and opportunity to compete at UFC 293 were scuttled when O’Neill was forced to withdraw from the contest.

Fortunately for Araujo, the change came far enough out from her originally scheduled matchup that the UFC was able to quickly secure her another opportunity, pairing her with fellow Brazilian Jennifer Maia in a bout that serves as the co-main event this weekend in Las Vegas.

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“I am always available to the UFC, and if the fight in question will make me grow in the category, I accept without hesitation,” Araujo said when asked about the shift from the 26-year-old O’Neill, who is a couple spots behind her in the rankings, to her compatriot Maia, a former title challenger two spots in front of her in the flyweight Top 15. “I did a full camp for Maia and I'm excited for Saturday.”

Viviane Araújo golpeia Roxanne Modafferi no UFC Fight Island 8. (Foto por Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Viviane Araújo golpeia Roxanne Modafferi no UFC Fight Island 8. (Foto por Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

After earning victories in four of her first five UFC appearances, Araujo heads into the weekend in an odd position.

On one hand, she’s coming off consecutive defeats and has dropped three of her last four. On the other hand, each of those setbacks have come against fighters stationed ahead of her in the rankings, including current champion Alexa Grasso.

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So while the results haven’t necessarily been there, the level of competition has been excellent, and at no point in any of those fights was the 36-year-old Cerrado MMA representative completely out-matched.

Viviane Araújo comemora sua vitória no UFC Vegas 54. (Foto por Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Viviane Araújo comemora sua vitória no UFC Vegas 54. (Foto por Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Some fighters will look at that kind of run and pick out the positives, tallying up the moral victories of sharing the Octagon with a bevy of contenders and holding their own, but the ultra-competitive, hyper-focused Araujo is not one of those fighters.

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“I have no comfort,” she said firmly when asked if she was taking comfort in the fact that her losses have come against elite talents and ranked competition. “On the contrary, I am not satisfied with the results of the last fights, regardless of the opponent.

“I can only see the result that I need to achieve to reach my goal, which is the belt,” added Araujo, who holds wins over former title challengers Alexis Davis and Roxanne Modafferi, as well as Montana De La Rosa and Andrea Lee. “I seek to grow with the result, even if it is not victory.”

Viviane Araujo of Brazil reacts after the conclusion of her flyweight fight against Roxanne Modafferi during the UFC Fight Night event at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 20, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Viviane Araujo of Brazil reacts after the conclusion of her flyweight fight against Roxanne Modafferi during the UFC Fight Night event at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 20, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa)

To that end, Araujo used her extended time off since her March loss to Ribas to identify the areas of her game that needed attention, and commit herself to addressing those shortfalls.

“I believe I had some gaps in my standup, which gave my opponents a small advantage,” explained Araujo, who holds black belts in Brazilian jiu jitsu and Luta Livre, and burst onto the scene, in part, because of her bouncy, athletic striking attack. “In addition to training a lot in boxing, I tried to improve my wrestling and my ground skills, too.”

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Araujo’s current situation highlights a couple of the core realities about competing in the UFC, namely that’s it extremely difficult to have consistent, sustained success, and that when you get into the upper tier of many of these weight classes, the margin for error becomes microscopic.

Viviane Araujo of Brazil warms up prior to her fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 14, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Viviane Araujo of Brazil warms up prior to her fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 14, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

Though she may not take solace in having only lost to the current champion, two former title challengers (her first UFC loss was to Jessica Eye) and her fellow Brazilian Ribas, who is ranked at both strawweight and flyweight, Araujo was favored in a couple of those matchups and no one went into those fights believing she was going to get blown out.

They were all competitive pairings decided by a smattering of shots landed in each round, and just as she was the better fighter in her matchups with Lee, Modafferi, and the others she’s beaten, Araujo was simply a half-step behind in each of those contests.

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When you’re fighting further down the rankings, you can overcome a night like that with superior athleticism, quality conditioning, and good old-fashioned tenacity, but against the elite in any weight class, a half-step difference leaves you staring at the business end of a unanimous decision loss (or worse), wondering what went wrong.

And yet despite her recent run of disappointing results, Araujo still gets the opportunity to fight forward in the division this weekend, stepping in with Maia.

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“I like challenges, and preparing to face Jennifer gave me motivation, because I think Jennifer is a very good fighter,” Araujo said of her countrywoman, who has built a comparable resume to her own over the course of her six-year UFC tenure.

Like Araujo, Maia has had mixed results inside the Octagon, entering Saturday’s contest with a 6-5 mark through her first 11 UFC starts. But records don’t always tell the full story of a fighter’s time on the biggest stage and Maia is a perfect example of that, as the 35-year-old is another standout that has only lost to elite competition.

JANUARY 20: (R-L) Viviane Araujo of Brazil punches Roxanne Modafferi in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 20, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
JANUARY 20: (R-L) Viviane Araujo of Brazil punches Roxanne Modafferi in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 20, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Before Valentina Shevchenko struggled with Taila Santos and failed to secure a victory in consecutive bouts against Alexa Grasso, Maia was the first to take a round off the dominant flyweight queen, doing so at UFC 255. Along with falling to Shevchenko, Maia’s other losses have come against either former title challengers — Katlyn Chookagian (twice) and Liz Carmouche — or someone destined to fight for UFC gold in the not-too-distant future, Manon Fiorot.

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Since her loss to Fiorot in the first quarter of last year, Maia has posted back-to-back unanimous decision wins over Maryna Moroz and O’Neill, cementing her place as a Top 10 fighter in the flyweight ranks, and settling into the role of the difficult veteran entrance exam hopefuls need to pass in order to work their way into title contention.

SEPTEMBER 05: (L-R) Viviane Araujo of Brazil punches Montana De La Rosa in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on September 05, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Viviane Araujo of Brazil punches Montana De La Rosa in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on September 05, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

And so for Araujo, who preaches consistency and pushes herself on the daily to be the best she can be, this weekend’s matchup with Maia is an opportunity to set the weight of her last two outings aside, fight with a clear mind, and potentially secure a victory that will move her forward in the rankings.

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“Even though I'm coming off two defeats, I don't let it weigh on my shoulders,” she said in closing. “I work on my mind every day because I know that with a strong, light and free mind, my chance of victory doubles.

“And so Saturday, I will be fighting with a lot of joy and lightness.”

UFC Fight Night: Yusuff vs Barboza took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 14, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!