There are up-and-coming fighters that get inside the Octagon and put on great performances, and there are up-and-coming fighters that have the “it” factor; that intangible, special quality that you can’t describe, but you know it when you see it. And at least for this author, Iasmin Lucindo lands firmly in both categories.
The Fortaleza, Brazil native came on to the radar of many fans when she made her promotional debut on the main card of UFC San Diego last summer. She narrowly lost that wild contest to another debutant—and another Yazmin (Jauregui)—but it was the only fight she’s lost in her last nine, and the effort garnered praise from none other than UFC President Dana White as she left the Octagon that night. She followed up on the promise of that debut with a unanimous decision victory over TUF’s Brogan Walker last April.
Despite her tender age of 21, Lucindo has been fighting professionally since 2017 and has already amassed a 14-5 record. She really started to hit her stride in 2019 on the Brazilian regional scene, where her penchant for finishing fights (eight knockouts and two armbar submissions) was surpassed only by her penchant for continuous improvement.
“I always like to look for my mistakes because my opponent will definitely watch my fights and use my mistakes to try to win,” she says, noting that changes in her game are a regular part of the program. “We’ve used this time (since the last fight) to fix some things.”
If she can continue that arc of growth, it’s hard not to imagine we’re witnessing the origins of a longtime fixture in the 115-pound weight class.
“I’ve been studying this division a lot. I watch all the strawweight fights and I’m focused on getting in the rankings. That has always been my dream, but it always felt so distant.”
Her next test this Saturday on the main card of UFC Fight Night: Luque vs Dos Anjos is compatriot Polyana Viana. A brown belt in jiu-jitsu, Viana overcame a rocky start in the UFC and has put together three solid wins in her last four outings, including a first-round KO over Jinh Yu Frey last May.
“It's an honor to have two Brazilian women fighting on the main card,” she says, smiling. “I’m really happy about that. I really admire Polyana’s work, her story. When she got in the UFC in 2017, I was making my MMA debut. But inside the Octagon, we have to fight.”
Lucindo would be only too happy to stand and trade if that’s what the fight dictates. Watching the technical striking and high cardio abandon her 5’3” frame fights with, it’s easy to see shades of a young Jessica Andrade in her game.
But she knows Viana will likely try to get her to the ground, and she’s just as happy to meet her there. A Brazilian open weight jiu-jitsu champion and Bahia state jiu-jitsu champion, Lucindo is no stranger to the mats.
“Polyana has been enjoying striking and trading, and I like that! I like to trade punches. But Polyana is a jiu-jitsu black belt. Her guard is great, her armlock. I believe she’ll want to trade a little, but will also want to go to the ground. But we’re very well prepared for that.”
The third youngest fighter on the UFC roster (and the youngest female fighter), Lucindo has willfully transcended the tragic scenes of domestic abuse in her youth that inspired her to initially take up martial arts, and defied the odds of difficult circumstances to now find herself under the brightest lights in sports. It’s a story she wears with a badge of honor.
“That’s also why I got into this sport, to inspire women to do this, like, ‘If Iasmin can do it, someone from humble beginnings, who comes from the favelas from Ceara, who moved to another city and didn’t care about her age, and now is here, in the biggest MMA promotion in the world, I can do it, too.’ I’ve wanted to inspire people like that. I hope to see a lot of women getting inspired and achieving what they want.”