The 37-year-old had dropped three fights in a row to Tecia Torres, Amanda Lemos and Virna Jandiroba. Hill recalls not wanting to fight Godinez after previously being in an intense grappling match with Jandiroba, but instead of declining, Hill put her head down and immediately got to work, which worked out in her favor when she secured a unanimous decision win over Godinez.
"It really took a lot of digging deep," Hill said. "I went and started my wrestling camp right away just to make sure that I had the tools to defend her takedown, but then also just going for things. I started working on my guillotines a little more, I started working on explosive movements, so you could see that in the jump knees and in the submission attempts, and I went for my own takedowns, as well. I was really happy that I was able to be in the moment in that fight, and not hesitate."
There's something memorable about taking home a victory in the place where you live, and having the crowd on your side and cheering for you is an unforgettable moment. Of course, for Hill, it meant the world to get back in the win column in front of the San Diego crowd, but she also proved something to herself during that fight.
"I heard a lot of hearsay of people thinking that I was going to lose pretty badly, and it felt good to prove people wrong," Hill said. "I know you don't want to think about that when you're fighting, but I had to prove it to myself, too. I had to prove that I was good enough to beat someone who was such a good wrestler, who was such a dominant fighter in the fights that she had before, and kind of remind myself of who I was."
Now, Hill (14-12 MMA, 9-12 UFC) is only looking ahead to her next test, which is Emily Ducote (12-6 MMA, 1-0 UFC) at "UFC on ESPN 42: Thompson vs. Holland" in Orlando. This will be Ducote's second UFC appearance, after defeating Hill's friend and training partner Jessica Penne earlier this year in Long Island.
Ducote's unanimous decision victory over Penne immediately put her into the strawweight rankings, where she now sits ranked No. 13, with Hill sitting just above her at No. 12. Hill is looking forward to facing the 28-year-old, who is riding a four-fight win streak heading into Saturday night.
"It's the first time I'm excited about just striking with someone in a long time," Hill said. "I feel like the fight is probably going to be on the feet a lot, but I also feel like I have the advantage on the ground, so this one I'm almost going to surprise myself. I'm not sure where the fight is going to go, but I just feel like I've been working every aspect and I have experience on her, I have striking technique, I have diversity over her and I'm just excited to see what happens in that fight."
Even though this is only Ducote's second time stepping into the octagon, she has been fighting professionally since 2015, around the same time as Hill, who made her professional MMA debut in 2014. The two opponents have both fought in the Invicta FC promotion and both won the strawweight title inside the promotion.
Despite all the experience on both sides, Hill believes that there's nothing that compares to fighting on the big stage under the UFC lights, and she certainly has had more time in that area.
"Once she gets to the highest level, there's a huge learning curve and you have to kind of make or break yourself," Hill said. "For me, I started on the biggest stage, I started in the UFC, it was my second fight in MMA, so I feel like I've already gone through the growing pains that she's going to go to have fighting at a higher level."
Hill is eager to end the year with another victory, but this time with a finish. She hasn't earned a victory by finish since her win over Hannah Cifers in January 2020, but she believes everything is coming together for her to make a statement inside the Amway Center on Saturday night.
"I don't just want the victory; I want the finish. I've been working all year, the past couple years, to get that finish, but I really feel like I'm close. I'm getting more submissions in training against good people. I'm able to use that submission threat to set up my striking better, so I just feel like I've made leaps and bounds this year and I want to show it on Emily."
This story first published at UFC.com.