Octagon Oracles: Undefeated Flyweight Melissa Gatto

Melissa Gatto gets her arm raised after a win. Melissa Gatto joins the UFC with an undefeated record. Photo Credit: Cris Cyborg / Youtube

There’s something mysterious about UFC newcomer Melissa Gatto. Maybe it’s the eight pro fights that sit on a still unbeaten record. Or, it’s the fact that we haven’t seen her since 2018. Or, is it the fact that there’s not much footage or information on her online?

There’s little we know about Gatto, but we’re about to learn a lot very soon. The long overdue UFC debut for the 25-year-old is set to happen this weekend at UFC 265 in Houston, Texas, USA. She’s getting her promotional debut against Victoria Leonardo, an Invicta FC vet who is hungry for a win after losing her first UFC fight earlier this year against Manon Fiorot.

The Octagon Oracles team discussed Gatto ahead of her fight at the Toyota Center.

Kristen King

Grade: C
Gatto was supposed to make her promotional debut over two years ago. Gatto was a short-notice replacement for Jessica-Rose Clark against Talita Bernardo at UFC 237 in May, but was forced to withdraw due to injury. What followed was a series of fight cancelations for various reasons from a suspension by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for a banned diuretic to travel restrictions that would not see Gatto in the octagon until now. This weekend she meets Victoria Leonardo at flyweight at UFC 265.

I was nervous when Gatto signed with the UFC and I am still nervous as we head into this fight on Saturday night. I like what I have seen from her on the ground. She is obviously proficient in jiu-jitsu and works well off her back. The problem is, she can get a bit too comfortable in that position and she is almost always at the disposal of her opponents, who have little to no issue taking her down as her defense is not good. She is still dangerous, but she cannot allow herself to be controlled on the ground and hope for a last-ditch submission every time. Gatto and her striking is also concerning to me. I have not seen anything that would lead me to believe she fares well in striking exchanges, but perhaps she has worked on that in her time away.

I know what to expect from Gatto and it is always nice to see her go to work on the ground. However, I am not overly confident in that strategy working for her against other prospects and eventual contenders. Gatto is probably going to alternate between wins and losses during her UFC tenure.

Out Within 1-2 Years
50/50 Winner
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A Mainstay Through the Years
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Title Contender
Champion

Tom Albano

Grade: C
After about three years of inactivity due to a combination of a drug test suspension and injuries, Gatto finally gets the chance to show her skills in the UFC octagon.

Gatto is highly skilled in jiu-jitsu and is a tough go on the ground, with four of her six victories coming by submission. That said, with this being her first fight in about three years, she’s coming off a very long layoff. So that bears some questions: How much has she improved in this time? And will she show any ring rust when she steps into the octagon?

In terms of this one fight, Leonardo has decent wrestling herself, and she almost certainly should have the striking advantage unless Gatto shows she’s worked on that during her absence.

There was, and probably still is certainly, a reason to be looking forward to Gatto’s debut. She’s still yet to hit what is considered the normal athletic prime years.

But this UFC debut and how she fares can be a big difference between being a potential prominent name in the making and being a quick flash in the pan.

There’s no point in wondering what could have been had she debuted with the UFC on time. It’s just a matter of what the 25-year-old can accomplish in this debut match and beyond.

Out Within 1-2 Years
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A Mainstay Through the Years
Top 15
Top 10
Top 5
Title Contender
Champion

Jack Wannan

Grade: C
Gatto definitely isn’t the easiest fighter we’ve had to assess on this series. Quite frankly, it’s hard to find footage of her online. Two of the better reference points are her fast fights in Cris Cyborg’s “Nação Cyborg” promotion. One of the fights where you see her battle the hardest, her draw against Sidy Rocha, is also available. It’s not amazing quality – it’s a 4:3 aspect ratio video that often doesn’t cover all of the action at points, but it’s a great example of where Gatto struggles at times (and we thank her opponent for that fight, Rocha, for uploading the bout to their personal Youtube channel).

Gatto is clearly an experienced grappler that can put an end to the fight quickly with a submission. That skill paired with her ability to get takedowns easily can be disastrous for her opponents. However, she still has some shortcomings on the ground. She is prone to being taken down by other experienced grapplers and often struggles to get off her back. This was the biggest issue in her fight against the aforementioned Rocha, who did a great job at keeping her down.

Her most notable win, a victory against now-UFC fighter Karol Rosa, saw her secure a sudden submission after being stuck on her back for a few minutes. She’s a threat on the ground, although someone who can evade her grappling prowess could be a real challenge for her.

The limited amount of tape on Gatto calls into question the type of matchups we haven’t seen her in. What happens when she’s paired against a striker who has enough skill to stop her grappling? That question still seems unanswered.

It will be interesting to see what Gatto can bring to the big stage.

Out Within 1-2 Years
50/50 Winner
Bonus Winner
A Mainstay Through the Years
Top 15
Top 10
Top 5
Title Contender
Champion