Tatiana Suarez knows the benefits of fighting a significantly shorter opponent.
“I don’t have to lift my leg so high to kick her in the face,” the UFC strawweight said.
On top of that, for a former world-class freestyle wrestler like Suarez, size rarely matters when the fight goes to the ground.
The mat, however, is where there might be one issue for the 5-foot-5 Suarez when she takes on 5-foot-tall Viviane Pereira on the prelims of UFC Fight Night 120 on Saturday in Norfolk, Va.
“Their limbs are significantly smaller,” the Season 23 winner of “The Ultimate Fighter” said. “It’s weird when you go with someone who doesn’t have a limb as long. It’s like, ‘OK, I want to grab this arm, but there’s not much there.’”
At least Suarez, 26, has only her opponents’ arms to worry about now. Last year, it was her own.
Even as the Northview High of Covina graduate and Fontana resident was gearing up for the TUF 23 final 16 months ago against Amanda Cooper, her right shoulder was barking.
After winning the UFC reality show with an impressive first-round D’arce choke submission of Cooper, Suarez (5-0) said the shoulder felt fine and agreed to her second UFC fight against Julianna Lima at UFC Fight 102 last December.
During camp, the aches worsened and gnawed at her. Her coaches kept telling her during sparring to keep her right hand up. What might have looked like fundamental lapses or fatigue was actually a matter of being physically unable to lift her arm.
“I was slapping people from my waist. It was horrible,” said the Bellflower native, who trains at Millennia MMA in Rancho Cucamonga.
Just 16 days out, Suarez had to withdraw from the Lima fight. She was diagnosed with a torn biceps tendon and a Type 3 tear of her labrum, also known as a bucket-handle tear because it droops into the shoulder joint.
“They were saying most of the pain was coming from the bicep,” Suarez said. “That’s why it was difficult for me to hold my arm up and extend and flex because the bicep was torn off the bone.”
Suarez saw the video of the surgery and was slightly disgusted: “It looked like shredded tuna.”
It was Suarez’s first time under the knife for an injury, but she had endured worse.
In early 2011, a year away from Suarez…