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Former Ultimate Fighting Championship strawweight champ Jessica Andrade truly believes she has what it takes to upset Valentina Shevchenko.
Training hard to face UFC flyweight queen Shevchenko in the co-main event of UFC 261, Andrade spoke with Sherdog about what could be the toughest challenge of her 10-year MMA career.
“I’ve always said Valentina is the most frightening woman in this sport,” Andrade admitted. “Besides strong, fast and sharp, she is good everywhere, but MMA is not an exact science. In our sport, knockout power and a good hand in the right place can surprise all the odds.”
Using Shevchenko’s last performance against Jennifer Maia as an example, “Bate Estaca” guaranteed that her Brazilian countrywoman’s losing effort helped her master Gilliard Parana find holes in the champ’s game.
“Shevchenko’s weak points are exactly my strong points,” Andrade explained. “She likes to counter, control the distance and keep the fight standing. I like to attack, throw and ground-and-pound. And certainly, the smaller Octagon [at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas] will be better for me in that fight.”
Andrade also revealed that her coach believes that if she exacts her perfect game plan, she will dethrone the champion in a tactical five-round fight, but would not earn a post-fight bonus.
“I told him I’ll get the belt and also the bonus," Andrade promised.
Andrade vs. Shevchenko is not the only championship fight on the card, and she holds a unique vantage point into both competitors in the headliner. She is one of two women to face Rose Namajunas twice and Weili Zhang once. Andrade explained why she believes “Thug Rose” should be the favorite in the main event.
“Weili is very strong and resistant, but Rose is a more complete fighter and also hits hard. Furthermore, she has [a] reach and speed advantage, [which] will play an important role in that fight. It’s gonna be a tough one, but my bet is that Namajunas will get the belt,” opined the local from Parana state.
When asked to describe her perfect night on UFC 261, the Brazilian did not hesitate.
“The perfect night would be beat Valentina who is, in my opinion, one of the best female fighters of all time and conquer the flyweight belt. After that, [to] step back in the Octagon a few minutes later to challenge the strawweight champion for a rematch. If Rose wins, it would be great to have a chance to have a rubber match with her; if Weili wins, that would be great too, once I would love to face her again without illegal elbows on my nape. The possibility of being the first woman to get flyweight and strawweight UFC belts, in two fights, after 10 years of hard work and dedication to that sport would be, no doubt, my biggest dream achievement.”
UFC 261 will take place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on April 24, with a strawweight championship headliner between Zhang and Namajunas. The co-main event sees Shevchenko defend her flyweight crown against Andrade. Other key main card bouts include a middleweight rematch between Chris Weidman and Uriah Hall, while Anthony Smith faces Jimmy Crute at light heavyweight.