THE FANS ARE BACK! UFC 261 presents three title bouts to 15,000 fans in Jacksonville, Florida this Saturday. Valentina Shevchenko vs Jessica Andrade will be the first title fight we’ll see on the card in a ferocious matchup for the flyweight belt.
One of the most unpredictable fight this year is the co-main event, with Weili Zhang defending her strawweight title against Rose Namajunas. The night will be ended by the highly anticipated re-match between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal for the welterweight title.
Another rematch is on the cards between two middleweights Chris Weidman and Uriah Hall. A first-round knockout from Weidman seen him win the Ring of Combat Championship back in 2010, in the first fight between him and Hall. A light-heavyweight scrap between Anthony Smith and Jimmy Crute opens the main card.
Valentina Shevchenko vs Jessica Andrade: Meet the Flyweights
Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko (20-3, 9-2 UFC) looks to defend her flyweight belt for the fifth time since winning the vacant title against Joanna Jedrzejczyk in December 2018. Shevchenko is classed as one of the greatest female fighters on the planet and stylistically she may be the best to watch. Valentina has been a world champion in Muay Thai and Kickboxing.
It all started in her home country of Kyrgyzstan when she knocked out her first opponent Eliza Aidaralieva in 2003 at the age of 15. Yes, that’s right, at the age of 15 she was already knocking out people for fun.
In 2010, Valentina had a record of seven wins and no losses, but she’d been out of the game since 2006. She had an offer from America to fight Liz Carmouche in C3 Fights. In an article wrote about the event by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Valentina claims she was winning the striking and took her down, but as she was caught with a leg-kick from Carmouche, her eye was badly cut, leading to a doctor’s stoppage.
After her defeat, she started to compete again in MMA, whilst still participating in Muay Thai and Kickboxing fights. She was victorious in another four fights before she made her debut in the UFC in 2015. Sarah Kaufman was her first opponent in the women’s bantamweight division, and it was an extremely close affair. Valentina won the fight on a split decision.
In her second bout, Shevchenko faced the toughest opponent of them all, Amanda Nunes. The “Lioness” was the stronger out of the two on the night, dominating Shevchenko on the ground in round two. Valentina improved in the third round, but it wasn’t enough to impress the judges, who scored it a unanimous victory to Nunes.
Shevchenko would go on to dominate Holly Holm over five rounds, then submit Julianna Pena before she got her re-match against Nunes. At this point, we were witnessing two of the greatest female fighters currently come against each other in the sport.
Well, this time around it was pretty much impossible to split the two. The striking was effortless from both fighters and with a strong final-round from Nunes, it may have just won her the fight. Nunes retained her title for a second time defeating Shevchenko on a split decision. Valentina has shown in her interview after the fight that she was baffled by the decision to give Nunes the victory.
Valentina made the decision to move down to the newly-made flyweight division and she faced Priscilla Cachoeira in her first bout at 125 pounds. She won the fight in dominant fashion, out-striking her opponent 230-3. A rear-naked choke in the second round earned her the Performance of the Night bonus.
Nicco Montano was stripped of the title in September 2018 after she was forced to withdraw from her title defense at UFC 228 due to weight cut issues. This led to Shevchenko facing Jedrzejczyk for the flyweight belt and the rest is history. It was a close matchup on the feet, but Joanna couldn’t handle the takedowns, the area where Shevchenko dominated the bout to win on a unanimous decision and become a UFC champion for the first time.
Remarkable, extraordinary, and unbelievable. Countless words to describe Valentina’s first title defense against Jessica Eye. Shevchenko hammered Eye with the body-kicks inside the first round, which led to Eye receiving a brutal head-kick in the second.
At the time, it was silent and you could hear the kick land on the head of Eye, where she was knocked out cold inside the second round. The body-kicks inside the first round made Eye believe she was blocking another body-kick, which led to her leaving her head completely vulnerable.
Carmouche was lined up for a re-match with Shevchenko. This time around it went the distance, with Valentina dominating winning every single round. Katlyn Chookagian was the next victim being finished with some ruthless elbows before she defended her title for a fourth time winning on a unanimous decision against Jennifer Maia at UFC 255.
Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade (21-8, 12-6 UFC) makes her second appearance in the flyweight division after a powerful body shot seen her finish Chookagian with five seconds left on the clock in the first round at UFC Fight Island 6.
Andrade started her career in 2011, competing in her home country of Brazil in her first 10 fights. She was 8-2 in her first 10, losing one of her bouts to Shevchenko’s last opponent Maia. In 2013, Andrade joined the UFC to fight Carmouche in her promotional debut. In the second round, Carmouche showed her experience by releasing some vicious punches and elbows to finish Andrade.
She came up with her first win in her next bout against Rosi Sexton on a unanimous decision. At UFC 171, she was involved in a back and forth bout with Raquel Pennington. After three rounds the judges gave Andrade the victory on a unanimous decision.
Andrade has faced some losses leading to her successes. She was submitted by Marion Reneau and Pennington in a re-match in 2015. Andrade made the move to Strawweight in 2016 and she completely destroyed Jessica Penne in her division debut. High-intensity shots from Andrade kept Penne from recovering. Jason Herzog had no other option than to stop the fight.
A Performance of the Night against Joanne Calderwood and a Fight of the Night against Angela Hill seen her fight for the title next against Jedrzejczyk. After a stunning display from Joanna, Andrade was defeated by a unanimous decision to lose her first shot at a title.
She bounced back with three wins over tough opponents in Claudia Gadelha, Tecia Torres, and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Her rapid hands awarded her with a Performance of the Night bonus against Karolina, which seen her given another shot at the title, this time against Namajunas.
UFC 237, May 11, 2019, the day where Andrade’s life changed forever. After a strong first round from Namajunas, Andrade had to find a way to get into the fight and she did just that. In the second round, a huge slam from Andrade was enough to make Rose go to sleep, something we really don’t see often. Andrade was finally a UFC champion.
It only lasted three months for Andrade, after the amazing talent Weili knocked her out after 42 seconds to steal the belt from her grasp. Andrade took around 11 months out before she faced Namajunas in a re-match. In a phenomenal contest, Andrade lost the bout on a split decision.
Valentina Shevchenko vs Jessica Andrade: Breakdown and Prediction
Realistically, this is Valentina’s toughest test since Joanna in 2018, but this makes it Andrade’s most difficult opponent in her entire career. For Valentina, we know this is her fifth title defense, so pressure should not be an issue with her being in this situation several times.
Valentina has competed at this weight for several years, whilst Andrade has only tested the waters in her victory against Chookagian. With Shevchenko being taller out of the two, it could come as a big advantage. Shevchenko loves to dominate on the ground, as we saw in her previous bout against Maia. It’s quite likely, she will target the ground game against Andrade, but if she decides to stay on the feet, she’s of course, more than capable to go down either route.
Andrade looks to match Valentina by taking her down and go for the win from that direction. As good as Andrade can be on the ground, it would be wiser to try and stay on the feet against Shevchenko, because if Valentina gains that mount position, the round or even the fight could be over from there.
The majority of people will be siding with the champ, and surprisingly it’s going to have to be the same for me. The real question is how does Shevchenko get beat? She’s lost to two women in her career, one is probably the greatest of all time and the other was a doctor stoppage, which she can do nothing about. Andrade is a quality striker, grappler, and all-around brilliant fighter, but Valentina just seems to be that next level.
It’s time for another masterclass from Valentina, as she’s going to be too strong on the ground for Andrade. This fight could easily go the distance, with Shevchenko biding her time by dominating each round. If Andrade pulls off this victory, she has a massive opportunity to stick at flyweight or go for a potential re-match with Weili, if she beats Namajunas on Saturday night. A win for Shevchenko could see her continue to dominate the 125-pound division, or take the trilogy fight with Amanda Nunes, also if she’s victorious in her bout against Pena.
Valentina Shevchenko vs Jessica Andrade Prediction: Shevchenko unanimous decision.
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