UFC 261 is finally upon us with a title fight triple-header. Kicking off the three title fights, we get to see Valentina Shevchenko take on Jessica Andrade for the women’s flyweight strap. We preview this fight and give a nod as to how we think the fight will go.
Entering the bout undefeated at 125lbs and having only suffered two UFC losses (both the GWOAT, Amanda Nunes), ‘The Bullet’ is a problem for anyone and everyone at flyweight. 6-0 in the division with three finishes and three decisions, she’s barely lost a round since dropping down in weight.
With names including Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Jessica Eye, Katlyn Chookagian and Liz Carmouche on her flyweight resume, it proves just how good Shevchenko has looked. She rose to stardom in the bantamweight division, however. Taking the scalps of Sarah Kaufman, Holly Holm and Juliana Pena, she was always undersized. When Dana White announced the flyweight division, Shevchenko knew she had to drop 10lbs and make the weight… and boy did she.
Considered one of the most dominant champions in the UFC, Valentina Shevchenko was finally tested in her most recent bout. Taking on Jennifer Maia, Shevchenko was easily beaten in the second round, with Maia clocking up 4:33 control time. Although she didn’t look lost with her back on the canvas, Shevchenko certainly didn’t look her dominant self. She will certainly have done a lot of work off her back ahead of her UFC 261 title fight but she’ll hope that this won’t have to be used.
Jessica Andrade looks to become a two-weight world champion by beating Shevchenko at UFC 261. Having competed for the belt twice at 115lbs, Andrade became successful in her second attempt. Slamming Rose Namajunas almost through the canvas, the Brazillian secured the belt. Unfortunately for her, however, she ran into Zhang Weili and lost the belt in her first defence.
Following a loss in the rematch with Namajunas back at UFC 251, a change was needed for Andrade. Having competed up at bantamweight at the beginning of her UFC tenure, the hard-hitting former champion decided another weight class could be the answer. In her flyweight debut, she took on former title challenger, Katelyn Chookagian. Despite being the one who was stepping up in weight, she looked stronger and more powerful than Chookagian. She finished it early, with a savage hook to the body, causing Chookagain to turn and back away, visibly in pain.
Although she’s only 1-0 at 125lbs, Andrade earned a title shot with her debut at the weight, leading to the UFC 261 showdown that we’re all looking forwards to.
UFC 261 – The Fight Itself
The first title fight at UFC 261 is certainly an intriguing one. On paper, the champion has the better height and reach. She’s the more slick striker, with a good wrestling base and solid jiu-jitsu.
Taking a deeper dive, however, it’s Andrade who lands the more significant strikes per minute, doubling up on Shevchenko. Considering Shevchenko is a Muay Thai champion, Andrade’s striking accuracy is only 1% less than the champions, however, she does get hit a lot more, 5.26 times a minute, compared to just 2.03 for Shevchenko.
The fight will likely play out similar to Andrade’s first 115lbs title fight with Jedrzejczyk. Shevchenko will likely try to keep the fight long, picking the challenger off with her jab, teep kicks and spinning back kicks. Where Andrade is most dangerous is in close. She has heavy hands as we can see with the finishes of Chookagian and most notably, Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Having managed to close the distance on Kowalkiewicz, she unleashed a savage right hook, knocking the Polish fighter out cold.
A lot of Andrade’s takedowns come from the clinch as well. Against Joanne Calderwood, she was able to get a hold of Calderwood, pick her up and dump her on her back, subsequently submitting her. The difference with these women and Shevchenko, however, is that the champ is nasty in the clinch herself. Sharp elbows, rough knees and clever trips all suggest that should Shevchenko get tied up by Andrade, she can certainly handle herself.
Despite her strengths, Andrade will likely struggle with closing down Shevchenko, leading to a straight forwards unanimous decision. We’ll likely hear ‘AND STILL’, however, don’t count anything out with Andrade’s power.
The UFC have released a UFC 261 countdown episode focussing on this fight, which can be found below.
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