UFC 261 Preview & Predictions: Shevchenko vs Andrade
By Cathal Geeney
Valentina Shevchenko is looking to extend her UFC flyweight title defence streak to five as she locks horns with Jessica Andrade
Shevchenko is one of the most talented athletes to compete in the history of women’s MMA.
With an extensive kickboxing background, Valentina fires off crisp, straight punches, and powerful kicks. Holding a Muay Thai, southpaw stance, the Kyrgyzstani national controls the octagon. Shevchenko can push the pace or equally rely on her feints and speed to force her opposite number to throw first, and counter with volume and precision. The Bullet has also developed a powerful ground game where she is comfortable landing takedowns, controlling top position and inflicting powerful ground and pound strikes.
Andrade is a power puncher who looks to come forward and land big hooks. She mixes grappling in her attacks and will follow up her strikes with a takedown attempt or clinch. Jessica throws every strike with intent to hurt. She will also look for an opportunity to showcase her wrestling abilities. If presented with an opportunity, Andrade will pick up her opponent and slam them to the ground, as she did so against Rose Namajunas when she won the strawweight title. Her nickname, ‘Bate Estaca’, even translates to piledriver, after she performed a piledrive slam on an opponent in her time competing in amateur Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition.
The twenty-nine-year old has previously fought at both strawweight and bantamweight and now feels that the flyweight division is the perfect fit for her, having impressed in her debut with a first round knockout over former title challenger Katlyn Chookagian.
Although a very dangerous opponent, the Brazilian fighter generally needs to close the distance in order to implement her game plan. Andrade relies on landing hooks in the pocket or getting close enough to work for a takedown. This may be a challenge against Valentina, who will enjoy a four-and-a-half-inch reach advantage when they face off.
Andrade is an exciting athlete who always looks to finish inside the distance. However, I feel Shevchenko is the more rounded fighter and should be able to impose herself with a high-level striking game. I foresee Andrade struggling to get close enough to Valentina which will lead to another successful title defence for the Film Directing undergraduate.