The stage is set for Valentina Shevchenko to fight Jessica Andrade. As reported by Brett Okamoto of ESPN, Shevchenko will attempt a fifth successful defense of her title against the former UFC strawweight champion at UFC 261, which is scheduled to take place on April 24.
Valentina Shevchenko has ruled the flyweight division with an iron grip since its inception. But if there is any flyweight that can throw her off the pedestal, it is Jessica Andrade. Here are three reasons why we believe Andrade will end Shevchenko's flyweight title reign.
1. Flyweight is the right weight class for Jessica Andrade
Jessica Andrade has a short and stocky build. She has fought previously in the bantamweight and strawweight divisions. While she dealt with much bigger fighters at bantamweight who had pronounced size and reach advantages over her, the weight cut to strawweight may have sapped vital energy out of her. Flyweight is where Andrade needed to be to make an effective use of her attributes. Fighting a shorter and more powerful opponent is a lot more difficult than it seems. Daniel Cormier and Frankie Edgar are two fighters who utilized their shorter frame against bigger guys. Andrade showed the same skill in her flyweight debut against Katlyn Chookagian with perfect shot selection to attack the body of the taller female. While Shevchenko may struggle to find the right approach to fight her shortest opponent, Jessica Andrade is used to fighting longer fighters, which is one of the keys to her victory.
2. Knockout power
Female MMA fighters do not lag behind their male counterparts in terms of skill. But if one attribute is rarely observed among female fighters, it is legit one-punch knockout power. Women have made some highlight-reel knockout finishes in the UFC, but most of those finishes are attributed to head kicks. Jessica Andrade does not necessarily possess one-punch knockout power, but she can finish any woman on the roster with a rightly-placed short combination. Valentina has an overall technically superior game over Andrade. However, a few quick punches from the Brazilian can shut the lights out for Bullet.
3. She has the experience of championship fights
Valentina Shevchenko is one of the most dominant champions in the history of Women's MMA. However, one thing she has not endured in her flyweight reign is the pain of fighting a challenger that has championship-level experience. Apart from Joanna Jedrzejczyk, none of Valentina's flyweight opponents had substantial experience of fighting at the top level. Irrespective of the outcome, Jessica Andrade has been into three title fights previously and carries her learnings from the experience into the Shevchenko fight. If Andrade is able to implement her experience into a workable strategy, she will be the next flyweight champion.