Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Strawweight contenders Claudia Gadelha and Jessica Andrade will collide this Friday (Sept. 22, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 117 inside Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
At the moment, the Strawweight hierarchy is disappointingly clear. There’s Joanna “Champion,” followed somewhat closely by Gadelha, and then the rest of the division is crawling over itself for third place. Unfortunately for the Brazilian, she’s already lost to the champion twice, though she’s closing in on a third opportunity. Looking to upset that established balance is Jessica Andrade, still a relative newcomer to the division. Her only loss came to Jedrzejczyk as well, and “Bate Estaca” has simply bulldozed the rest of her opponents.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UFC 212), Courtney Casey (UFC Fight Night 100), Jessica Aguilar (UFC 190), Valerie Letourneau (Wreck MMA)
Key Losses: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC TUF 23 Finale, UFC on FOX 13)
Keys to Victory: Gadelha is likely her division’s most well-rounded athlete. She’s a decorated grappler with some powerful takedowns, and her stand up has evolved into a solid threat as well.
In each of her 115-pound fights, Andrade has attempted to bully her opponents. She physically out-matches them and was even able to pick up Jedrzejczyk a few times in their bout. Though she lost that fight, Andrade still held the strength advantage, she was simply dwarfed at range.
This time around, Gadelha can at the very least match her physicality.
That alone presents huge problems for Andrade. Additionally, there are few fighters that hold a grappling edge over Andrade, an advantage her style relies on. To capitalize on these abnormalities, Gadelha should look to keep her feet moving and stick long punches in Andrade’s face. When Andrade blitzes forward, the level change will be there, and Gadelha absolutely dominates once she gets her opponent down.
Key Wins: Joanne Calderwood (UFC 205), Angela Hill (UFC Fight Night 104), Jessica Penne (UFC 199)
Key Losses: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC 211), Raquel Pennington (UFC 191), Marion Reneau (UFC Fight Night 61)
Keys to Victory: Andrade has drawn comparisons to John Lineker, and they’re not without reason. At her best, Andrade is bursting forward with combinations of heavy hooks to the head and body, though unlike “Hands of Stone,” she tends to hide takedowns behind those flurries.
It would be easy to write that Andrade’s biggest key to victory is to avoid the takedown, but that’s kind of impossible given her style. Instead, Andrade would be best advised to push Gadelha back and shoot for her own takedown.
First and foremost, it’s a matter of keeping Gadelha honest. Brazilian jiu-jitsu credentials or no, Andrade knows how to grapple and is strong enough to stay safe in top positions. Just as important is the fact that if Andrade lands a takedown and forces her opponent to try and work back up, that’s energy expended on something other than actually taking Andrade down.
Speaking of, we have seen Gadelha fade worse than Andrade at 115 pounds. If Andrade can rip some body shots and force Gadelha to wrestle defensively, that’s a heavy wear on her gas tank that could turn the fight in Andrade’s favor.
Bottom Line: It’s a huge fight for the Strawweight division.
Gadelha is undoubtedly a great fighter, and she has a better chance at capturing the belt than most of the women who have never fought Jedrzejczyk. It’s not easy to earn that third title shot, but Gadelha is making quick progress by taking out the division's top contenders and prospects. A win here makes it three in a row, which definitely puts her in the discussion for next title shot.
That said, at any point a loss to someone other than Jedrzejczyk will set her back considerably and push the winner forward. Andrade is looking to be that winner, as she’s only tasted defeat at Strawweight once and is still quite young. If she can upset Gadelha, it will go a long way in getting the average MMA fan to believe that a second fight with Joanna “Champion” could go differently. With a loss, Andrade is still a top contender, but is far from an actual title shot.
At UFC Fight Night 117, Claudia Gadelha and Jessica Andrade will duel in the co-main event. Which woman will have her hand raised?