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UFC 261 card: Valentina Shevchenko vs Jessica Andrade full fight preview

UFC 255: Shevchenko v Maia Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Flyweight elites Valentina Shevchenko and Jessica Andrade will battle this weekend (Sat., April 24, 2021) at UFC 261 inside Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.

It did not take long at all for Shevchenko to run through the Flyweight ranks like a hot knife through butter. She’s already racked up four title defenses, necessitating athletes from Strawweight and Bantamweight alike to make the move and provide a new challenge. Andrade — a former 115-pound champion — is very likely the best of that bunch. Despite once fighting at Strawweight, Andrade is surely one of the most powerful women in her new division, and she’ll pit that strength against the ultra-technical champion.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:

Valentina Shevchenko

Record: 19-3
Key Wins: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC 231), Holly Holm (UFC on FOX 20), Katlyn Chookagian (UFC 247), Liz Carmouche (UFC Fight Night 157), Julianna Pena (UFC on FOX 23), Sarah Kaufman (UFC on FOX 17)
Key Losses: Amanda Nunes (UFC 215, UFC 196)
Keys to Victory: Shevchenko just might be the most efficient athlete in the game. She wastes very little movement or energy, executing clinch takedowns and head kicks alike with precise timing.

The key to defeating Andrade is making use of angles. The Brazilian only knows how to fight moving forward, throwing combinations of hooks to the head and body. They’re certainly dangerous punches, but they’re thrown on a straight line, and smart strikers — like Rose Namajunas and Jedrzejczyk — are able to pick off those shots by side-stepping/pivoting then landing.

Shevchenko is quite good at doing just that. In fact, she nearly decapitated Jessica Eye by stepping backward at an angle then ripping kicks. A few sharp liver kicks will slow even the most determined bruiser, so kicking the body seems a smart choice. Similarly, taking an angle with her favorite check hook seems very likely to work well and set up power shots.

Despite Andrade’s powerful takedowns, counter takedowns as Andrade crashes forward doesn’t seem a bad idea. “Bate Estaca” really throws herself into her power punches, and Shevchenko is quite good at using such momentum to gain top position.

Jessica Andrade

Record: 21-8
Key Wins: Rose Namajunas (UFC 237), Katlyn Chookagian (UFC Fight Island 6), Claudia Gadelha (UFC Fight Night 117), Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UFC 228), Tecia Torres (UFC on FOX 28), Joanne Calderwood (UFC 205), Angela Hill (UFC Fight Night 104)
Key Losses: Weili Zhang (UFC Fight Night 157), Rose Namajunas (UFC 251), Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC 211)
Keys to Victory: Andrade is an absolute powerhouse. She rips punches with bad intentions, and any time Andrade is able to get her arms wrapped around her opponent, they’re likely going for a high-amplitude ride.

If Andrade is going to win this fight, it’s going to be from close distance. She cannot compete with “Bullet” at distance, but from the phone booth range? Andrade can trade hooks with any woman on the roster, and her power takedowns are very difficult to stop.

Specifically, the clinch along the fence is the place to be. Jennifer Maia is neither as strong nor as dangerous as “Bate Estaca,” but the Brazilian was still able to find moments of success by jamming Shevchenko into the cage and working for takedowns. If Andrade can consistently herd her foe into the fence, much of Shevchenko’s Muay Thai trickery will be nullified.

Instead, she’ll be forced into a grueling war of attrition with a woman known for strength and an endless gas tank.

Bottom Line

This is the most legitimate challenge to Shevchenko’s throne since Joanna Jedrzejzczyk.

Shevchenko’s problem is primarily that she’s dominated most of her division. She’s always at risk of running out of contenders or scraping the bottom of the barrel. This match up is an exception — Andrade is a former champion, a known talent. That may make it a more dangerous fight for the champion, but it also earns her more recognition in victory.

Meanwhile, Andrade has an absolutely massive opportunity here! For one, becoming the first fighter to hand Shevchenko a loss at 125 pounds is gigantic. “Bullet” has only lost to Amanda Nunes inside the Octagon, and “Lioness” had a significant size advantage. For Andrade to beat Shevchenko in her ideal weight class is an entirely different accomplishment, and it would also make her the second two-division champion in the history of women’s MMA.

Andrade gets disrespected by fans quite a bit due to her brawny style, but defeating Shevchenko would prove the ultimate comeback.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 261 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN2/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 261: “Usman vs. Masvidal 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

At UFC 261, Valentina Shevchenko and Jessica Andrade will duel for the Flyweight title. Which woman will earn the win?

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