Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Strawweight contenders Jessica Andrade and Xiaonan Yan will go to war this weekend (Sat., May 6, 2023) at UFC 288 inside Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Andrade took a gamble in her last fight, accepting a short-notice booking against top 125-pound prospect Erin Blanchfield when she seemed to have a Strawweight title shot secured already. It was great for her bank account, but Andrade came up short to the jiu-jitsu ace, and now she’ll have to return to the win column to claim her Zhang Weili rematch. Yan is an easy opponent for no Strawweight. The Chinese athlete enters this bout following a major victory over Mackenzie Dern in a five round war, and another victory here could really push her into the immediate title mix.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Rose Namajunas (UFC 237), Katlyn Chookagian (UFC Fight Island 6), Claudia Gadelha (UFC Fight Night 117), Amanda Lemos (UFC Vegas 52), Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UFC 228), Tecia Torres (UFC on FOX 28), Lauren Murphy (UFC 283)
Key Losses: Valentina Shevchenko (UFC 261), Weili Zhang (UFC Fight Night 157), Rose Namajunas (UFC 251), Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC 211), Erin Blanchfield (UFC Vegas 69)
Keys to Victory: Andrade doesn’t have the prettiest record of all time, but she’s nevertheless one of the most accomplished female athletes in the sport’s short history. She’s faced top contenders and champions in three separate divisions, and regardless of where she fights, she’s a powerhouse.
In this fight, wrestling feels like the obvious path. For all her power and knockout wins, Andrade’s striking isn’t complicated. She attacks on straight lines with big hooks to the head and body, a strategy which has never really changed. Good distance strikers like Joanna Jedrzejczyk rarely have problems picking shots and stepping off, and Yan certainly has the skills to do so.
Fortunately for the Brazilian, it wasn’t terribly long ago that Carla Esparza successfully wrestled Yan and finisher her via ground strikes. Andrade is a brutal physical force in wrestling exchanges, so if she can distract Yan briefly and create an opening to shoot, she probably finishes the takedown.
That’s bad news for any Strawweight.
Record: 14-3 (1)
Key Wins: Mackenzie Dern (UFC Vegas 61), Claudia Gadelha (UFC Vegas 13), Angela Hill (UFC 238), Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UFC Fight Night 168)
Key Losses: Carla Esparza (UFC Vegas 27), Marina Rodriguez (UFC 272)
Keys To Victory: Yan is one of her division’s best strikers, a sharp distance kickboxer with the conditioning to fight five rounds. Her defensive wrestling and grappling have continually been improving, and this will be another major test after she was able to survive Dern’s jiu-jitsu prowess.
The strategy is clear here. Yan has to stick and move, which can be done most easily by establishing her jab early, cracking Andrade with the counter right hand — Yan’s best punch, which also happens to be one that Andrade gets hit by in literally all of her fights — and then escape off at an angle.
Simple concept, but execution is more difficult. Andrade is a rib roaster, and if Yan hits the fence at any point, a takedown attempt is probably coming. To stay ahead of the former champion, Yan has to be perfect, minding her distance and cage position at all times to ensure Andrade cannot pull the fight back into her control.
It’s been six months since Zhang Weili won the belt, and there’s not a clear next contender in line.
Outside of the two women fighting here, Amanda Lemos has the best argument ... and Andrade choked her out 13 months ago! Really, if Andrade is victorious here, the Zhang rematch makes a ton of sense. It’s easy to forget about the Blanchfield loss since it was at 125 lbs., and there’s history with the champion already there.
As for Yan, defeating Andrade would clearly be the best win of her career, a high-profile scalp to follow up a main event victory. Is that enough for her own title shot? Maybe. It’s a lot less certain, because UFC could easily go with Lemos instead. Worst case, she’d be just one more win away from a shot at gold.
At UFC 288, Jessica Andrade and Xiaonan Yan will face off. Which woman earns the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 288 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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