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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Vegas 52’s Jessica Andrade

UFC 266: Andrade v Calvillo Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

The most powerful woman on the roster, Jessica Andrade, will throw down versus resurgent contender, Amanda Lemos, this Saturday (April 23, 2022, 2021) at UFC Vegas 52 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Andrade is no dummy. She proved herself the second best fighter at 125 pounds, stopping a pair of highly ranked contenders in the first round. However, her title bout opposite Valentina Shevchenko, well, it wasn’t all that competitive. A rematch was possible, but the odds didn’t look great for the Brazilian. Back at 115 pounds, however, Rose Namajunas is once again the champ. Andrade has unfinished business with “Thug Rose,” as the two have split a pair of highly entertaining fights. A win or two, and the trilogy could materialize quickly.

Let’s take a closer look at her skill set:

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Bantamweight Battle! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., May 21, 2022, with a must-watch women’s Bantamweight contenders’ bout between former champion and No. 2-ranked contender, Holly Holm, taking on No. 5-seeded Ketlen Vieira. In UFC Vegas 55’s co-main event, No. 14-ranked Santiago Ponzinibbio will lock horns with Michel Pereira in an absolute Welterweight firecracker.

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Striking

Andrade is built for violence. Particularly at 115 pounds, she’s so much stronger and more powerful than her opponents. Even at Flyweight, she largely (wo)manhandled her opponents, with the sole exception of the champion.

Mix that strength with excellent conditioning, and it’s not hard to see how Andrade ended up with a belt.

On the feet, Andrade frequently draws comparison to John Lineker with good reason. Though Andrade does not quite possess Lineker’s boxing craft, the two share a love of aggressively swinging for the knockout with wide hooks and overhands. Again, Lineker tends to set up his punches better, but when the two go into full brawl mode, the comparison really fits

Andrade does not hide her intentions. The Brazilian is going to charge forward on a straight line, swinging hooks and eventually crashing into her opponent. That lack of subtlety does mean Andrade is rather easy to counter. Even in many of her wins, opponents have landed easy counter right hands by circling laterally, planting their feet, and sticking as cross as Andrade chased.

The problem is that Andrade is not determined by a few right hands. In fact, Jedrzejczyk spent the better part of five rounds landing dozens of counter strikes — including stinging rights and clean high kicks — and Andrade was still chasing and swinging late into the fight. Eventually, all those women except for Jedrzejczyk slowed down a bit or allowed Andrade into the pocket, at which point Andrade’s physicality began to take over.

In the rematch with Rose Namajunas, Andrade really tried to incorporate more head movement into her game. She moved her head proactively, constantly swaying back-and-forth. The problem, however, was that she did so at a consistent rhythm, meaning her head was still easy enough to time. Additionally, she had a harder time closing the distance while also moving her head.

As she abandoned this strategy later in the fight, she actually found more success.

Perhaps the most important development to Andrade’s approach is her commitment to body shots (GIF). Andrade may still be winging hooks through the air, but the mid-section is a much larger target. Body shots ruined gas tanks and make active footwork far more difficult, meaning each hook to the ribs further increases the amount of time Andrade will enjoy in the pocket. Furthermore, there’s the obvious benefit of causing an opponent’s hands to drop, which can create the opportunity for a knockout blow (GIF). Andrade’s body work (and low kicks) have really done wonders in wearing Rose Namajunas down in both of their fights.

At Flyweight, I actually quite liked how Katlyn Chookagian was striking vs. Andrade. She was applying some smart strategies, but none of them mattered when a seemingly innocuous left hook to the gut from the clinch literally spun Chookagian around (GIF). One more body shot was all it took for Andrade to end the fight and earn her title shot.

Often times, Andrade’s combination of aggressive forward movement and wide hooks means she’ll crash into her opponent, landing in the clinch. Usually, this is the point where Andrade will jam her foe into the fence and look to wrestle. However, Andrade will also look to latch onto the double-collar tie directly from the wide hooks in classic Wanderlei Silva-fashion.

As a result of her clear intentions, opponents generally look to circle away from Andrade’s straightforward charges. In truth, the Brazilian does little to adjust, willingly eating counter punches as she waits for her opponent to fatigue or eventually make the mistake of backing straight up. However, like Lineker, Andrade has realized that kicks can help her chase down a circling foe. In Andrade’s case, she prefers the inside low kick, knocking out her opponent from her stance and momentarily pinning her in place for big hooks.

Wrestling

Andrade’s wrestling has become dramatically more effective since dropping down to face opponents who are not much, much larger. Extremely powerful with a low center of gravity, Andrade looks to trap her opponent along the fence under that whirlwind of powerful hooks, at which point she’ll lower her level even further and drive into the hips with a shot.

Though she tends to prefer the high-crotch takedown, it doesn’t seem to matter whether her head is on the outside (GIF), inside (GIF), or chasing the double leg (GIF). Andrade understands the fundamentals of lifting a squirming opponent well. Namely, she does a good job of keeping her posture strong, meaning her head is high in her opponent’s chest rather than being stuffed low. Furthermore, she drives into her opponent with her hips, ensuring she isn’t bending at the waist.

Watch her infamous slam knockout of Rose Namajunas HERE and take note of her posture.

Since moving to 115 pounds, defensive wrestling has not been an issue for Andrade like it was against the bigger Bantamweights. Her wide swings do create openings for the double leg, which Tecia Torres managed to capitalize upon a couple times, but even then Andrade is so quick to work back to her feet that it hardly mattered.

The same was true at Flyweight ... until Andrade fought Shevchenko. Against an opponent who could match her physical strength and really excels with clinch technique, Andrade’s wrestling was far less effective in general.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Andrade has finished seven of her opponents via tapout. At Strawweight, Andrade proved her grappling by avoiding the submissions of Claudia Gadelha and generally dominating from top position. Plus, a big benefit of Andrade’s high-octane style of finishing takedowns is that she often lands passed the guard.

Offensively, Andrade’s signature technique is the arm-in guillotine. Overall, guillotines account for all but one of her tapout victories. Like the rest of her game, the technique here is not particularly complex, but that doesn’t make it less effective. After wrapping up the arm and neck, Andrade does a very good job of throwing her hips at her opponent, ensuring she’s able to secure guard and squeeze. Opposite Larissa Pacheco, Andrade used the same squeeze and heavy hips to finish the hold from top position half-guard (GIF). That’s generally a difficult position to finish the guillotine, and again it emphasizes the power of “Bate Estaca.”

Conclusion

Now that she’s back at 115 pounds, Andrade is a real title threat once again. A victory against Lemos probably isn’t enough to guarantee her a shot, but so long as Namajunas holds the title, Andrade isn’t that far off from another opportunity.


Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 52 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 9 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 52: “Lemos vs. Andrade” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.