UFC put on another Fight Night event on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi this past weekend. It was another entertaining endeavour put on by the organisation when all was said and done, especially when talking about the main card.
There was some intriguing talking points coming out of the show. Jimmy Crute announcing himself as a real young prospect in the light heavyweight division. Plus, the stellar performance of a returning Brian Ortega in the main event against The Korean Zombie been notable highlights for many.
The Ortega performance was the real talking point for many fans and journalist coming out of the show. For me I feel like there is an even bigger takeaway coming out of the event that is going somewhat under the radar.
Is The One Woman Show At Flyweight Over?
The Co-Main Event was a fight in the women’s flyweight division between Katlyn Chookagian and Jessica Andrade making her flyweight debut.
Going into the fight Chookagian was the number one ranked fighter in the division. Despite this she already lost to dominant flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko.
This was starting to become a real issue for the division. While we have talented athletes in the division it was quickly becoming starved of credible challengers for Shevchenko.
The likes of Roxanne Modafferi, Lauren Murphy and Jessica Eye do make the division more competitive. But you wouldn’t bet against Valentina in any of those fights.
Jennifer Maia is pencilled in to face Shevchenko at UFC 255 in November. Maia is a real threat no doubt about it but has still only won three of her five fights in the UFC. For me, the real contender to the throne is the winner of Co-Main on the most recent UFC event, Jessica Andrade.
Jessica Andrade Looked Great
Andrade is a former women’s strawweight champion in her own right. She beat Rose Namajunas for the title in Brazil with a devastating slam of all things. The Brazilian did lose the title in her first defence against Zhang Weili in China. But she knows what its like to reach the top of the mountain.
He holds a professional record of 21-8 with a UFC record of 12-6 since making her debut back in 2013. She holds wins over the likes of Claudia Gadelha, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Jessica Penne.
The move to flyweight was probably a sensible one for Andrade in hindsight. She was on a two-fight losing streak in a more competitive strawweight division. While Jessica is small in stature she has fought as high as bantamweight on the Brazilian circuit. She may also look at flyweight as a more realistic opportunity to hold UFC gold again.
This is really hammered home by her dominant performance over the weekend. Chookagian had a sufficient height and reach advantage over Andrade. But Andrade really stifled those advantages by keeping the fight in close with good clinch work and didn’t allow her opponent to use her range.
It was a perfect game plan, and she won the fight in the first round with nasty body punches.
Ways To Beating The Champion
If you add in that dominant performance with her previous title pedigree in the organisation, she should be primed for a future title shot.
While it’s dangerous to look past anybody in MMA, on current form Shevchenko must be considered the favourite in her fight with Maia in November.
If that is to be the case Andrade is the stiff competition Shevchenko needs in the division. While Amanda Nunes coming to flyweight is fascinating, with Andrade now in the division that should be the fight going forward if Shevchenko gets past Maia.
Shevchenko looked set to hold on to the flyweight title for a long time to come. Really it can’t be understated how much of a treat Jessica Andrade can be to her reign.
If the pair are to meet Andrade would once again be at a height disadvantage but not as much as in her last fight.
Chookagian is 5ft 9, that’s four inches taller than Shevchenko who stands at 5ft 5. Andrade is 5ft 1 but showed in the fight over the weekend she can worked around these physical disadvantages.
This along with her strong Jiu-Jitsu could be a great key to victory over Shevchenko if they do meet.
Andrade does have a strong striking game, but it wouldn’t be wise to stand and trade with Valentina in a five round title fight. After all Valentina is highly decorated in the world of kickboxing and Muay Thai.
The same sentiment can be made when talking about the Shevchenko vs Maia fight.
Maia has an undefeated boxing record of 3-0 and has a well regarded Muay Thai game. But she also has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, just like Jessica Andrade. So, that’s the discipline she should rely on against Shevchenko who is an unbelievable counter striker.
Mouth Watering Prospect
Of course, this is all easier said than done and to laugh off Shevchenko on the ground would be ridiculous.
She is comfortable on the ground and has a black belt in Judo and two submission wins to her name in the UFC. It’s not as easy as taking Shevchenko to the ground, she’s very comfortable there.
From what we seen it may be harder to get Andrade off you compared to Maia.
One thing that is obvious with Andrade at flyweight is her strength. She stepped into the cage on Saturday looking as strong as I’ve ever seen her. The step up from 115 to 125 seems very comfortable for her despite her smaller height.
We don’t know until we see it happen, but this could possibly pose a real challenge to Shevchenko.
Flyweight Is Looking Fun
All we can do is speculate at this stage.
Maybe seeing Andrade get one more fight at flyweight before going for the title could give us a better perspective of her skills at this weight class.
The likes of Lauren Murphy, Joanna Calderwood and Cynthia Calvillo will have a lot to say about someone coming into their division and getting a title shot after one fight.
The addition of Andrade into the division certainly does spice things up. There are plenty of good fighters in there, but she really does provide a seriously credible challenge to Shevchenko.
This could all blow up in my face if Maia becomes the new champion in November but in my own insignificant opinion, I don’t see it happening.
Away from Nunes going down to flyweight I think Jessica Andrade could well be the woman to beat Valentina Shevchenko.
I now wait with bated breath and hope I don’t look like more of an idiot after saying all of that.