- Date & Location: Saturday, April 24 @ VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida
- Odds: Valentina Shevchenko (-365) vs. Jessica Andrade (+300) via BetOnline
- Prediction: Shevchenko via decision
The UFC heads to VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena for UFC 261. The ESPN+ streaming pay-per-view card will take place on April 24 in front of a full crowd. UFC 261, which is already sold out according to UFC president Dana White, features three title fights at the top of the card. In the headlining bout, UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman puts his belt up against Jorge Masvidal in a rematch. In the co-main event, UFC strawweight champ Weili Zhang puts her belt on the line against former 115-pound queen, Rose Namajunas. Before those two title fights take place, Valentina Shevchenko attempts to defend her flyweight title for the fifth time when she faces Jessica Andrade.
Shevchenko fought at bantamweight for the first two years of her UFC career. After a 2017 loss to Amanda Nunes in a 135-pound title fight, Shevchenko dropped to 125 pounds. She is unbeaten at that weight in the UFC. Shevchenko won the vacant flyweight belt in December 2018 with a unanimous decision win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Her most recent title defense came in November when she topped Jennifer Maia via decision.
Andrade is on her third UFC weight class. She fought at bantamweight with the UFC from 2013 through 2015 and went 4-3. In 2016, Andrade dropped to strawweight where she went 7-3. At the end of that run she won the 115-pound title, but lost the belt in her first defense. Andrade followed that with a split decision loss to Namajunas. Andrade moved to 125 pounds in October and defeated Katlyn Chookagian via TKO.
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SHEVCHENKO vs. ANDRADE PREDICTION & PICK
Under normal circumstances, the UFC would be reluctant to give a fighter a title shot in a division where they had only one fight and one victory, but women’s flyweight is not a normal division. Shevchenko stands head and shoulders above every other fighter in her weight class and as such, Andrade, who has stood with the best women in two other divisions, gets the nod. That doesn’t mean she has much of a chance, it just means she’s the best option.
Shevchenko has height and reach advantages in this fight and in her striking defense. Those stats are going to come into play.
Andrade is very aggressive and throws heavy strikes. Shevchenko has a strong muay Thai/kickboxing base and the champ will do well to employ her kicks to keep her opponent at distance and prevent her from landing her rushing strikes.
Outside of pressure and power, Shevchenko has Andrade outmatched. Shevchenko is just too skilled and too technical for Andrade. If the champion properly prepares and puts together a solid defense in this fight, she should be able to win with relative ease, especially since Andrade will need to wade through kicks when she is already at a reach disadvantage.
The only way I see Andrade winning this a slip up from the champion.
Prediction: Shevchenko -400 via Bovada
BETTING VALUE WITH SHEVCHENKO
Shevchenko is a 4-1 favorite and that does not provide much value for Shevchenko. The better value in this one might be taking a chance at Shevchenko to win via knockout, which is a possibility, but I don’t think it will be likely since Shevchenko will most likely be fighting defensively for most of the bout. Another option might be to go with the over/under on the number of rounds that fight goes.
Can Andrade pull the upset? She can, but I don’t think it is likely. Andrade has the power and pressure to score a knockout, but the only knockout loss on Shevchenko’s record is a doctor stoppage in 2010. The other fact working against Andrade is that she never scored a knockout at 135 pounds and Shevchenko was better at that weight than Andrade was, with her only losses coming via decision to Amanda Nunes, who is the No. 1 women’s pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC. Shevchenko is second.
Pick: Shevchenko -400 via BetUS
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
If you consider MMA skills, Shevchenko is miles ahead of Andrade and any other woman competing at 125 pounds. If you factor in power, strength and pressure, the scale tilts a bit in Andrade’s favor, but Andrade’s intangibles are not a good match for what Shevchenko brings to the table.
FIGHT STATS: SHEVCHENKO vs. ANDRADE
|Valentina Shevchenko||Category||Jessica Andrade|
|2.98||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||6.38|
|2.03||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||5.26|
|2.21||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||3.11|
|0.30||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.4|
WHAT’S AT STAKE
With her status as the second-best woman on the UFC roster and the fact that she is such a heavy favorite, a loss for Shevchenko would be a disaster. She is unbeaten at 125 pounds in the UFC and has won her past six outings. She is expected to retain her title and the feeling is that the only fighter who can beat her is Nunes.
With her win in her UFC flyweight debut, Andrade became the first woman to win UFC bouts in three weight divisions, that’s quite an achievement. If she pulls off the upset victory in this matchup, that will be a much more impressive piece of her MMA legacy.
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