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Jessica Andrade expects March or April showdown with Valentina Shevchenko, ‘historical moment’ with win

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Jessica Andrade expects to challenge Valentina Shevchenko for the UFC belt in the early-2021.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

When Rose Namajunas dethroned then-UFC queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk in New York, it was a historic moment for the strawweight division. Jessica Andrade foresees the same scenario when she challenges — and beats — flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko.

UFC President Dana White all but confirmed “Bate Estaca” is next for the 125-pound belt, saying Shevchenko “needs an opponent that people think actually has a chance of beating her, and I think we all know that Andrade does.”

It’s not yet official that the UFC will move in that direction. MMA Fighting has learned that the promotion considered booking Shevchenko vs. Andrade for UFC 256 on Dec. 12 when it needed a new headliner, but that was too soon for Andrade. Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno was scheduled for that pay-per-view show in the end.

Andrade is “absolutely certain that this fight will happen” after hearing White’s comments at the UFC 255 post-fight press conference in November, she told MMA Fighting, and expects it to take place in March or April.

“It would be a great accomplishment,” Andrade said of what a win over Shevchenko would mean for her career. “I’m always making history, always trying to evolve in every aspect. It would be a dream come true. Being champion at 125, also being in the pound-for-pound ranking, [and] beating Valentina would be wonderful.

“She has a big name in the fight world. It would be like when Rose defeated Joanna, a historical moment which few could accomplish. It would be great for me. Being champion again and having my name at the top would be a dream come true.”

Andrade started her UFC career as a bantamweight in 2013, but moved all the way down to strawweight to become UFC champion with a knockout victory over Namajunas in Rio de Janeiro.

Dethroning “Bullet,” however, is “a rocky road” that only Amanda Nunes was able to walk so far in the octagon.

“Valentina is a great fighter and has my total respect, but I think the strategy to fight her would be work on the ground and pound and don’t give her any space,” Andrade said. “She does well when she has space — and she’s a southpaw, so walk towards her weak arm and use my strength and my takedowns.”

The Brazilian fighter has finished the likes of Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Joanne Calderwood and Jessica Penne in the UFC, and mostly recently stopped Katlyn Chookagian in her flyweight debut.

Shevchenko recently defended her belt against Jennifer Maia, who managed to win one round in all three scorecards on Nov. 21 by keeping the champion against the cage before scoring a takedown and staying on top. That’s similar to the ideal path to victory Andrade sees for a clash with Shevchenko, but she said you can’t stop after just one round.

“You have to make sure her arms and legs get tired in the first rounds so it gets easier,” Andrade said. “That’s something I do well. I’m strong against the cage and it takes a while before I get tired, so that’s my differential.”

“And kicks,” she added. “The more you kick…I see that the girls in our division don’t kick that much, and that makes the difference, especially when you kick on the right spot and starts to wear down the leg and your opponent starts to fade and feel the pain.”