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Jessica Andrade calls Valentina Shevchenko, not Amanda Nunes, ‘best pound-for-pound in the UFC’

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UFC 211 Open Workout Photos
Former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade aims to become the flyweight queen this Saturday.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Two years after dethroning Rose Namajunas to become the UFC strawweight champion, Jessica Andrade wants to make history once again by beating the women she considers to be UFC’s best.

“Bate Estaca” will challenge Valentina Shevchenko for the UFC flyweight gold at UFC 261, which goes down Saturday night in Jacksonville, Fla., and disagrees with those who consider two-division queen Amanda Nunes the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.

“Valentina is the best in the UFC,” Andrade said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I’ve always wanted to fight her because I always want to fight the best. I’ve fought a lot of good girls and I think Valentina is one level above any other. Actually, her fight with Amanda [Nunes], I’m one of those that think [judges] could have given it to Valentina because she was better.”

Nunes and Shevchenko met twice inside the octagon in the past, with “The Lioness” taking home a pair of close decision victories. Andrade agrees her countrywoman deserved the win after three rounds in 2016, but should have lost the five-round bout 18 months later.

“Even though Amanda has two belts, Valentina fights all the time and always puts on great fights and the same pace from start to finish,” Andrade said. “Amanda doesn’t fight that often. She owns two belts but doesn’t fight all the time, so I think Valentina has more experience in the octagon. I think Valentina is the best pound-for-pound in the UFC.”

Controversy aside, Nunes was the only fighter to have success against “Bullet” inside the octagon. That said, Andrade doesn’t think she can replicate her strategy at UFC 261 because “Amanda’s game wouldn’t work for me because of my height and reach.”

“[Shevchenko] has a lot of judo throws but my takedowns are different,” she said, “I shoot for the legs instead of the hips, so I just have to be careful with those elbows to the ear, lift her off the ground and hope for the best [laughs]. I’ll be at home with her on the ground. I’ll lock her there and use my ground and pound. Who knows, maybe in the third or fourth rounds… I don’t believe it ends early, but I don’t believe it goes the distance either. I want to, and I’ll do my best to finish this fight.”

Andrade earned a shot at the 125-pound gold after stopping Katlyn Chookagian inside one round this past October, and called Shevchenko the toughest opponent to prepare for in her entire MMA career.

“I’ll tell you this, training for this girl is quite complicated, huh?” Andrade said. “My God, she’s so fast. I was watching her fights and, wow, I’ll be honest with you, I do believe I’ll be able to go in there and impose my strategy really well, but I think she will hit me with some strikes because she’s really fast. I won’t say I’ll be able to avoid all of her attacks. I can dodge well but this woman is bizarre.

“She’s fast, but I’ll try to be like ‘The Flash’ in there and use my takedowns and pressure to slow her down and get her arms tired. She’ll be slower after the first round and I’ll be able to do my thing in the octagon.”