It paid off big time in a submission victory that Suarez said qualifies her for a shot at the strawweight title 10 fights into her unbeaten MMA career.
“I’m just really excited about this one, because I think a lot of people fear her on the feet,” Suarez said about her win in the co-headliner of UFC Nashville on Saturday. “That’s where she has her most success, and of course, me, I decided to strike with her a lot more than I do in all my other fights.
“If you watch my fights, I always get a takedown in the first minute of every fight I’ve ever had. I didn’t do that this fight. ... My gameplan is whatever comes natural to me, and for some reason, it came natural to me. I felt like I had the better footwork. I felt like I had the better strikes, too. People told me, ‘Remember you’re the scary one.’ She’s feared, but so are you.”
Suarez did wind up grappling Andrade later in the first frame, and from there, she dominated the fight. In the second round, she surprised the Brazilian ex-champ with a guillotine choke — her specialty — and brought a tap at the 1:31 mark of the middle frame.
A win over Andrade undoubtedly carries more weight for Suarez, and she wants to capitalize on that with a shot at the belt. Next month, champ Alex Grasso rematches long-reigning former champ Valentina Shevchenko, and Suarez wants the winner.
“I think I match up well against them,” she said of the potential fight. “I think I match up well against everybody. I think I’m going to be a world champion. I think I’m the best in the world, and I’m going for that strap. So whatever they want to give me, I’ll make it happen. But I do believe that I deserve to fight for the title.”
Up until last year, there were questions about whether Suarez would ever return to her former glory – or to live up to her potential in the octagon. Severe back and knee injuries kept her out of the cage for four years, and even in her comeback fight, lingering issues kept her from training properly.
“My goal for this fight was to one, make sure my back was healthy through the entire camp, so I can get through the camp and train the way I usually train,” she said. “My second goal was to be comfortable on my feet, because I took so much time off, and my last camp, I wasn’t able to spar on my feet. This time, I sparred a lot, and I felt comfortable. The third goal was to get to 115, and I did that as well.”
Now that she’s where she wants to be, Suarez will accept whatever opponent the UFC suggests. But her preference is clear.
“I don’t know who’s going to win [the Grasso vs. Shevchenko rematch], but I want the winner,” she said.