Preview and prediction for Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade at UFC 261
UFC 261 is being presented as a highly-hyped night of action, as it will be the UFC’s first live event in front of a sold-out crowd since March 2020, and the promotion will be bringing three title fights to go along with the celebration.
To kick off the championship action on the main card, Valentina Shevchenko will look for another defense of the UFC women’s flyweight championship, while Jessica Andrade looks for UFC gold in a second weight class.
Shevchenko has looked nearly unbeatable since arriving at the UFC (her only losses have come to Amanda Nunes), but she has looked especially dangerous at 125. After her destruction of Priscila Cachoeira, Shevchenko won the championship by defeating Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231.
Shevchenko has since retained the championship against Jessica Eye, Liz Carmouche, Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia.
Andrade won seven of eight between June 2016 and May 2019 (with the only loss coming to then-strawweight champ Jedrzejczyk), ultimately culminating in knocking out Rose Namajunas with a slam to win the UFC women’s strawweight championship in her home country of Brazil at UFC 237.
Andrade, however, lost the title quickly in her first defense against Weili Zhang and dropped a rematch to Namajunas via split decision. Andrade moved to flyweight and scored a late, first-round finish of Chookagian at UFC Fight Island 6 in October to earn the title shot.
With a win, Andrade will become the second female UFC fighter to win gold in two weight classes, following Nunes (albeit not simultaneously in this scenario).
Who will win at UFC 261: Valentina Shevchenko or Jessica Andrade?
Looking at the Tale of the Tape, Shevchenko will have four-inch advantages in both height and reach.
According to the FightMetrics, Andrade has far and away a better striking output, but their striking accuracy percentages are near even. Shevchenko, meanwhile, clearly holds the better striking defense numbers.
Both can average multiple takedowns per 15 minutes, but similar to the striking offensive numbers, Andrade has the better quantity, while their success percentages are nearly even. Both are also near even in their takedown defense percentages.
Andrade has some absolutely dominant power that can win her a fight in the blink of an eye. The slam KO of Namajunas goes down as an all-timer, and her first-round knockout of Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 228 solidified Andrade as a major female star in the UFC. She’s rightfully, widely considered Shevchenko’s toughest test since the rematch with Nunes, but is that really going to be enough?
Andrade is going to have to get inside and land on the button against Shevchenko. While that may be doable, especially if they get in the clinch, it’s a lot easier said than done.
Shevchenko is known for her crisp, technical and pin-point striking in the Octagon. That’s only made better here considering she has the physical advantage over Andrade in addition to her Muay Thai arsenal.
On the ground, Andrade, again, dominates with power, but Shevchenko is going to be one that gives her the toughest of tasks.
Andrade may be too tough of a combatant to be stopped by Shevchenko, but mark this one as another successful title defense for “Bullet” Shevchenko.
Prediction: Shevchenko via unanimous decision
UFC 261 takes place on Saturday, April 24, 2021, live from the VyStar Arena in Jacksonville, FL. Follow along with FanSided for all your live news and highlights.