Jessica Andrade has been on an absolute tear through the UFC’s 115-pound division, and she capped it off by winning the division’s title her last time out in May.
Andrade provided one of the most shocking UFC title fight finishes in recent memory, dethroning Rose Namajunas with a slam KO in the second round of their contest in Brazil. The victory extended Andrade’s win streak to four fights and also marked her second consecutive knockout victory. Now, Andrade prepares for her first title defense against No. 6-ranked Weili Zhang this weekend in China.
The matchup received a bit of criticism amidst its announcement, as Zhang has only had three fights under the UFC’s banner. Speaking to LowKickMMA, Andrade offered her take on the situation.
“When I first heard about this fight, I didn’t know how she was ranked, but when I got into this division, I also had three fights, three wins and had a chance for the title, so I believe that she has earned this opportunity. Also, all the other possible opponents already had bouts scheduled or were injured, so we didn’t have many options.
“It was either Weili Zhang or waiting for Tatiana Suarez to recover or Nina Ansaroff to win another fight, or Joanna to win a few fights or Claudia Gadelha… So it was going to take a long time to defend the belt and when I won I said I wanted to be an active champion, defend my belt many times, take all the opportunities UFC offers us, so I accepted right away to face Zhang.”
Although she didn’t know where Zhang was ranked before accepting the fight, she was familiar with the Chinese star, who came into the UFC as one of the top female prospects in mixed martial arts (MMA).
“Yes, I didn’t know how she was ranked, but I knew her. It will be a tough fight, she is a tough opponent and I think she has earned this shot.”
Andrade’s last time out was her title win over Namajunas at UFC 237. It was one of the strangest title victories the promotion has ever seen given Namajunas was seemingly dominating the fight on the feet, before being knocked unconscious with the slam from Andrade.
While everything was happening, the Brazilian wasn’t sure if she had won the fight or been disqualified.
“At the time, I didn’t know if I had been disqualified, if the slam would be allowed, if anything happened to her… but I had done this many times in my other fights. I did it with Claudia, did it with Joanna, so I didn’t imagine that the fight would end like that. Now I know this is another weapon I have coming into my fights.”
Andrade is on a four-fight win streak over the likes of Cláudia Gadelha, Tecia Torres, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, and Namajunas. At 27-years-old, the champion has looked to be in, arguably, the best form of her career. She hasn’t lost since being outclassed by Joanna Jędrzejczyk in her first career title opportunity back in May of 2017.
Now, with two more years of experience under her belt, and a UFC title on her resume, Andrade believes a rematch with Jędrzejczyk is still to come if the Polish striker can put together a few more wins. If that day comes, Andrade vows her former rival will feel just how much she has evolved after feeling her first punch.
“I think I have matured a lot since my fight with Joanna, my weight cut is better, my trainings are as well. For the fight against Rose and this one against Zhang, I didn’t take any time off, just kept training, in shape, so I think a lot has changed since my fight with Joanna.
“I have evolved; I think more about every move I make, so if we had a chance to run it back, everyone would see a totally different Jessica. I have more weapons and now I step in much more prepared. I know that Joanna has been talking about me, saying she is anxious to see my fight, so I think a rematch would go completely different.
“I think she still has to win two or more fights to have the opportunity to face me again, but once she does, she will see a new Jessica. When she feels my punch, she will see how much I have changed.”
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