The women’s flyweight division will be the center of attention this Saturday night, as Jessica Andrade takes on Erin Blanchfield in the main event of UFC Vegas 69.
Andrade, a former strawweight champion, looks to continue her momentum in the flyweight division and earn her third consecutive win in the division. Meanwhile, Blanchfield, a rising prospect, will have her toughest test yet in her young career.
Our staff has weighed in on this intriguing matchup, and their predictions vary widely. Let’s take a closer look at their thoughts and see who they believe will come out on top.
The odds for this fight have tightened as we edge closer to the main event on Saturday night. Blanchfield could be found at +130 odds at the time of writing and Andrade is now available at -115 odds at some sites.
- Erin Blanchfield: +130
- Jessica Andrade: -115
This matchup is a massive step up in competition for Erin Blanchfield. Even though Andrade (#3) is replacing Santos (#1), Blanchfield now has to adjust to fighting a former UFC champion, with main-event experience and many contender fights. Neither woman has gone five rounds and won before, although Andrade is the only one with 5-round experience in a losing bid to Joanna Jedrezjeck.
For Andrade, she should intend to keep the fight standing. She has a huge power advantage over almost anyone in the division, and it will only be accentuated by how hittable Blanchfield is. Although the rangier fighter, Blanchfield does not have exceptional speed, and sometimes takes a shot as she lands as well, meaning it’s very likely she will be there in exchanges with Andrade while they stand. Andrade is very good at timing her bursts off of counters and starting her combinations to the body and working her way up. This leads me to believe that Blanchfield’s reach advantage will be muted. Andrade is also very good at pressuring her opponent back in a straight line and cutting off the exit with her left hook as they approach the cage. This punch might be key, as Blanchfield will need to really lean into her footwork.
Blanchfield should look to make the most of her reach, but by no means entertain the striking game too long. Blanchfield is an exceptional wrestler-grappler, with low impact but efficient takedowns. Against Andrade, she should look to use Andrade’s forward pressure against her by striking her way into the clinch when she can. Using elbows and knees can help even the damage potential against the heavier hitter. From the clinch she is very good at landing outside trips and reaps and dragging her opponents down. On the mat watch for her to look for transitions to back mount where she can pin one arm and ground and pound, or the crucifix.
Largely, Andrade’s skills match up very well with countering Blanchfiield’s game. Andrade is the more experienced and harder-hitting striker. She has exceptional takedown defense and counter wrestling and a lot of physical strength to aid her in getting out of pins. Blanchfield is going to have to rise to the occasion in her first five-round fight, as even if she is able to implement her game, I see her having to re-implement it consistently over the fight. Ultimately I do think that Andrade will come out with the win in this style clash.
Pick: Andrade to win (-115)
#3 ranked flyweight, Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade, 31, is stepping into a possible title eliminator fight on less than a week’s notice. She is filling in for Taila Santos. Andrade is facing Erin “Cold Blooded” Blanchfield who is ranked #10 and only 23 years old. Andrade is a powerhouse in all facets of MMA. She hits like a truck can slam takedowns, and is compact but explosive in her movements. Often being the shorter fighter, Andrade has found effective ways to close distance so she can land heavy combinations. She moves well, bobbing and weaving with a high guard like a buoy in water. Her movement is designed to make her more challenging to hit cleanly; but, also, with her hips and shoulders in constant motion, she is always primed to slip and crash distance for a counter shot. Her striking, as is her entire game, is very aggressive. She looks to walk her opponents down, close distance, and incite a phone booth brawl. These types of striking exchanges tend to favor “Bate Estaca” because she tends to be the faster, more powerful, and tougher striker. Interestingly, and sometimes concerningly, Andrade struggles with head movement once in the pocket. She emphasizes head movement so much to get into her preferred ranged but then tends to abandon it all together in favor of unloading heavy offense. Against technical strikers, this allows them to land on Andrade enough to create distance and escape the dangerous pocket. Andrade is also a strong wrestler who is capable of getting takedowns and even slam throws, especially from the clinch. She has a powerful upper body and a low center of gravity. That combination is ideal for dropping levels for takedowns, standing hip tosses, or even picking up opponents and suplexing them to the mat. Once down, Andrade’s pressure doesn’t stop. She looks for heavy ground and pound or slick submissions. She, rightfully so, gets a lot of credit for her striking power and style but Andrade is an accredited grappler and submission fighter as well. Andrade’s offense is dangerous, powerful, and constant. Her issues have typically come against taller fighters who can keep her out of the pocket or against fighters who can take her down, easier said than done. In this fight, Andrade will also be fighting a presumably difficult weight cut as she is entering the octagon for the 2nd time in less than a month.
Blanchfield is a highly skilled wrestler. I say skilled instead of talented because her wrestling is technical, fundamental, and well-schooled. She is able to get takedowns with a variety of shots from range, from the clinch with trips and throws, and even when reversing an opponent who is trying to take her down. Once down, Blanchfield continues to show her grappling prowess through a high-level ability to hold position while hunting the finish. She tends to take her time, move predatorily on the mat, and will exploit the smallest opening with ground and pound or submissions. Where some fighters struggle to hold position while looking for the finish, Blanchfield is able to hold and hunt at the same time. This keeps the fight where she wants it, keeps her safe on the mat, and drains her opponent’s cardio even further. Blanchfield’s striking is the big question in this fight. She tends to be wide and slow on the feet, use feints well to enter range but doesn’t throw well off of those feints, and enters the pocket exposed. Her movement is herky-jerkey which can help with off-beat striking but she struggles if an opponent can counter even decently well. Because Blanchfield tends to jump or rush into her striking, if she jumps when an opponent is countering, she can be dropped, even against a basic striker with minimal power. Andrade is anything but a basic striker with minimal power. Blanchfield is a much better striker when she can be the one to counter because it forces her to follow the timing of her opponent. When she can follow in the dance, Blanchfield can land more hooks and counter-wrestle against a linear opponent. But, if she is forced to lead the dance, Blanchfield struggles to get going safely.
I think Andrade will look good early. Blanchfield’s striking is basic and she can put herself in dangerous positions on the feet with her poorly timed movement and exposed chin. Andrade’s constant and linear pressure should allow Blanchfield to counter more comfortably; but, as long as Andrade has the cardio and ability to keep it standing, she should land with ease. Andrade has the power to put it away early which is a viable outcome; however, I think this fight will eek into the later rounds. Considering Andrade is entering on a week’s notice; and, even with a full camp, has shown cardio issues in the past, Blanchfield should be able to find success later in the fight. Basically, Andrade should have success early and Blanchfield late. Blanchfield could get flat lined inside of the first 5 minutes but if round 3 starts, I think she wins. I like o2.5 rounds (-120), Blanchfield by sub (+500), and Blanchfield money line (+130). I think she’ll survive an early scare, Andrade will gas, and Blanchfield will lock up a late-round submission.
Pick: Blanchfield to win (+130)
Often, many people believe that if it were not for the champion, fighter x would hold the belt. Moreover, there are usually the same names that are thrown in this hypothetical such as Robert Whittaker, Max Holloway, etc. But, the fighter that should be at the top of this hypothetical should be Jessica Andrade, and, her name should be for both the strawweight and flyweight divisions, as she would likely be champion of both if it were not for the current belt holders there.
The above statement may be perceived as confusing to understand or simply not important, but I wanted to take a portion of this article to attempt to explain how elite Jessica Andrade is as a fighter. For a more concrete example of this, you do not need to look any further than her last fight against former title challenger, Lauren Murphy, which happened in January of this year. In that fight, Jessica Andrade dominated to the point where most people in the MMA community wanted the ref, doctor, or even corner of Murphy to step in and stop the fight before the scheduled duration came to a complete. But, because Murphy was too tough to go down and because nobody stepped in to stop the fight, Andrade was able to inflict serious damage for an entire 15 minutes, and, took little to no damage herself which allows her to fight on short notice just a few weeks later.
What makes Andrade such an incredible fighter is her ability to be excellent everywhere. Often, many top-echelon fighters have elite well-rounded abilities against lower-end competition but may lack the ability to match elite traits for elite traits when fighting the other top fighters of the division. But, for Andrade, she is truly elite everywhere as she stuffed 15/15 takedowns in her last fight, has a flying triangle submission win, and, has perhaps the second most power across the entirety of the UFC female roster – Amanda Nunes having the most. Being strong in wrestling, submissions, on the feet, and simply strong from a physical standpoint, makes Andrade one of the most difficult fighters to contend with, and, add the fact that she has only lost to champions over her last 16 UFC fights and the conclusion is she is truly impressive and deserving of HOF contention.
Knowing Andrade has only lost to an opponent who was been champion of their division within their career makes her an extremely threatening test for anyone, but, the belief in becoming champion in her time in the UFC is something Erin Blanchfield is quite confident in, and, given her performances to date, it would be unwise to think 23-year-old phenom will fall short in her claim.
Across the entire UFC, Blanchfield is one of the most electrifying prospects currently on the roster. What makes her so interesting, and quite unique for the female division, is her ability to have rinse-and-repeat domination, by way of wrestling her way to decisive victories. While the likes of Carla Esparza and Lauren Murphy have too used wrestling as the primary tool to earn title shots, Blanchfield’s speed, technique, and mere danger once on the mat make her somewhat of a unicorn in doing so. Moreover, her ability to dominate in grappling against other dangerous wrestlers makes me confident in saying she has the best wrestling currently on the roster, a bold claim that I know.
Looking to get the fight to the mat and work her submissions from the top position will be the plan of attack when facing the powerful Andrade, but, simply shooting to shoot may prove to be a fatal error. Luckily, for Blanchfield, is that she has underrated striking, particularly in understanding how striking can be used to set up her grappling. Knowing she has displayed athletic movements in the octagon, a keen awareness to wrestle early and often when safe to do so, and her trust in herself makes me believe she can find an opening to shoot a shot in this fight, and, if she gets deep on a takedown, she has the skills necessary to take the talented Andrade to the mat. But, while Blanchfield has the skills on paper to do so, she has not faced a striker even close to the skill level of Andrade, so caution will need to be at an all-time high for her given one punch by Andrade can finish the fight.
If each fighter had a full fight camp, I would have much more confidence in backing a winner here given I trust the veteran savviness and elite attributes of Andrade more than the immense potential of Blanchfield. But, because Andrade just fought and she is taking this fight on very short notice, the confidence in backing her lessens. With that said, I am still choosing to pick Andrade here in this matchup because I believe her striking is leaps and bounds ahead of Blanchfield’s at the stages of their careers, and, while Blanchfield does have the high-end wrestling needed to get the fight to the mat where she can find immense success, I do believe Andrade’s experience will allow her to keep the fight standing long enough to greatly damage Blanchfield, and once damaged, the unknowns with how she will respond is too large for me to back her here albeit I do believe she will hold the belt within her UFC tenure.
Pick: Andrade to win (-115)