This weekend’s installment of UFC biffo sees two titans of the strawweight division lock horns in a pivotal fight that may very well determine the next title challenger. Though certainly not titans in stature, as they’re both small enough to fit inside one coffee cup and still rattle around, but you get the idea.
On the surface, this appears to be another training exercise for Jessica Andrade as she works her way back into the title picture, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that, at least stylistically, this is a very intriguing bout, and may shape up to be far closer than it appears. Both fighters excel in very different areas, so let’s begin with Andrade.
John Lineker 2.0
When Uncle Dana allowed girls into the playground, it was only in the bantamweight bracket, and heaven help you if you weren’t in that general vicinity. Too light and you had to settle for intermittent Invicta events; too heavy and you faced the prospect of going straight to the hospital via Cris Cyborg’s fists.
Jessica Andrade is clearly a natural strawweight, but a love affair with McDonald’s meant she was able to fight competitively twenty pounds north. While she did indeed meet limited success up there, her diminutive stature meant she was often heinously outmatched by fighters nearly twice her height and reach. It just wasn’t the right division for her.
But when she sorted her nutrition out and cut the weight, she became a whole new animal. Fighters down at strawweight, when pitted against her enormous strength, did indeed become straws, and she flung them about the cage at will. Jessica Penne, Jo Calderwood, Angela Hill, she crushed them all. Unfortunately, her demolition run was cut to shreds by the uncompromising blades of the Polish buzzsaw, but that’s a different story altogether.
Here’s where Andrade could come up trumps in this bout. She’s built like a brick sh*thouse and she hits like a ton of bricks. Bricks possibly made from the same sh*thouse, even. Much like Lineker, she stalks forward with her face out in front, daring her opponents to punch it, or kick it, or hit it with blunt objects; chin made of steel, she straight up doesn’t care, hombre. While she may not respect the power coming back her way, she’ll still need to keep her signature pressure high and cut Torres off, slow her down with bombs to the body and look for one clean shot to the button or a stoppage by blitz. And if that doesn’t work, drill Torres into the mat and pull a limb off or choke her to sleep. A finish is what she’ll need to win this fight, while a decision is likely to go against her.
Andrade’s striking is not crisp, there’s little finesse, and her arsenal consists mainly of punching blitzes to the head and body, the occasional leg kick, and tossing people through the skylights if the chance arises. Lefts, rights, uppercuts, that’s what a girl loves best. Hark back to her tilt with that other strong Brazilian nugget, Claudia Gadelha. Gadelha outstruck her in round one, but when she saw that her best and hardest shots were only making Andrade smile, her will broke, so did her cardio, and she suffered a mauling. Oh and speaking of cardio, for all the horsepower Andrade packs into her shots, she has a heckin’ good gas tank; she’s a proven five round weapon.
If you’re a strawweight, you won’t beat Andrade with strikes. It simply won’t happen. Nor will you submit her, considering she’s both highly skilled on the ground, and her natural strength means she can muscle out of any compromising position. The way you beat her is with speed and volume.
The Tiniest Tornado
While Jessica Andrade might just be facing the first opponent of her career who is shorter than she is, she may also be in for her second defeat at strawweight. Why? Because Tecia Torres is the living embodiment of speed and volume.
Torres has never been on a rollercoaster because she doesn’t meet the height requirements. Don’t quote me on that because it’s probably not true. Like Andrade, she packs a lot of fast-twitch muscle, and hoons around the Octagon like the Tasmanian devil. Aside from a recent submission win over Juliana Lima, Torres clinches all of her victories via convincing decision.
Her offense consists almost solely of wearing her opponents ragged, peppering them with medium-power pot shots while they struggle to catch her. And when they do, her counterstrikes are piercing and quick. She varies her targets well and almost always rattles off two, three, four blows in a cluster. It’s this steady, inexorable accumulation of volume points, as well as endless cardio, that sees her win her fights with ease. The only time this tactic came up short was against the much longer, leaner, sneakier Namajunas, and despite that fight being a unanimous decision, it was still a razor-thin margin.
Torres has come ahead by leaps and bounds since that defeat. She’s even stronger, quicker and more aggressive. To win over Lineker 2.0 she’ll need that second attribute more than any other. If she backs off in a straight line or, God forbid, finds herself trapped against the fence, nothing will save her from Andrade’s monster combos. She needs to cinch those cleats and pedal that bike for all she’s worth, counter Andrade’s looping rights and lefts with crisp shots over the top, keep her at range with teeps and leg kicks, and stay the hell away from those bombs. If she can do all of that, as well as avoiding being tossed around like a sack of spuds, she’ll clear the final horn with an unassailable lead.
This fight could go either way. A savage beating on one side or a unanimous decision on the other. Whatever the outcome, these two fighters always put on an entertaining performance every fight, so much so, in fact, that it could easily be a main event. And as the strawweight division is perhaps the most well organized and linear in terms of contenders, the winner of this scrap will most likely get the next title shot. Stay tuned.