Rose Namajunas, the UFC strawweight champion will be heading into hostile territory this weekend to defend her belt against Jessica Andrade at UFC 237.
Namajunas is known for her cool and calculating approach. Her stoicism was on full display in the bouts with Joanna Jedrzejczyk. While the former strawweight queen did all she could to try and get a rise out of Namajunas during the build-up, “Thug” Rose was unflinching. Namajunas takes that same energy with her into the cage–seemingly uninterested as she violently yet methodically takes apart her opponents.
Andrade, on the other hand, is a full-on supernova. Often likened to slugger John Lineker or a vintage Wanderlei Silva, her obscene pressure and partiality for throwing all of her might behind every hook has made her fan favorite and a nightmare for her fellow strawweights.
The Brazilian began her MMA journey in the bantamweight division. Even with a massive size disadvantage, Andrade won four of her seven tilts at 135-pounds in the UFC. In 2016, she dropped to strawweight and that’s when folks began to take notice. Since the drop 115-pounds, Andrade has amassed a record of 6-1 and left a trail of destruction in her wake.
We reviewed many of Jessica Andrade’s most significant fights on the UFC fight library on ESPN+ in the leadup to UFC 237.
Making a statement at strawweight
Andrade should never have been at bantamweight. Though she went 13-5 in the division, it was clear she was at a significant size disadvantage in every fight. With the UFC sans a flyweight division at the time, Andrade dropped two weight classes to take on former Invicta atomweight champion Jessica Penne.
When the bell sounded, Andrade looked calm and composed. This lasted all of thirty seconds before she threw a strike and opened the floodgates. A dozen or so more came behind it. They didn’t all land, but many did. This is what Andrade does. She backs her opponents into the cage and unleashes hellish flurries. As Penne was trying to protect her head, Andrade touched her body. When she dropped her guard to cover her torso, shots were already coming at her head. This was the story of the entire first round. Penne was battered with blows and dropped as the opening stanza ended.
She had been saved by the bell.
Round two was more of the same. Penne attempted some takedowns and was shrugged off and clubbed for her efforts. Halfway through the second, Penne has clearly had enough. She was still standing but wasn’t doing much more than that. Smelling blood, Andrade backed her into the cage once again and just continued bombarding her until the referee mercifully stopped the fight.
Going to war with Overkill
Angela Hill came into the UFC as the defending Invicta strawweight champion. A former kickboxer, Hill also had some nice knockouts on her record and the bout between her and Andrade was all but guaranteed to deliver.
Hill did what she was supposed to do from the onset. She worked her leg kicks and jab and threatened kicks to the head of the Brazilian powerhouse. Overkill was cautious not to back out in a straight line. She did things to keep Andrade at range and avoid the swarm.
Yet, it didn’t matter.
Andrade kept pushing through. She’d eat shots to land hers and she’d even run after Hill at times. Hill landed great counters throughout and even cut Andrade with a nicely timed knee in the second round. That round was the closest but Andrade landed with more authority when she did. The assault from the Brazilian continued in the third. There was a brief moment where Hill dropped her iron-chinned opponent but Andrade sprung up and went right back to work. The fight would mark the first time that Andrade had gone to a decision at strawweight. It also deservedly won “fight of the night” honors and assured fans would remember the name of both women going forward.
After a failed bid at then-champion, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Andrade was paired up against the number one ranked Claudia Gadelha. Gadelha entered the Octagon a big favorite and showed why in the early goings. She was using her jab and straight right to light up Andrade and even opened up a nasty cut. It wasn’t long after that Andrade shoved her opponent into the fence and showed those watching why her nickname is “Bate Estaca”.
Or in English, “Pile Driver.”
Andrade lifted Gadelha high overhead and slammed her to the mat. She then began unleashing furious strikes from the top while avoiding the jiu-jitsu ace’s traps. The next two rounds featured Andrade really opening up with her blows and out-muscling Gadelha. There were more slams that made Gaedlha — a large competitor for the division– look helpless as she flew through the air. When the affair was over, both women were a bloody mess and Andrade’s hand was raised as she was declared the victor.
Deposing the Polish Princess
Last year’s UFC 228 featured a couple of important bouts for the women’s strawweight division. In the featured prelim of the night, the undefeated Tatiana Suarez took on former champ Carla Esparza. Suarez used her world-class wrestling to completely dominate Esparza and land vicious ground and pound throughout. Twitter was buzzing about the “female Khabib” and how she’d do against Namajunas.
Later that night, Jessica Andrade took on Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the co-main event of the evening. The bout was expected to produce the next contender for Namajunas, but even with a victory, a mundane performance could’ve allowed Suarez leap-frog into contention. Even in victory, the winner needed to impress.
With the same ferocity that’s always on display in her bouts, Andrade was attempting to decapitate “The Polish Princess.” The first straight right she landed put Kowalkiewicz on shaky legs. Kowalkiewicz was throwing strikes of her own and many were landing, but they clearly weren’t having the same effect as her opponent.
The train was off the rails and collision was imminent.
And just under two minutes into round one Andrade landed a right hook that knocked Kawalkiewicz’s mouthpiece out and left her flat on her back. In a division where knockouts are rare, Andrade had produced one of the finest of all time.
Brandon is a long-time fan of combat sports who has covered them for various outlets since 2017.