The only fighter in the UFC who has ever been able to beat Valentina Shevchenko is arguably one of the best fighters in UFC history, Amanda Nunes. Shevchenko comes into Saturday with six straight wins and will be defending the flyweight title for the fifth time.
The first of UFC 261’s three title fights on Saturday features Valentina Shevchenko putting her women’s flyweight belt on the line against No. 1 contender Jessica Andrade. Although Andrade is a former UFC champion, albeit in the strawweight division, she’ll be in tough against Shevchenko. The flyweight champ is the No. 2 ranked women’s pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC and hasn’t lost a fight since 2017.
Valentina Shevchenko UFC 261 Odds
Shevchenko (20-3 MMA record) has been so dominant since her UFC debut in 2015, that dropping a single round to Jennifer Maia at UFC 255 last November felt like as big of an upset as if she would have lost the fight. She ended up winning that fight by unanimous decision and has only lost to one fighter in her UFC career, two-division champ Amanda Nunes. Shevchenko originally won the flyweight belt with a unanimous decision win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2018 and she’s successfully defended the title four times. The fight against Maia was her only appearance in 2020, mainly due to a knee injury she seems to have now fully recovered from. Her second loss to Nunes was as close to a tie as you can get in MMA, with most media members essentially scoring it right down the middle. If Shevchenko continues to dominate the flyweight division, it might lead to a trilogy fight with Nunes, but facing Andrade on Saturday comes first.
“Bullet” has no real weaknesses in her game to exploit. She’s skilled on her feet and on the ground. She’s comfortable leading the attack or countering. Shevchenko can also be a tenacious grappler, constantly searching for submission opportunities. If she has the choice, she often chooses to wait for her opponents come at her, before launching a flurry of strikes. Countering with a spinning back kick is a favourite move of hers. It allows her to brutalize her opponents and keep them at a safe distance. With her clean striking and an ability to successfully mix grappling into her repertoire, there’s no trick to exploit the champ. Shevchenko is No. 2 in the pound-for-pound rankings for a reason.
Jessica Andrade UFC 261 Odds
Andrade’s (21-8 MMA record) move to flyweight last October gave her the chance to make history. With a first-round TKO win over Katlyn Chookagian, Andrade became the first woman in UFC history to pick up wins in three different weight classes (bantamweight, strawweight, flyweight). Andrade is a former strawweight champion, but failed to successfully defend her title. She moved up to flyweight after dropping back-to-back fights to Zhang Weili and Rose Namajunas. Coincidentally, Zhang and Namajunas will actually fight each other for the strawweight belt later in the night. Andrade dominated the Chookagian fight, finishing her with a brutal body blow late in the first round. This is a big opportunity for Andrade and she’s proven in the past, she can perform on the biggest stages.
“Bate Estaca” is a powerful striker with ferocious knockout power in every punch. In grappling situations she’s able to leverage her small frame in a way that allows her to pick opponents up and slam them to the ground. Andrade is not afraid to take hits, which helps her land quick and powerful blows when she’s on the inside. She’ll likely try to land some quick shots and dictate the pace of this fight early on. How she defends against Shevchenko’s skilled counterattacks will be key. Andrade is efficient when she gets pushed against the fence. She often uses those opportunities to try and land knockout shots and she’ll be dangerous, even against the champ. Andrade has already tasted UFC gold once in her career and a win on Saturday would take her to another level.
Shevchenko vs. Andrade UFC 261 Prediction
Any time you get a former champion versus a current champion, you’re in for a good fight. Andrade has proven she can take take brutal hits and combinations and come through it with knockout power of her own. If Andrade get a few good shots in early, she has a chance, but we don’t see it going that way. Shevchenko is a cleaner and faster striker and will likely pick away with smart shots. Look for this fight to go the distance and for Shevchenko to defend her flyweight belt with a unanimous decision win.