Anderson’s analysis: Can Blanchfield’s elite grappling overcome Andrade’s striking power?
In just one week, Jessica Andrade took on Saturday’s UFC Fight Night main event against rising female flyweight prospect Erin Blanchfield (Sportzshala+, main card at 7:00 pm ET, preliminary matches at 4:00 pm).
Andrade (24-9), a former flyweight champion and one-time flyweight title contender, is replacing Tayla Santos and is looking to return for another fight with defending champion Valentina Shevchenko. Andrade lost to Shevchenko at UFC 261 in April 2021.
Blanchfield (10-1) is undefeated in her four octagon matches and has won her last two victories by submission over JJ Aldrich and Molly McCann, respectively. While this is another striker vs. grappler fight, fans should be ready for fireworks as both fighters have the energy and natural ability to finish a fight.
Former UFC women’s featherweight title challenger and current Sportzshala MMA analyst Megan Anderson reveals what makes both of these fighters so dangerous and what fans should be wary of in this weekend’s main event.
This fight is very exciting. It sees Andrade, a pillar of the UFC women’s community, up against one of the fastest growing prospects in the division. No doubt this will be a big test for Blanchfield.
Blanchfeld, who has yet to be ranked by Sportzshala’s division, was originally scheduled to face No. 8 Santos. But due to visa problems with the Santos team, she refused to participate. Instead, Blanchfield must now take on an even greater challenge as she takes on Sportzshala’s 2nd-ranked female flyweight.
In Andrade, Blanchfield will take on someone who has been a standout UFC fighter since her debut in 2013. And probably a future UFC Hall of Famer. The fact that Andrade is training for this fight with a week’s notice proves that she is a fighter of wrestlers.
For Andrade, it’s about cementing his position among the top contenders in the division. She has to have a token on her shoulder when engaging an unranked opponent. She’s so close to another blow to Shevchenko and I’m sure Andrade doesn’t believe she’s the same fighter who lost to the champion in 2021.
For Blanchfield, it’s about the next step. She is missing out on so many talented fighters for this opportunity – her first main event with the promotion in just her fifth appearance in the octagon. This fight is a huge focus for her; Rarely do we see a fighter who doesn’t have a huge fan following win the main event in his first five UFC fights. This could mean one of two things for the UFC: either the promotion sees potential in Blanchfield and wants to see her in a title fight soon, or the matchmakers are leaving her to be eaten by the wolves to see how she performs against the division’s elite. If she loses, a promotion could cut her short and allow her to rebuild into title contention. This fight will tell us everything we need to know.
There are not many clear contenders in the women’s flyweight division due to Shevchenko’s dominance. With Andrade on an impressive winning streak and Blanchfield as the top prospect in the division, this weekend’s winner will confirm his position. Regardless of who wins this fight, I think the fans will be surprised by either Andrade’s incredible strength or Blanchfield’s skills on the mat.
Andrade has the power to change the fight
There are not many women in the sport who have the strength of Andrade. Because of this, she brings a real danger factor to every fight. Andrade is like a bulldozer. She just keeps moving forward, applying constant pressure. She does not allow opponents to breathe. And she combines that with her physical strength to put up an uphill battle – she corrupts people.
Andrade doesn’t land a lot of direct punches, which can play into Blanchfield’s hands when she counterattacks. But she throws a lot of big hooks that can do a lot of damage. Andrade is the kind of fighter who is so confident in her abilities and strength that it takes a lot of effort for someone to earn her respect and get her to slow down her forward pressure.
The division’s problem is that few bring in the danger factor that earns Andrade’s respect. It doesn’t just mean having powerful punches – it could be range control, grappling, or something else. In the title fight against Shevchenko, the championship scope and struggle was enough to change Andrade’s game plan.
Blanchfield could be the next UFC female phenomenon
I’ve been watching Blanchfield for a long time. I called her fights when she started as a pro with Invicta FC. But her name created a buzz even before her professional debut due to her elite wrestling skills.
Blanchfield is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu prodigy. She won the World Grappling Flyweight title at the Eddie Bravo Invitational when she was just 18 years old. At such a young age, people could tell that her MMA ceiling was unbelievably high. Since then, she has leaned towards studying percussion.
This investment in strike pays off. She has become what you would like a modern MMA grappling expert to be. While wrestling is her bread and butter, she has amazing skills when she fights on her feet.
However, Blanchfield’s wrestling sets her apart from others in the division. This is a danger factor that could force Andrade to change his game plan. Blanchfield’s ability to catch and control his opponents while still maintaining ground and pound or submission threat is rare.
What does victory mean
Simply put, Andrade’s victory would justify a title shot. This will be her fourth consecutive time, including a victory over ranked opponents in the flyweight and minimum weight divisions. The main question is which title will she claim next – Shevchenko or Zhang Weili?
For Blanchfield, a victory would confirm her acclaim from fans and critics alike, and also likely earn her a place at the top of the women’s flyweight rankings. But even though a win will mean a lot to her, I think the UFC will force her to fight another top contender before giving her a shot at the title, maybe Manon Fiorot or carrying Santos.