A big UFC strawweight title rematch takes place in April at UFC 223, when former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk attempts to avenge her huge upset loss to current champion Rose Namajunas. But before then, the next contender for the strawweight title may be determined at the UFC’s next live card on Saturday, Feb. 17, when Jessica Andrade and Tecia lock up and finally attempt to break through and secure a championship opportunity.
Strengths: Andrade has almost been unstoppable since dropping in weight from bantamweight to strawweight in 2016. Since moving down to 115 pounds in the UFC, she has only lost once in five fights, to the former champion Jedrzejczyk last year in a fight that went all five rounds. Beyond that, her four victories include a knockout, submission and complete and utter domination of an equally tough fighter in former title contender Claudia Gadelha late last year.
Andrade is extremely strong for a strawweight and lands more than six significant strikes per minute at a more than 50 percent clip. So when Andrade tags you with her fists, there is a good chance you’re going to feel it and it will likely put you down. Although Andrade only has five total knockouts in her career, you can ask Gadelha or Jessica Penne about her power.
Andrade is also extremely adept on the ground. She is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and lands nearly three takedowns per fight while defending 79 percent of takedown attempts against her. Andrade is one of the more well-rounded fighters in the strawweight division, which makes her extremely dangerous every time she steps into the Octagon.
Weaknesses: On the surface, it’s hard to pinpoint any real shortcomings in Andrade’s game. She can win on the feet, and she can win on the mat. She does absorb five significant strikes per minute, however. That was plainly on display in her title loss to Jedrzejczyk last year. The former champion is one of the elite strikers in mixed martial arts, and she peppered Andrade nonstop with shots while Andrade did little to adjust and defend.
Facing an extremely quick striker like Torres, who likes to stick and move at an almost frenetic pace, might frustrate Andrade and make it difficult for her to score enough points on the judges’ scorecards, should their fight end up going the distance.
Strengths: Torres always seems to be just hanging around on the edge of title contention while never having actually had the opportunity to fight for a title. But the fifth-ranked Torres is still one of the best strawweights in the world, and her only loss in the last three years came to the current strawweight champion Rose Namajunas, in a fight that was extremely close.
As I alluded to previously, Torres is one of the fastest fighters in the entire UFC – male or female. Torres is also a black belt in taekwondo and will likely try to mix up her striking and use her footwork to keep Andrade guessing and to stay away from Andrade’s power. Torres has a striking defense rate of 70 percent, so Andrade will probably find it difficult to land that one big punch that could turn the fight in her favor.
Weaknesses: While Torres is extremely fast and quick, she’s not very strong. Her nickname “Tiny Tornado” suggests she moves like a blur around the Octagon, but it also suggest that she is pretty small in stature, which she is – to the tune of being only 5’1.
As a result, her punches tend to not have much power behind them. Torres only has one knockout win in her career, and it came in her second amateur fight in 2011. Torres also lands roughly 50 percent of her significant strikes per minute. So while she may throw plenty of volume, she sometimes finds it difficult to land those strikes consistently. Torres’ movement will be the key in this fight.
This is an intriguing matchup between two skilled strikers, albeit with different methods. While Andrade relies primarily on power, Torres relies on speed and quickness. If Torres can make Andrade chase her around the Octagon while getting in and out quickly with her strikes, then Torres has a chance to get a decision. Andrade will have to pressure Torres early and often and cut off the cage, so Torres has nowhere to go. I think Andrade will do just that, and secure herself another title shot.
Winner: Andrade by TKO
Photo Credit: MMAWeekly.com