Valentina Shevchenko is a massive favorite going into her UFC 275 fight with Taila Santos this Saturday in Singapore, but former foe Jessica Andrade sees a path to victory for her fellow Brazilian.
Andrade challenged Shevchenko in April 2021 after stopping Katlyn Chookagian in violent fashion in her flyweight debut. Shevchenko won, and she defeated Lauren Murphy five months later at UFC 261,.
Now, Santos gets her chance at the gold after winning four straight inside the octagon.
” I think Valentina’s very tough,” Andrade stated in a podcast episode of MMA Fighting’s Trocacao Franka . “It’s not because I lost to Valentina, but the level of experience she has in fighting and martial arts is so high for a girl that doesn’t train with too many people. Taila has a lot of talent, and she’s on the rise .”
Santos won decisions over Molly McCann, Gillian Robertson and Roxanne Modafferi before submitting Joanne Wood in under five minutes to improve to 19-1 in the sport and earn a shot at the 125-pound queen.
Andrade expects Shevchenko to employ a game plan similar to what she used against Chookagian and Jennifer Maia.
“Valentina uses different styles of fighting depending on her opponent’s height,” Andrade stated. “She was more technical when she fought Chookagian, getting in and out. Because I am shorter, she closed the distance against me. I believe with Taila, she’ll respect the distance more and find the right time to hit, and that might help her like it helped Jennifer.
“If Taila studies her game well, maintains the right distance and connects with good strikes, I believe Taila comes out with the victory. Although Taila can be very strong, Valentina is a special woman. It’s important to know that she is unique and you must go into the arena knowing this. You either don’t give her any respect and go for the kill right away, or you stick to the game plan. You can get in trouble [laughs].”
if you move too far from the game plan.
Andrade moved from Niteroi, Brazil, to train full-time at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas. She met the Shevchenko and her sister, UFC flyweight Antonina Shevchenko, multiple times in the facility, but said the champion never agreed to training with her.
“It’d be wonderful for me, even for my confidence,” Andrade stated. “Or maybe I’d say, ‘Yeah, this woman is so good, what am I getting myself into here? Let’s forget about the flyweight title. [laughs] Or, maybe I would say “Man, this woman is so good, what am I getting myself into here?” If I did this and that, it would kill her game. It would also be great for us both if we could train together .”
However, Andrade agrees that being a possible opponent for Shevchenko down the line means the flyweight titleholder is smart to decline working with her.
“It would be a different Jessica [in the rematch] because I know how more about her game and what she brings to the fight, and maybe would be more prepared for whatever happens,” said Andrade, who stopped Amanda Lemos and Cynthia Calvillo in her most recent bouts at strawweight and flyweight. “But it’s OK. It’s OK.