Valentina Shevchenko is a huge favorite for her fight against Taila Santos at UFC 275 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 violently stopping Katlyn Chookagian in her flyweight debut. But at UFC 261, she was dominated by Shevchenko, who five months later finished Lauren Murphy.
Now Santos has his chance to win gold after winning four in a row in the octagon.
“I think Valentina is very tough,” Andrade said on a recent episode of MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast. “It’s not because I lost to Valentina, but the level of experience she has in combat and martial arts is so high for a girl who doesn’t train with too many people. She is so talented, but Taila is thriving.
Santos won decisions over Molly McCann, Gillian Robertson and Roxanne Modafferi before submitting Joanne Wood in less than five minutes to go 19-1 in the sport and earn a chance at the 125-pound queen.
Andrade expects Shevchenko to use a similar game plan to the one she used against Chookagian and Jennifer Maia.
“Valentina has different fighting styles depending on the size of her opponents,” Andrade said. “She was more technical when she fought Chookagian, going in and out. She closed the distance when she fought me, because I’m shorter than her. I think with Taila she will respect the distance more and find the right moment to strike, 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 think Taila gets the win. Taila is very tough, but Valentina is special, man. You have to go there knowing that she is You either give her no respect and you’re going to kill right away, or you stick to the game plan. big problems [laughs].”
Andrade left Niteroi, Brazil to train full-time at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas. She met Shevchenko and her sister, UFC flyweight Antonina Shevchenko, several times at the facility, but said the champion never agreed to train with her.
“It would be great for me, even for the confidence,” Andrade said. “Or maybe I’d be like, ‘Yeah, this woman is so good, what am I getting myself into here? Forget the flyweight title. [laughs] Or maybe I’d say, ‘Man, I’ve got what it takes to win. If I do this and that, I’ll kill his game and it’ll work. It would be good for both of us if we trained together one day.
However, Andrade agrees that being a possible opponent for Shevchenko down the line means the flyweight title holder is smart to refuse to work with her.
“That would be another Jessica [in the rematch] because I know more about her game and what she brings to the fight, and maybe I’ll be better prepared for whatever happens,” said Andrade, who stopped Amanda Lemos and Cynthia Calvillo during her last fights in strawweight and flyweight. “But that’s OK. I think that’s why our schedules never match [laughs].”