UFC Houston: Jessica Andrade Looks to Break Into Title Picture

Jéssica Andrade is in one of the toughest divisions in the UFC, but she may earn a title shot with a victory over Angela Hill at UFC Houston.

In the first quarter of 2017, it is apparent that the women’s strawweight division is the most stacked of the female divisions in the UFC.  While more established names dot the top of the rankings, one fighter at UFC Houston who could end up on the shortlist is Jéssica Andrade who faces Angela Hill on the main card.

Currently 3-2 in the UFC, Andrade has become a brand new fighter since making the move to strawweight last year.  Originally debuting in the bantamweight division, Andrade appeared to be simply undersized against the bigger athletes she was fighting at 135.  At 115, she has looked dominant and powerful in dispatching both Jessica Penne and Jojo Calderwood.

Against former title challenger Penne, Andrade’s power translated far better to the division as she was able to eliminate her opponent in brutal fashion with strikes against the cage.  In her following bout, she faced fellow veteran Calderwood after the latter had come off an impressive flyweight debut.  While Calderwood seemed to be the perfect fit for a flyweight division, it was clear the cut to strawweight affected her power as Andrade was able to overwhelm and finish Jojo in the first round.

The race to get the next fight against Joanna Jędrzejczyk is getting intense within the strawweight ranks.  Still, Andrade is in the perfect spot to book herself a title shot.  Fighters ranked ahead of her like Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Claudia Gadelha, and Carla Esparza have already lost to the champion.  As of this writing, it would appear that the next title shot could go to either Michelle Waterson or Andrade if she comes out of Saturday’s bout victorious and unscathed.

Waterson may be the more marketable opponent, considering her high-profile victory over Paige VanZant in December, but Andrade on Saturday will have had three times as many fights in the UFC.  On another note, Waterson has previously struggled with injuries and was coming off a nearly year and a half layoff before her bout with VanZant. “The Karate Hottie” may be more popular to casual fans, but Andrade has proven herself more reliable when considering booking a fighter for a world title bout.

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Her opponent on Saturday is also more proven at strawweight.  Angela Hill returns to the UFC after an unsuccessful first stint with the promotion.  Originally a competitor on The Ultimate Fighter, Hill went 1-2 in the UFC and also lost her preliminary bout on the show.  After being cut, Hill went on a four-fight win streak in Invicta FC that included winning and defending the strawweight title.

If Andrade can replicate her success against an opponent like Hill on Saturday, it could award her the title shot considering Waterson has not publicly called for a fight with the champion.  The fact that Andrade is opening the main card instead of fighting on the co-main event could actually work in her favor.  With the majority of the media attention on the return of the Korean Zombie, Andrade is able to focus on putting a show-stopping performance against Hill.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed in mixed martial arts as Hill could easily shake-up the strawweight rankings with an upset.  If Andrade wants to earn the shot against one of the most dominant champions in the UFC than she will have to remove any thoughts of the future for the night and focus on the fight with Hill.  But if her current run is any indication, it’s a job that Andrade is tailor made for.

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