Sometimes things just don’t go as planned.
Brazil’s Jessica Andrade found that out in 2017 when she faced at-the-time reigning UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 211. Andrade fought well against Jedrzejczyk but after five rounds of action, the judges believed that the volume and striking of Jedrzejczyk was just too much for the 27 year old Andrade.
Almost exactly two years later, Andrade has rattled off three straight wins in order to earn another shot at the belt.
And this time she knows that she cannot be denied.
“I’ll be able to show how much I’ve evolved in the Octagon,” Andrade said. “How much I’ve improved. I think that’s what a victory really means, to be able to show that you’ve improved, that you’ve grown and that you can become the new champion.”
Her UFC 237 showdown with Rose Namajunas is one that has been gaining momentum with each display of improvement. First it was a win over Claudia Gadelha, then it was Tecia Torres and then it was an incredible KO over Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Andrade knows that beating Namajunas is far from an easy task, but she also believes that she has the right type of gameplan to dethrone the queen.
“I believe it’s going to be a really tough fight,” Andrade said. “Rose is a different kind of athlete, she is extremely focused and concentrated. She knows how to capitalize on the right moments throughout the fight but I think she usually starts gassing out in the fourth round. I can actually keep the same pace from the first to the last round.
“I believe that if I take her to the fence, if I use my strength and if I’m explosive, and if I don’t give her any openings, that’s my best strategy to cancel her game.”
Andrade will be far from alone on May 11, as thousands of Brazilian fans are going to pack the Jeunesse Arena in Rio De Janeiro to watch her fight. It will be Andrade’s first fight in Brazil in five years and she believes that it will be one of the greatest moments in her life.
“I got really happy because I am able to represent my state in my home country and being able to win this belt in my home country,” Andrade said. “So it’s an honor for me to be here, on a card like this, to finish the card in great fashion, God willing.”
“Bate Estaca” is particularly excited for the moment she walks onto the arena floor. She believes that the crowd will supercharge her in the minutes leading up the fight.
“We can feel the vibe when we get in there. Everybody cheering and everybody wanting the victory with me,” Andrade said. “Each punch I land will be like one million punches coming from the same place. It’s a great energy and I think it will be the happiest moment of my life.”
MORE UFC 237: Jessica Andrade: Why I Fight | | Daniel Cormier’s Preview | Rose Namajunas’ Greatest Hits | Inside The Octagon | Anderson Silva Free Fight | Jared Cannonier Free Fight | Jessica Andrade Free Fight | Namajunas Capturing Gold | Training Day – Rose Namajunas |Embedded| Order UFC 237
Andrade didn’t imagine that Namajunas would ever give her this opportunity, especially after Namajunas claimed that she didn’t want to fight outside of the U.S. But toward the end of 2018 Namajunas had a change of heart and she decided that she wanted to put herself in an uncomfortable position and take on Andrade in Brazil.
Andrade was more than happy to oblige her.
“I actually watched some of her interviews and she said she wanted to fight in Brazil because she wanted to test herself,” Andrade said. “She said she likes to fight in her opponent’s home country in order to feel that excitement of being the underdog and being able to win. But once you’re the champion, you’re not the underdog anymore. You’re the favorite.”
Saturday’s strawweight title tilt is one you’re not going to miss. Andrade and Namajunas are going to put it all on the line in order to capture glory in Brazil.
Tune into UFC 237 Saturday at 6:15pm/ 3:15pm ETPT with the UFC Fight Pass Early prelims. The ESPN+ prelims begin at 8pm/5pm ET.
Gavin Porter is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com, follow him on Twitter at @PorterUFCNews