LAS VEGAS – Jessica Andrade is returning to the strawweight division looking to become a two-time champion and to do that, she’ll have to first get past streaking Amanda Lemos.
Andrade (22-9 MMA, 13-7 UFC) and Lemos (11-1-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) meet Saturday in the UFC Fight Night 205 main event at the UFC Apex, with the matchup serving as a big opportunity for both Brazilian women.
For Andrade, it’s about reestablishing herself as a force at 115 pounds after a three-fight stint as a flyweight in which she went 2-1, with her loss to champion Valentina Shevchenko. The move back down might not work in favor of Andrade, who remains No. 1 in the official UFC women’s flyweight rankings but unranked at strawweight.
“I wouldn’t say it would be quicker at strawweight (to reach a title shot), because I was already No. 1 at flyweight, and it’s a much tougher competition overall,” Andrade said at Wednesday’s media day through an interpreter. “I think the level of competition at strawweight is still quite ahead of the flyweight division. At the end of the day, I’m a strawweight. I’m gonna perform my best at strawweight. … Strawweight is my optimum weight.”
Lemos, meanwhile, is ranked No. 10 in the official UFC strawweight rankings after a five-fight winning streak that includes three finishes, although her most recent victory was a split decision against Angela Hill last December. Lemos said she didn’t hesitate at the opportunity to fight Andrade in a headlining spot given her pedigree. It’s the kind of fight that could catapult her.
“Very happy with the opportunity to be in the main event and fight a former champion like Jessica,” Lemos said through an interpreter. “I’m just focused and again just very happy. It’s a different fight, yes, definitely. …
“Right away, as soon as they offered, I just accepted right on the spot. I knew it was gonna be a great fight and great opportunity for me to move up in the rankings.”
Andrade, who now lives in Las Vegas, is excited to fight after benefiting from the resources at the UFC Performance Institute. She acknowledged Lemos’ counter-striking ability, something that should make her proceed with caution in her forward attack.
A win over Lemos would put Andrade back on the radar at 115 pounds, but she’s also ready to climb her way back if she wouldn’t earn a ranking too high.
“I know that a regular win over Amanda should put me at No. 10. Rankings are kind of weird. You never know what’s gonna happen,” Andrade said. “I think that maybe a very dominant win could push me a little bit higher because when I left strawweight, I was No. 2. I know that I’m coming back, and I have to climb the ladder back up again, so I’m fine if I get the 10 spot if I win. It’s only fair. But who knows?
“Or maybe if I get a proper, dominant win maybe I will get pushed a little bit higher. You never know. The only thing that I can guarantee is that I’m ready and doing all the work to get back to reclaim my title.”