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Jessica Andrade punches Rose Namajunas in their strawweight rematch at UFC 251. Photo: USA Today

UFC 266: Jessica Andrade wants a crack at winner of Rose Namajunas vs Zhang Weili rematch

  • Brazilian has flyweight bout against Cynthia Calvillo on Saturday but eyes drop back to former division
  • ‘My goal is to win against Cynthia and then ask if I can fight whoever wins between Rose and Weili – either or,’ says Andrade

Former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade has a bout against Cynthia Calvillo up among the flyweights at UFC 266 in Las Vegas on Saturday, but admits her heart is set on a return to her old stamping ground – and another shot at the crown she once held.

“My goal is to win against Cynthia and then ask if I can fight whoever wins between Rose and Weili – either or,” said the Brazilian, pointing towards the Namajunas-Zhang strawweight title fight looming at UFC 268 on November 6.

“I know there’s [third-ranked] Carla Esparza down there and I know she’s been waiting for her shot, so maybe that would also work out for me. But after a win over Cynthia I’m definitely going to ask for either Weili or Rose.”

Andrade (21-9) claimed the strawweight title with a second-round knockout (slam) over American Namajunas (10-4) at UFC 251 in July 2020 before relinquishing it, via first-round TKO, to China’s first UFC champ in Weili (21-2) in Shenzhen just three months later.

The 29-year-old Andrade then decided to move up to flyweight after a razor-thin split decision loss to Namajunas in July last year – so there’s plenty of personal shared history between her and the two fighters set to be engaged in a strawweight title rematch in New York this coming November.

“When I fought Rose it was a very close fight and I only started fighting the way I should have in the third round,” said Andrade. “I was feeling much better, so what I would do is start fighting like that from the first round.”

Rose Namajunas celebrates after her split decision victory over Jessica Andrade. Photo: USA Today

Against Zhang, the fight was over by the time the clock had hit just 42 seconds of the first round – but Andrade still took away some positives.

“Against Weili, I was tired,” Andrade said. “China is very far from Brazil and there was the whole time change and everything. I was also too pumped to get in there. I punched her and she felt my hand and I got excited. I just wanted to finish the fight and get the win but that’s when I met her in the middle and I got knocked out.

“So I think maybe I would be a little bit more cautious next time and move a little bit more.”

Jessica Andrade applauds after Zhang Weili’s strawweight title win in Shenzhen. Photo: Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

First up, though, comes the fight against the 34-year-old Calvillo (9-2-1) at the T-Mobile Arena, and an opportunity for Andrade to assign memories of her last outing to history.

Up against the reigning flyweight queen, Valentina Shevchenko (21-3), at UFC 261 in April, the Brazilian found herself outthought as much as she was outfought as she lost via TKO (elbows) after being taken down – brutally, and twice – by the champ. Andrade now freely admits the Kyrgyzstani-Peruvian champ’s fight plan took her completely by surprise.

“Valentina is a left hander and it is always difficult to fight someone who has a different base than you,” said Andrade. “But I have been improving my Muay Thai a lot since then and I also wasn’t expecting Valentina to take me down and do what she did. She surprised me. So you can’t take anyone for granted and I keep going to the gym every day. I’ve been training hard and I know I’m getting better.”

Valentina Shevchenko takes down Jessica Andrade at UFC 261. Photo: AFP

Andrade said she would also fancy a rematch with Shevchenko, somewhere down the line. But it’s a case of first things first and she wants Saturday’s bout against Calvillo – a noted wrestler – to help remind the world of MMA of the skill set she brings to the cage. Then she can sit back, like fans everywhere, and see how Namajunas-Zhang plays out at Madison Square Garden.

“Cynthia is a great grappler, she has a great wrestling background, she likes the ground and pound,” Andrade said. “She likes the takedowns and I think that’s what she’s going to try to do. She’s been training boxing as far as I know. I’ve been training boxing and takedown defence so I think we’re going to try with the striking and exchange a little bit.

“If she gets in trouble she’s going to try to take me down – but she’s only going to try. But I think I’m going to knock her out in the first or second round and that’s what I’m going for. I have a feeling this week is going to be great so here we go.”