Jessica Andrade is set for her first title defense when she takes on Weili Zhang in the main event of UFC Shenzhen. The Brazilian champion is coming off of a knockout win over Rose Namajunas to win the strawweight title.
Now, against the sixth-ranked Chinese fighter, many think this is a step-down in competition for her. Yet, Jessica Andrade does not agree with that and instead thinks Zhang is a tougher fight than Namajunas.
“The Rose fight was way different than this one with Weili Zhang is going to be,” Andrade said to MMA Fighting. “To me, she’s tougher than Rose as an opponent. Rose had some openings that I could fit my game in. Even though she was taller than me and had a longer reach, I was stronger in short distance, my strikes connect better.
“Rose was better in the first round, but that was something we predicted. It was the moment to see what would be her strategy. The kicks were fundamental for me to finish that fight because every one I threw landed hard. That made Rose slower, weak, scared. She was light in every takedown, it didn’t feel like I was lifting a person. It felt like anything else, a pillow, but not a person. Zhang is tougher both on the feet and with her takedown defense.”
Although this is a tough fight for Andrade, she anticipated fighting Tatiana Suarez or possibly Michelle Waterson. Yet, the focus changed to Zhang and the champion is confident she will be able to beat the challenger where she is best, and that is in the striking game.
“I look at Weili Zhang and see myself,” Andrade said. “She has heavy hands and if we exchange, I want to be better than her. When she fires, I want to be the sniper and her with a small pistol. I like fighting where my opponents are better.
“Everyone says she has good striking, just like Karolina Kowalkiewicz had. Everyone said her (striking) was sharp. I landed one punch and she fell stiff on the floor. Fighting your opponent’s strengths is the key, you frustrate them on what they have best. I believe I’ll come out with a knockout or a submission in the third round. I’m really confident. I’m not underestimating her, it’s going to be a tough fight. You can’t blink.”