I thought it was likely the main event of last week between Vicente Luque and Belal Muhammad would be a lot of fun. Instead, Muhammad got the fight he wanted and it was merely an OK fight. Well, I can say with absolute certainty the main event of UFC Vegas 52 between Amanda Lemos and Jessica Andrade is going to be fireworks. Even when given an opponent who tends to be boring, Andrade pushes such an insane pace that she forces her opponent into an exciting fight.
The event lost a hell of a contest when Manel Kape popped for PED’s, leaving Su Mudaerji without an opponent and eliminating one of the most dynamic members of the flyweight division from action for a while. The elimination of that contest took a huge bite out of the depth of the card as it was one of the favorites for FOTN. I doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare, but there isn’t a lot in there.
Amanda Lemos vs. Jessica Andrade, Women’s Strawweight
Ever since Andrade touched down in the UFC all the way back in 2013, she’s fought like a woman possessed. While it proved to be limiting back when she fought at bantamweight given everyone was significantly larger than her, it proved to be effective enough for her to march her way to the strawweight title at the age of 27. However, since she claimed the title, she’s merely 2-3. Has she already peaked?
It’s a fair question to ask as her hard-charging style doesn’t do much in helping her to avoid damage. However, there’s a lot of caveats that come with that losing stretch. For one thing, all three of those losses came against current or former champions across two divisions. She’s facing a high level of competition. And the two wins in that time? Well, it was against a couple of higher ranked flyweights whom she disposed of within the opening round. Andrade still appears to be at her peak.
The same could be said of Lemos, even as she is on the older side of the equation at 34. Despite that, Lemos doesn’t have nearly the same amount of mileage on her body that Andrade has. Given Andrade began her career as a teenager, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. However, Lemos’ ability to put away her opponents has also been key to her being able to avoid taking too much damage. Sure, her fight with Angela Hill was a dogfight, but Andrade also had a dogfight with Hill... and that’s far from the only dogfight Andrade has been involved in.
Given Lemos has less mileage on her body and is the more technical striker, it leaves open a strong possibility she could upend the Andrade apple cart. It seems more likely given Andrade has rarely been able to put away opponents with a single shot as Lemos has shown she has the propensity to do. That doesn’t mean Andrade is lacking for power – here’s proof – but if the two of them are to meet in the middle of the cage and throw down, I would favor Lemos’ track record. If Andrade can catch Lemos off-guard and overwhelm her, that’s a completely different story. In fact, Andrade’s gas tank more than her power is what has brought her so much success. Someway, somehow, she’s been able to cut down to 115 and put everything into every one of her punches and still be able to push a crazy pace late in her fights.
The X-factor is the grappling. While most believe Andrade has the wrestling advantage, Lemos has proven to be difficult to take down. Even more important, she has displayed a slick ground game. Andrade’s ground game consists of her bullying her opponents with her sheer physicality. It’s been a while since a submission she’s been caught in actually stuck, but her aggression has walked her directly into submissions before in the past. Basically, I can see Lemos catching Andrade in a scramble, but I can also see Andrade unleashing a flurry of punches to end the fight.
I know many would disagree with me, but I get the feeling this is the type of fight where each fighter wins five times if they fight ten. Andrade’s ability to overwhelm opponents that aren’t able to utilize proper spacing – and there aren’t many that can – will give her an edge in most fights. However, Lemos also possesses the type of power that can put away her opponents if they give her a clean opening. Andrade is likely to give it to her. I’ll say Lemos ends the fight in a manner similar to how Whang Zeili stopped Andrade. Lemos via TKO of RD1
Maycee Barber vs. Montana de la Rosa, Women’s Flyweight
There isn’t any more talk about Barber becoming the youngest champion in UFC history at this juncture – she’s too old for that to happen now — but that doesn’t mean Barber doesn’t still have a bright future. After all, 23 is still young.
The thing that has been most apparent with Barber is her physical strength and power. She is an absolute powerhouse who can put her opponents to sleep if she lands a clean shot on them. That’s not something that can be said about too many ladies. She still has a long way to go to be a fully polished product on the feet, but her opponents have been forced to respect her power, giving her a degree of leeway that isn’t afforded most of her contemporaries in the division.
More than her power, it would be exceptionally beneficial if she could find a way to harness her physical strength by shoring up her wrestling. That’s where her move to Team Alpha Male makes so much sense. The traditionally wrestling-heavy camp has attracted plenty of other female competitors recently, meaning there’s plenty of other high-level women to train with in addition to a plethora of coaches with a knack for shoring up her wresting. If Barber can begin to land takedowns with regularity, her biggest strength thus far, her GnP, will become more highly featured.
Of course, de la Rosa is one of the more savvy submission specialists in the division, meaning Barber can’t get reckless on the mat. De la Rosa has more than a few armbars on her ledger, more than capable of snatching an arm out of the guard. Of course, she’s more effective if she can find the top position in addition to being a sound scrambler. However, she has also had trouble with bigger and stronger opponents, proving unable to get the fight to the mat. Barber may not be bigger, but she most definitely is stronger.
If de la Rosa can’t get the fight to the mat in an advantageous position, she’s in trouble. While she has proven to be sound technically on the feet, she still doesn’t look comfortable in her standup. Barber hasn’t shown the confidence in her standup since her loss to Roxanne Modafferi, but if she can find just a hint of that confidence, she should be able to overwhelm de la Rosa. I realize my pick is hardly a shoe-in, but I don’t trust de la Rosa will have the physicality to deal with Barber. Barber via decision
- How in the hell did Clay Guida get another co-main event? When you’ve built up the resume he has over 16 years in the UFC, you get some leeway. Thus, while Guida is a mid-tier gatekeeper at this stage, he’s fortunate to be boosted into the co-main. I wouldn’t say Claudio Puelles is quite deserving of the spot either, but I will admit it’s a well-matched fight. An exceptionally raw 20-year-old when he debuted in 2016, Puelles has developed into an underrated wrestler with a penchant for catching his opposition in a kneebar. He’s still on the raw side in terms of his striking, but given Guida’s reputation as a reckless brawler, it may not matter. Of course, that’s Guida’s reputation and not true of where he’s currently at. Now 40, Guida recognized a few years ago he doesn’t have the durability to engage in those types of wars, taking a far more measured and technical approach. Basically, Guida may be the best striker he has ever been. And while Guida has been submitted many times over the course of his career, he’s been operating on the mat with a degree of maturity that was absent from just a few fights ago. While Puelles has continued to improve, his level of competition has been low. Guida is an appropriate step up, but I think Guida hands him the type of veteran loss he can learn from. Guida via decision
- I’m not 100% confident anyone else in UFC history has experienced the last week or so that Chase Sherman has, but the list would be incredibly short if there is. Cut last week after three consecutive losses, Sherman found himself back on the roster on Tuesday when Tanner Boser was forced to pull out due to injury. There are those who don’t envy Sherman as Alexandr Romanov has the look of a future contender to many. The Moldovan is an absolute beast in the cage, barreling over his opponents with his powerful wrestling and dominant GnP. There have been signs of weakness as he slowed considerably in his only UFC fight that has entered the third round. In fact, there’s a large contingent who believed he was on his way to his first career loss before he suffered an illegal low blow that stopped the contest. Romanov’s standup is still very much a work in progress, enough that Sherman should have a sizeable edge in that department. The problem for Sherman is no one has been able to stop Romanov from taking them down, at least early on. Plus, Romanov has eaten damage well thus far. I don’t see Sherman stopping Romanov’s takedowns or stopping him with strikes. Romanov via TKO of RD1
- The UFC run of Charles Jourdain has been very Jekyll and Hyde, but he may be matched up with the one opponent in the featherweight division whose UFC run is more inconsistent in Lando Vannata. When your attack is built on a foundation of flashy strikes, as both men have done at times, that tends to be the case. Both appear to be getting their feet underneath them as they have been putting a renewed focus on fundamentals, such as building their attack off a jab and low kicks. Jourdain is coming off a transcendent performance that had him looking like a world-beater. However, he hasn’t been able to string together consecutive strong performances. Of course, that’s been the story for both these men, making this contest exceptionally difficult to predict. Given Vannata offers a more diverse skillset – though he rarely uses his wrestling, he does have it in his back pocket — I favor the American in this one with the caveat that Joudain is more likely to pull out the win if he picks up where he left off against Andre Ewell. Vannata via decision