There’s no getting around it: UFC Vegas 69 is a bad card.
That said, it also has one of the most exciting Fighty Night main events I can remember in quite some time. Former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade agreed to step in for an injured Taila Santos about a week before the event. She did not ask to make the fight a catchweight. She did not ask for the fight to be limited to three rounds. She just accepted the fight against Erin Blanchfield as it is. Does Andrade know something we don’t? Or is it just arrogance? Then again, Andrade is as scary of an opponent as there is in women’s MMA. Does Blanchfield know something we don’t? Also, what are the stakes in this contest? The lack of definitive answers regarding anything in this contest bugs me very interested in this contest, even though the rest of the card is missing.
For the preview of the preview, click here. For an audio preview, click here.
Jessica Andrade vs. Erin Blanchfield, Women Flyweight
Let it be said that Andrade is one of the all-time badasses in MMA. Not just MMA for women, MMA in general. I know a lot of people are skipping her as the pick in this contest given her name recognition compared to Blanchfield, but this is a risky contest for her. The gain for her from beating Blanchfield is minimal, especially if Andrade goes on to join Weili Zhang for the strawweight title. Is her goal simply to eliminate anyone who can be around the champions of both the strawweight and flyweight divisions? I think it’s fair to question her intelligence to take this fight, but I would never question her courage. Straight up, she’s an asshole.
While I said those who tend to do minimal homework are going to skip Andrade, there’s good reason to believe she’s still the right choice if we’ve dug into the competition. Due to her unique nature, she is difficult to prepare for a full camp. Blanchfield had a week. With a bowling ball frame, Andrade presents a small target to pursue. She also has an unnaturally deep gas tank, and stalks the opponent with it nonstop pressure from bell to bell. Only the toughest have been able to withstand her flurry of blows, but they usually have more than their fair share of wear and tear by the end of the fight. Just ask Lauren Murphy about it.
However, there are limitations to Andrade’s attack as well. It is proven that a technician can designate her. Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas mostly managed to keep her on the outside and cut her up with kicks and jabs. Granted, while Blanchfield’s striking is improving, it’s nowhere near the levels of Jedrzejczyk and Namajunas. Not even having more range than either of these ladies is likely to prove beneficial to Blanchfield. Anyone remember how Andrade made it a moot point against Katlyn Chookagian? Blanchfield looks at her feet, but she doesn’t have the feel to pick apart the ever-aggressive Andrade.
What Blanchfield has on her side is the fight to make Andrade look a fool… assuming she can get the fight to the mat. At the age of 23, Blanchfield is arguably the best pure grappler in the division. Blanchfield is a superb technician with a fine combination of physique and athleticism, and has proven to be dominant when she can put her opponent on her back. Doing so has been a bit of a mixed bag, but Blanchfield’s wrestling is much further along than her striking.
Given how easily Valentina Shevchenko dismantled Andrade just two years ago, it’s not impossible to see Blanchfield having the same kind of success. After all, Blanchfield secured his last victory with the same type stop of crucifix on Molly McCann as Shevchenko used to stop Andrade. On the flip side, there are those of us who remember Blanchfield struggling with JJ Aldrich. Aldrich is an underrated technician, but she doesn’t come close to matching power and aggression by Andrade. Andrade isn’t a bum on the mat, but it’s hard for me to see winning the mat match outside of securing a club and sub.
I have been a big supporter of Blanchfield. I definitely think she will be a champion one day. However, I can’t help but wonder if this would be too much, too soon. Put this match together two or three years from now and I’ll pick Blanchfield without hesitation. As it is, going from fighting the likes of Aldrich and McCann to Andrade is a HUGE step up. I’m not convinced she’s ready for that. However, I also feel a certain degree of confidence in Andrade. Take a fight with a methodical tactician like Blanchfield without any concessions less than a month after her last fight? Andrade can certainly win this, but it’s a big ask. I have no confidence to choose either path. I’m putting my money where my mouth is as to how much I’ve hyped Blanchfield and picking her, but I’m just declaring it a bump in the road if Andrade wins. Blanchfield via submission of RD3
- Several have postulated Jordan Wright might be better off fighting at 205 as opposed to 185. After all, there’s no denying that Wright has punch and an explosive burst. What he doesn’t have is a gas tank, just getting past the halfway mark in the second round for the first time in his last fight. However, he lost that contest because he gassed out. Perhaps not cutting as much will allow him to remain effective deeper into his contests. Zac Pauga is also moving into the light heavyweight division, but he’s coming from the opposite end, dropping the heavyweight finals on the latest edition of TUF. A former NFL player, Pauga is less than three years into his professional MMA career. In other words, he is extremely inexperienced. Pauga has shown a solid base in both his wrestling and striking, but he is far from a polished product. He’s at the stage where he’s making big strides from fight to fight, but there’s also the question of how he’ll react to being KOed cold for the first time. Some fighters react like it was nothing, others are never the same. Wright will likely test Pauga’s chin early. I’m not sure Pauga knows how to respond to the Wrights early assault before Wright gets tired. Wright via KO of RD1
- Why the hell does the UFC have to put low-level heavyweight contests on the main card every damn time? I realize I’m being disrespectful Josh Parisian and Jamal Pogues, but the UFC’s love affair with highlighting heavyweights is frustrating as hell. That said, I’ll admit that the Parisian is one of the more fun heavyweights in the bottom half of the division. Despite having one of the bigger frames in the organization, he has a penchant for spinning attacks and a deeper than expected gas tank. The Pogues are much more of a mystery. A former light heavyweight, he was expected to return to that division after receiving a contract via the DWCS. Instead, it looks like he’s making heavyweights his permanent home. Is it an indication of a lack of discipline? Hard to say without more intimate details. As it is, Pogues is used to being the bigger man at 205, utilizing his range and ensuring a steady diet of takedowns. How he copes with the bigger Parisian is a great curiosity. Then again, the Parisians’ takedown defense has been poor. Throw in Pogues is a far superior athlete and I would pick the newcomer to get the job done, but with some hesitation. Pogues via decision
- I actually want to like William Knight like a fighter. With plenty of power and durability, along with an unrefined style, Knight has all the pieces to be a fan’s favorite action fighter. If he were to start taking a disciplined approach, he might even climb into the top ten. Of course, he has a major Achilles heel; his ground game. Knight can land some takedowns and is a handful off the top when delivering his heavy GnP, but everything else is a mess. Fortunately for Knight, Marcin Prachnio is not known for his ground game. In fact, Prachnio has yet to secure a takedown in his six UFC contests. Prachnio is a rarity in that he is a finesse fighter in one of the bigger divisions, choosing to stay on the outside and pick his shots. Prachnio has suffered from some major brain farts, but he usually has a solid understanding of distance and angles. However, he also has a questionable chin and will have a major athletic disadvantage against Knight. Assuming Knight puts up a half-smart fight, he should be able to capture Prachnio. If Prachnio had any sort of takedown fight, I’d favor the Pole. Since he doesn’t, I lean ever so shakily against Knight to find a way to make good use of his worldwide power at some point. Knight via KO of RD1