Taila Santos out, Jessica Andrade in: Erin Blanchfield isn’t as phased by the late-notice change to her first UFC main event opponent this weekend as critics would expect, given the former champion awaiting her. Is nonchalance a good thing here, or should she be more concerned?
Venturing to new heights, expectations increase
After making easy work of Molly McCann last time out at UFC 281 in November, Blanchfield will put her perfect 4-0 UFC record on the line with the toughest test up next against former women’s strawweight champion Jessica Andrade – made more dangerous that it’s short-notice.
This was after her original opponent Taila Santos’ team were denied visas into the US.
During Wednesday’s media day, she didn’t seem fussed by the outside noise surrounding her chances of success against an even tougher challenge, especially given Andrade’s recent form.
“Everybody’s tough, so I don’t really care.
I was just happy to get a fight… know a lot of people have been saying that, I guess because Andrade has a lot of UFC experience – lot more fights than me and Taila.
I think that’s the only reason why, she’s super tough, different than Taila, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bigger fight skill-wise.”
The 23-year-old spoke well when asked about adjustments, as Taila and Jessica are at different ends of the spectrum with height and reach – a physical factor that may benefit Jessica.
Andrade’s stoppage win over Katlyn Chookagian is a prime example of what the Brazilian can produce against rangy fighters who consciously try to keep her at distance. So, will Blanchfield back her grappling credentials to duel on the ground with a submission threat?
In addition, the Brazilian’s one-sided decision win over former title challenger Lauren Murphy was predictable and painful to watch in parts, with Murphy too tough for her own good in stages.
Afterwards, the 31-year-old publicly doubled down on a desire to fight back down at 115lbs for strawweight gold again, with a Zhang Weili matchup her big motivation.
Although this – like her aforementioned UFC 283 contest in Brazil – will be contested at flyweight, both know they’re close to a title shot in differing divisions with victory tomorrow.
Blanchfield features highly on a shortlist of potential fresh challenges for dominant titlist Valentina Shevchenko, defending her title next month against Alexa Grasso at UFC 285, March 4.
“I know (a title shot) is definitely possible, but I’m just trying to keep Jessica on my mind first, because I know if I don’t win that, everything else won’t come. Having the five rounds [her first main event opportunity] is definitely beneficial if that does happen next, but Saturday first.
I don’t really care either way, I know what winning this fight means. If fighting for a title is next, I’ll do that. If they want me to fight someone else next, I’ll do that too. I’m just focusing on winning this Saturday because whatever comes next will be good.”
Pictures via Getty, quotes from MMAJunkie