UFC Vegas 52: Lemos Looks to Spoil Andrade’s Return to Strawweight

Jessica Andrade and Amanda Lemos UFC Vegas 52
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 22: (L-R) Opponents Amanda Lemos of Brazil and Jessica Andrade of Brazil face off during the UFC weigh-in at UFC APEX on April 22, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Jessica Andrade returns to strawweight with her sights on another title run, but a new contender in countrywoman Amanda Lemos is looking to spoil her return at UFC Vegas 52.

The return of Jessica Andrade to the strawweight division feels slightly mishandled as we go into Saturday’s headliner.  By all accounts, her last appearance at 115 pounds in 2020 was a title eliminator in which she was competitive against now reigning champion Rose Namajunas.  Now returning after going 2-1 at flyweight, including a stoppage of former title contender Katlyn Chookagian, Andrade enters not against another title hopeful but is in the position to have to hold her ranking against an up-and-coming contender.

Perhaps a large part of the booking lies in the UFC’s plans for the title picture, with Carla Esparza and Marina Rodriguez expected to take the next two shots at the belt.  That said, Andrade’s return comes at an interesting time in the strawweight division.  The weight class is arguably at the healthiest it has ever been with veterans and newcomers alike jostling for position in the rankings.  A victory for Andrade puts her right back in the conversation where a top five opponent could propel her back to a title shot.

For Amanda Lemos, the fight with Andrade by all accounts should be treated and respected with the same reverence as Khamzat Chimaev jumping up in the rankings to take on Gilbert Burns.  “Amandinha” is currently ranked tenth in the strawweight division by the UFC.  While Andrade is currently ranked sixth, that standing is reflected in the flyweight division and not her more optimal weight at 115 pounds where it is expected to change should she prevail.

Lemos enters the bout with an impressive 11-1 record after having built up her career in Brazil’s Jungle Fight promotion before being signed to the UFC in 2017, where she has fought six times.  Lemos notably mentioned she previously felt disenchanted with the sport and had almost quit competing prior to losing her short notice promotional debut in a bantamweight bout against former Bellator title challenger Leslie Smith.  She would return to action reinvigorated two years later and embark on a run that has seen her finish opponents Livinha Souza, Montserrat Ruiz, Miranda Granger, and earn decisions over Angela Hill and Mizuki Inoue.

For Lemos, the key to an upset will be to use movement and avoid becoming a stationary target against the physical Andrade.  “Amandinha” should enter with a multi-faceted attack and be patient in looking for her own openings to surge forward and score points with her striking.  For Andrade, pushing forward and keeping the fight against the fence will be her most efficient route to victory as it would limit Lemos movement and open up opportunities for her to get taken down against the cage.

The winner of the bout is expected to be booked for a match with serious implications for their title aspirations in there next bout.  Surveying the landscape, possible opponents such as Mackenzie Dern and Yan Xiaonan could be next and set either Andrade or Lemos up for a title eliminator in 2023.