Prolific finishers Amanda Lemos and Jessica Andrade will look to punch their ticket to a strawweight title shot when they headline UFC Vegas 52 on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The co-main event at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas will see the legendary Clay Guida collide with Claudio Puelles in an exciting lightweight match-up, while Lando Vannata and Charles Jourdain throwdown in what promises to be a featherweight fire-fight.
Two flyweight affairs are also on deck with Su Mudaerji meeting fellow top-15 standout Manel Kape and Maycee Barber battling Montana de la Rosa.
MAIN CARD (from 3 AM Sunday SA time):
Amanda Lemos (2.50) v Jessica Andrade (1.52) (Strawweight)
It’s a battle of Brazilians, a fire-fight between two of the leading and most lethal female fighters on the planet. It’s a clash with championship implications that’s scheduled for five rounds but will in all likelihood finish sooner, such is the pair of pugilists’ propensity for producing emphatic victories.
Andrade (22-9) may be 5’1″, but she’s one of the biggest and most feared dogs in the yard, so much so that this bout came about because the UFC couldn’t find an opponent for her at flyweight.
After coming up short against dominant champion Valentina Shevchenko this time last year, she cemented her status as the division’s top contender with a first-round TKO win over Cynthia Calvillo in September and with no title rematch or other worthwhile challenges forthcoming, she drops down to the division she once ruled.
A tiny giant in terms of strength, knockout power and overwhelming grappling, “Bate Estaca” has etched out a place among the top 10 female fighters in UFC history. Like a shark that smells blood in the water, she’s a ferocious finisher with nine knockouts and seven submissions to her name.
The scariest of those stoppage wins was also her crowning achievement, which saw her hoist Rose Namajunas in the ear and spike her on her head to seize the strawweight title in 2019.
Whereas Andrade is one of the biggest names in women’s mixed martial arts, Lemos (10-1-1) is a rising contender. She’s unbeaten at 115 pounds, the lone loss of her career coming 20 pounds north of the strawweight limit against former bantamweight title challenger Leslie Smith in her UFC debut in 2017.
That all but one of her wins are by stoppage highlights her savagery inside the Octagon. Back-to-back first-round TKOs over Livinha Souza and Montserrat Ruiz took her knockout tally to seven, extended her win streak to five, moved her up to 10th in the rankings and earned her this maiden main event.
“Amandinha” promises to take the fight to Andrade and if she can connect flush, she could spring the upset. Andrade, however, is a massive step up in competition who’s fought and beaten some of the best and done it all.
The former strawweight queen is used to the main event spotlight and her explosiveness should see her stop Lemos in a thriller.
Clay Guida (1.83) v Claudio Puelles (1.95) (Lightweight)
It’s always a treat to watch Guida (37-21) do his thing inside the Octagon. He’s an OG, a legend and an absolute madman. He’s the Tasmanian Devil cartoon character come to life as he whips up a storm of non-stop offence.
Even at 40, he’s still a ball of energy, albeit a few paces slower than the lightning bolt he was in his prime. Nevertheless, he remains a handful as he showed in his last two outings as he took undefeated Olympian Mark O. Madsen to the limit in a split-decision loss before submitting Leonardo Santos last December – his 14th tap out win.
The veteran’s grappling skills will be put to the test by Puelles (11-2), a 26-year-old rising star on a four-fight win streak. His jiu-jitsu game is dynamic and a constant threat, even on the feet, as “El Nino” has innovative ways to close the distance and latch onto a limb.
Six of the Peruvian’s 11 wins are by submission including his last over Chris Gruetzemacher in December, which was his second via kneebar in the UFC. His striking matches that of Guida’s, so having a two-inch reach advantage as the bigger man will be significant.
In terms of the ground game, Guida’s been submitted 10 times and an unorthodox and sudden serpent-like Puelles should win the scrambles and either force “The Carpenter” to tap – which would pay out heftily – or take the decision.
Maycee Barber (2.50) v Montana de la Rosa (1.54) (Flyweight)
A classic striker versus grappler battle. Known as “The Future”, Barber (9-2) is a skilled stand-up fighter and packs a punch few flyweights can match or absorb.
Five of her nine wins are by knockout and although her ascend hasn’t been as fast as originally expected, a win over Miranda Maverick last July sees the 23-year-old sit 14th in the rankings and raring to go on another win streak.
Unranked De La Rosa (12-6-1) is looking to do the same following her victory over Ariana Lipski. With two-thirds of her wins coming by submission, she’ll be hell-bent on taking heavy-handed Barber to the ground.
Barber’s faster, stronger and more athletic, so she’ll be able to keep the fight standing and either find the finish (juicy payout alert) or win on the scorecards.
Su Mudaerji (2.40) v Manel Kape (1.52) (Flyweight)
Two absolute killers in the featherweight top 15. Three straight wins have moved Mudaerji (16-4) up to 13th with Kape (17-6) hot on his heels in 14th following back-to-back first-round knockout wins.
Kape’s as lethal as they come at 125 pounds. All but one of his wins are stoppages – 11 knockouts and five submissions – which emphasise what a complete fighter “Starboy” is.
Mudaerji has racked up 13 knockouts, so it’ll be fireworks on the feet. Kape has more weapons in his arsenal (17-6) and a better pedigree as a former Rizin champion, so look to him to clip the Tibetan Eagle’s wings.
Lando Vannata (2.05) v Charles Jourdain (1.76) (Featherweight
Vannata (12-5-2) has won four Fight of the Night bonuses and Jourdain (12-4-1) is the perfect dance partner for him to claim the honours and an extra $50,000 yet again. Both are fearless scrappers with iron chins, so it promises to be a banger.
A staple in the lightweight division, Vannata, who has nine finishes (four KOs and five submissions), eked out a split-decision win over Mike Grundy in his featherweight debut last May. While he walked away with the winner’s purse, it wasn’t the statement “Groovy” had hoped and cut the extra 10 pounds for.
The spike in speed at 145 pounds is going to be his biggest challenge, as it is for every fighter moving down a division, and it’s set to be decisive in this fight.
Jourdain (12-4-1), who’s just as tall as Vannata, is a seasoned featherweight, fleet of foot and ferocious, with all but one of his wins coming by stoppage (8 KOs and three submissions).
Given both men’s durability, Jourdain’s speed advantage will see him pip Vannata to the post.