If you visit the FB page or Twitter page of MMA Logic (You can follow both here: https://www.facebook.com/MMALogic/ and here: https://twitter.com/MMALogicdotcom
…cheap plugs), then you will see as the “logo” an image of Jessica Andrade in the heat of battle. Now I could have selected anyone as the face of my bourgeoning pages. Household name Conor McGregor, GOAT contenders Jon Jones, GSP, Demetrious Johnson, Fedor Emelianenko, or maybe a bloodsport warrior like Diego Sanchez, Nate Diaz, and the like. No. I wanted Andrade.
There are fighters with better records than Andrade…both male and female…and with much better résumés. But if you can name me one fighter who fights with more passion, determination, and raw warrior spirit, then I’ll take her image down and put up some generic logo with the title of the page plastered on it. Even if you can name a warrior who can rival it, you won’t be able to find one who can top it. Jessica Andrade is a fighter’s fighter. She is as prime example as there is that female fighters are just as warrior-hearted as their male counterparts, and that they are not here to be poster girls or fan fetishes. They are here to do battle. Paige VanZant may be the face of the other movement, but Jessica Andrade, as far as I’m concerned, is the face of warrior WMMA.
Well, ladies and gents, that face has just been spat on. And the driblets of this spit has befallen anyone in WMMA not named Paige VanZant or Ronda Rousey. This Saturday, UFC Fight Night 117 will take place from Saitama, Japan. And with all due respect to all the other combatants on the card, there is one fight that stands head and shoulders above the others. That fight sure as hell is not Ovince St. Preux vs. Yushin Okami. And no, it would not have been Ovince St. Preux vs. Shogun Rua, either. That fight is Jessica Andrade vs. Claudia Gadelha.
Let’s take a moment away from Andrade to talk about Claudia Gadelha. Gadelha is a woman who was projected by many, including many within the UFC administration, as someone who would be the strawweight champion. When she arrived in the UFC, she was undefeated and appeared unstoppable. The first woman to dethrone her is now arguably the fightingest champion in the UFC today: Joanna Gangster. In fact, Joanna is the only person to defeat Gadelha, because perhaps she is the only person who can. The power advantage, and will-imposing offense of Gadelha has gone unanswered by anyone but Double J. She is 15-2 but with a loss to only one opponent. She is the #1….I repeat, #1 ranked strawweight in the world. Put some respect on that.
Her opponent….well, I’ve already touted her horn enough, but she is the #4 ranked strawweight in the world and is just fresh off of a world title match. Together, this is a match of two powerful, relentless, and prideful competitors. Competitors, whom, I must repeat, are in the top 5 of their division, AND IN THEIR PRIMES.
Now, juxtapose that with the main event of the evening. The #6 ranked Ovince St. Preux and the unranked and, let’s just be honest, over the hill, Yushin Okami who is replacing another over the hill fighter in Shogun Rua. As a fight enthusiast, I do not use these words lightly or to defame these competitors. I use the phrase “over the hill” only to contrast those fighters with Claudia Gadelha and Jessica Andrade who are at the peak of their athletic abilities and indeed their careers.
Yushin Okami is a man who has not fought in the UFC since 2013 and is 36 years of age. He is unranked and the odds of him competing for a title again is slim to none. It’s true that he is a former title challenger, but friends, that was 6 years ago, he loss decisively, and it was in a very thin middleweight division.
Ovince St. Preux is a man who, apparently, gets so little respect that a shut-out loss to Jon Jones is still considered to be Jon Jones’ worst performance. Joe Rogan, in what is undoubtedly the dumbest thing he has ever said, once claimed that Jon Jones is not the GOAT because of said performance….a performance, which, I repeat, he shut out this man. OSP is outside of the top 5 in what is arguably the least competitive division in the company…and oh, by the way, he is 1-3 in his last four fights…and now he is in the main event.
As bad as a main event this is, that’s not the story here. The story here is that this main event is being selected over a perfectly capable main event in Jessica Andrade and Claudia Gadelha. Even if Shogun were healthy, Andrade/Gadelha would still be the best fight on the card by far. The fact that his replacement is still main-eventing with OSP over these two women is flat-out offensive to WMMA and to both Andrade/Gadelha.
And it’s not just about the numbers. It’s not just about #1 vs. #4 as opposed to #6 vs. unranked. It’s actually a very, very intriguing matchup. Will Gadelha be able to impose her will on the undeterrable Jessica Andrade, who refuses to not stop coming forward, as we saw in her inspirational performance against Joanna Gangster? Will this turn into a grappling contest between two Brazilian fighters who are known for their strength and refusal to be contained? Will it be a standup war between the two most powerful women in the strawweight division? Who’s will will be imposed and win out? The Brazilian Bully Claudia Gadelha or the Pride of Warrior WMMA, Jessica Andrade? How will Gadelha respond to a fighter who can match her strength and refuse to stop coming forward? And which of these two proud women’s will will be broken by their compatriot? Those are some compelling questions. The only question I have for the actual main event, OSP vs. Okami, is, “Why?” Seriously, why? Why not just make Andrade/Gadelha the main event?
Now I was planning on writing this piece even when the main event was OSP vs. Shogun, because I found that offensive as well, regardless of how popular Shogun is in Japan. If legions of American fans tuned in to watch Brock Lesnar at UFC 200 even though he was in the co-main event, then Japanese fans could turn in to watch Shogun or Okami even if they are in the co-main. And it’s not as if the fight card is short on Japanese and Asian fighters. Fans who want to support their local favorites can do so all night, including in the main event, without disrespecting WMMA by relegating one of the best fights of the month and the obvious best fight of the night to co-main event status.
I hope the answer to my question is that there is some backstage reasoning that we are not privy to. Maybe Andrade and/or Gadelha did not want to fight five rounds on short notice. Maybe Okami would only fight this match if he were the main event. I hope there is something that we are not seeing. There is no way that this match would main event over Paige VanZant if Paige were ranked in the top 5 and going against the #1 ranked Claudia Gadelha. Paige is a true fighter. This is nothing against her. But when you know that she would main event a card just because of her overexposure and a warrior like Andrade can’t, there is a problem.
There is more to WMMA than Ronda Rousey and Paige VanZant. There is Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who is STILL yet to main event a PPV despite being arguably the most fighting champion in the company. There are many women who are trying to climb up the ranks so that they can headline cards like Paige and Ronda have. And dammit, there are women like Jessica Andrade and Claudia Gadelha who HAVE climbed the ranks, and are still being shoved down the rung by the man.