What a way to crash the party.
On the outside looking in of the women's pound-for-pound top five entering last Saturday's UFC 237 card in her native Brazil, Jessica Andrade landed the slam heard around the MMA world when she violently knocked out Rose Namajunas to commandeer the strawweight title.
The 27-year-old Andrade was certainly no stranger to the title picture in the past, having fought unsuccessfully over five rounds against then-champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2017. In that fight, just as she did in the first seven minutes before finishing Namajunas, Andrade showed tremendous poise to absorb punishment without ever halting her aggressive pursuit.
The difference between this version of Andrade compared with just a few years ago was evident, however. The loss to Jedrzejczyk only made her hungrier and fueled her steady evolution, which included three straight wins against top contenders heading into the Namajunas fight, including a scary one-punch knockout of Karolina Kowalkiewicz last year.
Andrade was so emotional after her victory, awarding her title to her longtime coach with tears streaming down both of their faces, that it was clear to see how hard she has worked en route to setting a new UFC record for most victories by a female within the promotion.
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A former bantamweight, Andrade amazingly shed 20 pounds from her fighting frame to reinvent herself at 115 pounds. Since then, outside of her first title defeat, she has been almost universally dominant while proving herself as one of the toughest outs in UFC when you combine her chin, power and her resolve to keep finding ways to win during tough fights.
The almost surreal nature of how she defeated Namajunas after being on the wrong end of such a dominant opening round did well to illustrate just how hard it is to put a ceiling on her potential, especially when considering her incredible strength.
In a division that has always been deep and dangerous since UFC first debuted it five years ago, Andrade might be the scariest single force strawweight has known to date. She may not be perfect as a fighter, but her improvement has been steady and she's so uniquely skilled and dangerous that she may never find herself out of a fight.
Good luck to the rest of the division.
Dropped out: Conor McGregor, Tyron Woodley, TJ Dillashaw
Just missed: Woodley, McGregor, Yoel Romero, Brian Ortega, Marlon Moraes
Dropped out: Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Just missed: Jedrzejczyk, Tatiana Suarez, Holly Holm, Nina Ansaroff, Germaine de Randamie