Because of Jessica Andrade, UFC 199 Was Historical for Women’s MMA

UFC 199 exceeded the expectations of most by delivering a night of thrilling action and brutal finishes. Despite having only one female fight booked, a strawweight battle between former title challenger Jessica Penne and the skilled Jéssica Andrade, the event was historical for women’s MMA just as it was for men’s.

Before the points supporting this statement are detailed, the results of the show should be mentioned, to provide some context.

UFC 199 kicked-off with a “Fight of the Year” candidate between Marco Polo Reyes and Dong Hyun Kim on Fight Pass, and the subsequent FP prelims—before the televised portion of the event even began—were also solid fights in their own right. The bar was set high for UFC 199 early on.

This didn’t change during the televised prelims, either. Alex Caceres and Cole Miller entertained Fox Sports 1 viewers across three rounds, and after that came the ultra-impressive TKO win for Andrade (its significance will be explained further). Following this, Beneil Dariush viciously finished James Vick in an all-action bout, and to wrap the prelims up, Brian Ortega landed a comeback knee on Clay Guida with just twenty seconds remaining in the third round to find the TKO win.

Once again, the bar remained pretty high.

Then the main card came and, in similar fashion, refused to let up in terms of action.

To start, perennial contender Dustin Poirier found his fourth-straight win when he scored a  first-round KO over Bobby Green (who, prior to this contest, hadn’t been finished by strikes). The win didn’t necessarily come as a surprise (Green lost his previous fight and hadn’t competed in over one year), but its method did.

Then, in a thrilling middleweight affair, Dan Henderson defeated Hector Lombard via second-round KO. The first round saw Lombard nearly finish Hendo with strikes, but the grit and determination of the forty-five-year-old carried him through to the second stanza.

It was in this second stanza that a flat-footed Lombard was tagged with a head kick, as well as some sort of reverse-cross elbow, to seal the deal for Henderson. This was one of the most unique and brutal finishes fans have seen in some time, and overall, one of the biggest wins of Hendo’s storied career.

After that, in the featured fight of the night, Max Holloway improved his winning streak to nine, defeating Ricardo Lamas via unanimous decision. Lamas, as per usual, was game—and he even landed some very stiff shots that may have spelled trouble for other opponents—but the movement, tenacity, and relentlessness of Holloway were simply too much.

The co-main event of the evening was a rubber match between longtime rivals Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber, which saw Cruz convincingly defeat “The California Kid” by making use of his legendary movement, speed, and unpredictability. This thorough outclassing was important because so few fighters have been able to win in such a fashion against Urijah Faber.

Then, in the main event of the evening, highly skilled UFC middleweight contender Michael Bisping, who stepped up on two weeks’ notice to rematch Luke Rockhold following an injury to Chris Weidman, shocked the world.

As promised, “The Count” threw hard shots, landed early, and never let Rockhold off the hook; the KO presented itself in the very first round.

The win achieved so much press for a number of reasons, including Bisping’s brashness and promotional abilities, Rockhold’s confidence before the fight, the outcome of their previous bout, the betting odds behind Bisping (he was a massive underdog), Bisping’s longtime search for a title, and his “pillow fists”—or perceived lack of punching power, which critics have long poked fun at. Winning via first-round KO was a great way for Michael Bisping to set the record straight in quite a few different ways.

The culmination of the night’s results was a layered, very deceiving, and inadequate fan response, in many ways. For instance, on most other cards, Alex Caceres’s win over Cole Miller would have received ample attention—it wouldn’t have had to compete with Hendo vs Lombard.

The same can be said for Jéssica Andrade’s finish, as well as Beneil Dariush’s, if they didn’t have to compete with Bisping’s outstanding win over Rockhold, and so on and so forth; high-profile action, offered in such a quantity as it was here, is able to drown out an abundance of other fight results, for better or worse.

More specifically, the main point of this piece is to relay and emphasize the importance of Jessica Andrade’s skillful TKO over Jessica Penne, which is once again a historical moment for women’s MMA. In terms of the actual performance, no explanation as to its quality is necessary. From the first bell until the second-round finish, Andrade, in a style similar to that of the legendary Wanderlei Silva’s, pushed forward with barrages of wild and looping punches, while her opponent’s back was pressed up against the cage. Despite the fact that Penne never did “give-in”, the rare, standing-TKO stoppage was justified; also like Wanderlei Silva, Jessica Andrade always has more punches waiting to be uncorked.

Although the win’s inherent quality is clear, additional explanation is a must to understand its broader significance.

Prior to this contest, Andrade competed as a bantamweight, weighing in at 135 lbs. prior to every fight. During this run, she was successful, ultimately accumulating a four-and-three record, with the three losses coming only to skilled fighters.

Still, the twenty-four-year-old Jéssica Andrade evidently wasn’t satisfied with her career, so she chose to make the drop to strawweight. At the moment, there isn’t a flyweight—or 125 lbs.—division in the UFC (for women), despite rumors indicating that its inception is eminent; this was her only option if she wanted to compete at a lower weight class.

And so she did. Andrade, who was most definitely “in shape” while competing at 135 lbs., found a way to trim her already-fit frame by over fifteen percent of her bodyweight, at least. What’s more is that, on fight night, she didn’t look dehydrated, weak, or drawn-out, but rather, was powerful and on the very top of her game.

This entire episode will serve as a reminder, to both female and male MMA competitors, that it’s never impossible to reinvent a career. By committing herself to an undoubtedly strict, well-calculated, and difficult diet and workout plan, Jéssica Andrade was able to make her strawweight debut and defeat one of the best in the division via TKO, as opposed to continuing to compete as an honestly average bantamweight.

Her perseverance and commitment are proof that, no matter how difficult the task, dedicated MMA fighters can rise to the challenge; Andrade has set a precedent that will define the entire sport in its coming years.

And, once again because of the tremendous weight of UFC 199’s other fights, her historical achievement didn’t receive nearly as much press as it would have otherwise. She isn’t alone, though, and history will certainly provide Andrade with the recognition she deserves.

And if she continues to perform as she did against Jessica Penne, the future may provide this recognition as well.

 

Max King