Erin Blanchfield is putting UFC women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko and her fellow contenders on notice. Blanchfield left no doubt that she is a viable title challenger in a mature and much-improved performance against former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade.
Expectations heading into UFC Fight Night on Saturday were that Andrade had the striking edge while Blanchfield had the grappling advantage. Only one of those things turned out to be true. Blanchfield used her significant six-inch reach advantage to pick apart Andrade in Round 1 before washing over the Brazilian with superior grappling in Round 2 to win via rear-naked choke submission.
Andrade, a stocky powerhouse, clocked Blanchfield early but it didn't take long for Blanchfield to find her rage. Blanchfield flummoxed Andrade and had the former champion flailing to make contact. Having successfully redirected Andrade's attention to the striking game, Blanchfield hit an inside trip early in Round 2 that led to the submission.
"Give me the winner of Shevchenko vs. [Alexa] Grasso next," Blanchfield said in her post-fight interview. "I'm going to win the title and become UFC champion."
Blanchfield will likely usurp Andrade's No. 3 spot in the UFC women's flyweight rankings, just behind joint No. 1 contenders Taila Santos and Manon Fiorot. Blanchfield was originally scheduled to fight Santos, but Andrade stepped in for Santos on seven days' notice. Andrade, if it's any consolation, became the 10th fighter in UFC history to land (and exceed) 1,500 strikes inside the Octagon.
Expect Blanchfield to keep a close eye on the outcome of Shevchenko vs. Grasso at UFC 285 on March 4.