Beyond The Odds series shines a spotlight on the intangibles of 3 fighters for each UFC card.  Here are 3 of the more intriguing fighters competing at UFC 237 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Jessica Andrade

Don’t let Jessica Andrade’s Lilliputian-like 5’2” frame and 62” of reach fool you.  She’s a savage. “Bata Estaca” is relentless, with dynamite in her hands, and she’s willing to walk through the fire to get the job done.  Andrade, a 27 year-old assassin, fights in front of her home crowd, as she hopes to dethrone UFC Strawweight Champion, Rose Namajunas on Saturday night.

Jessica Andrade has looked virtually invincible since dropping 20 pounds from bantamweight to strawweight in 2016.  Her only blemish at the new weight class came to a peak Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a 5-round decision loss, during which she was simply outpointed.

It is difficult not to notice what appear to be huge advantages for Andrade in the strength, power, and cardio departments whenever she takes on a fellow strawweight.  Andrade routinely lifts opponents off their feet during grappling exchanges, dumping them on their backs in the process.  She also possesses fight-ending power rarely seen at the lower weight classes.  Andrade attributes her terminator-like approach to a pre-fight ritual that helps get the mind right.  She believes in wearing a custom-made headgear known as a war bonnet during her walk-out that pays homage to a fighting spirit and Brazilian heritage.  In an interview with MMA Fighting, Andrade says “When I put the war bonnet on, I think it’s time now, I’m going to war, going to hunt.”   Andrade went on to share “I feel the strength, the energy from not only the Brazilians, but my ancestors, my religion.  When I’m in there, I’m hard as a rock and nothing hurts me.”  This mindset is clearly evident in many of her recent fights, as Andrade has been able to walk through punches seemingly unfazed to implement her game plan.

Rose Namajunas, 8-3, will look to play the matador in a very tough match-up versus a game Andrade in a similar manner to that of Jedrzejczyk.  This is a tall task for Namajunas, coming off a year-long layoff during which she recovered from a debilitating compression fracture in her neck as well as the emotional trauma of being a victim in Conor McGregor’s bus attack.

Look for Andrade to not respect Namajunas’ power while she walks her down in a fight that sends shockwaves through the strawweight division.  I believe Andrade learned important lessons from her loss to Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and will do what she needs to inorder to get a victory against a nimble, crafty Namajunas.  Give me Jessica Andrade at -120, and a $8,300. DraftKings price.

Carlos Diego Ferreira

Carlos Diego Ferreira, 34 years old, fighting out of Fortis MMA in Dallas, Texas, has found his stride.  The slick 15-2 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ace who also happens to possess a solid striking game now makes the trip to his native homeland of Brazil to take on ageless kick-boxing wonder, and fellow Brazilian, Francisco Trinaldo.

Carlos Diego Ferreira is riding the momentum of a four-fight winning streak heading into this fight with Trinaldo after impressive victories over Olivier Aubin-Mercier, Jared Gordon, Kyle Nelson, and Rustam Khabilov.  Despite not being the most fluid striker or possessing the physique of a Greek god, Ferreira has a knack for implementing intelligent game plans that lend to his strengths under the tutelage of head coach Sayif Saud.  In Ferreira’s most recent fight with Khabilov, we got to see the third degree BJJ black belt display his full arsenal, including a get-up game that was out of this world.  The arrow is clearly pointed up for Ferreira, who has only lost to Beniel Dariush and Dustin Poirier.

Most 40 year-old lightweights are long retired.  Don’t tell that to Francisco Trinaldo, who allegedly turns 41 years old on August 24th.  Trinaldo still packs serious power, and has a tendency to come out hot in fights.  Last time out, we saw “Massaranduba” end Evan Dunham’s career viciously with a knee to the liver.

Ferreira will have his hands full with Trinaldo early, who will be looking to keep the fight on the feet.  Ferreira has a 4-inch reach advantage in this matchup.  I expect the tide to turn mid-way through the 2nd round in favor of Ferreira through a serious of high-level grappling exchanges.  I like Carlos Diego Ferreira’s chances here as a -165 favorite, and a $9,000 DraftKings price.

Alex Volkanovski

Alex Volkanovski has balls of steel to accept a 3-round fight versus Jose Aldo in Brazil.  Let’s get that out of the way right off the bat.  The 30 year-old former rugby player hailing out of Shellharbour, Australia prepares to take a dramatic step up in competition when he faces a Brazilian legend who once reigned supreme as the finest Featherweight in the land.

Jose Aldo appears to have gotten his mojo back after absorbing two life-changing beatings at the hands of Featherweight Champ, Max Holloway, in 2017.  “Junior” is 3-2 in his last 5 fights, and now rides the momentum of recent victories over Jeremy Stephens and Renato Moicano.

Oddsmakers have this fight lined closely at -135 for Aldo and +115 for Volkanovski in what is expected to be a hotly contested bout.  The fact that there will be no championship rounds minimizes some question marks in regards to Jose Aldo’s suspect cardio late in fights.  A beauty of the now 3-round variety is that we won’t see either fighter pace themselves.  Volkanovski believes the fact that this is a 3-round fight won’t prevent him from putting on a hellacious pace that eventually breaks his opponent.  In an interview with Combat TV, Volkanovski stated “Maybe when I put that pressure on him it might just be instinct to shoot, because I’m going to have him tired in there.  I’m going to have him gasping for air, and he’s going to want to break.”

There are two ways I see the fight playing out. Either Aldo is able to earn an early dominant striking based win, or we see a pressure-based wrestling thrashing late from Volkanovski.  The fact is that Jose Aldo still possesses an elite skillset consisting of tremendous takedown defense, lighting quick reflexes, and powerful strikes.

A major concern I have for Aldo is that his camp for this fight was interrupted by a knee-infection that required subsequent hospitalization. In an interview with ESPN, Aldo admitted to only being able to train once per week. Jose Aldo will need every bit of his strength, technique, and stamina to put away a fighter of Volkanovski’s caliber, who recently retired Chad Mendes in dramatic fashion. I’m going out on a limb and picking Volkanovski, the underdog with a $7,800 DraftKings price, to weather an early storm en route to scoring a shocking upset in enemy territory in what should be a fantastic fight. Don’t be surprised to see a dramatic late line shift in Aldo’s favor come fight night.


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