Sports

Former UFC women’s strawweight champion Jessica Andrade will fill in for Taila Santos in the UFC Fight Night main event Feb. 18 in Las Vegas, the promotion announced Saturday. Andrade will face top prospect Erin Blanchfield in a women’s flyweight contender bout.

Santos’ cornermen, including her husband, Pedro Barbosa, were denied visas multiple times, according to Santos’ manager Tiago Okamura. The team waited until a final denial Friday, Okamura said, and Santos decided to withdraw from the bout rather than compete without a corner.

ESPN has Andrade ranked No. 2 in the world at women’s flyweight. Blanchfield is unranked but could get a title shot with a win over Andrade.

Andrade (24-9) has won three straight. The Brazilian-born fighter who trains out of Las Vegas is coming off a dominant, unanimous-decision win over Lauren Murphy at UFC 283 last month. Andrade, 31, was the UFC women’s strawweight champion in 2019.

Blanchfield (10-1) has won seven straight, including her first four in the UFC. The New Jersey native is coming off a first-round submission win over Molly McCann at UFC 281 last November. Blanchfield, 23, was ranked No. 2 on ESPN’s top 25 fighters under 25 years old for 2022.

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