01 Jan Virna Jandiroba: UFC 252 opponent Felice Herrig never fought a grappler like me before
Felice Herrig has never been finished in an official MMA bout, and Virna Jandiroba plans on changing that Saturday night in Las Vegas.
“Carcara” is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist who’s used her grappling skills to force a dozen strawweights to tap since her MMA debut in 2013, most recently against Mallory Martin and Janaisa Morandin.
A former Invicta FC titleholder, Jandiroba loves the idea of facing a “big-name opponent” like Herrig at UFC 252 because “she’s a veteran who has proven her talent against other big names in the UFC,” and it gives her a platform to build her own brand in the company.
“She’s the No. 15 in the ranking, so it’s a good fight for me,” Jandirona said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I think I’ll be ranked and enter the game after getting past her.”
Even though Herrig’s official MMA record shows that her eight defeats have come via decision, “The Lil Bulldog” carries a submission loss to Randa Markos, who eliminated her from The Ultimate Fighter 20 in 2018 with a first-round armbar. Talents like Michelle Waterson, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Paige VanZant, Carla Esparza and Tecia Torres weren’t able to beat her inside the distance, but Jandiroba believes she brings different weapons to the table.
“If you look at her record, she has never fought many grapplers before,” Jandiroba said. “She fought a few girls that are true grapplers. I think so, yes, there are many openings in her ground game for her to be submitted. She’s a strong striker with a big heart, but I see openings in her striking, too. Anyway, I have a plan A and a plan B, and we’ll test it out on Saturday.
“Randa is a good grappler, but I think she mixes it up more — even though I’ve been working more on my stand-up since my loss to Carla [Esparza], training with (boxing coach Luiz Carlos) Dorea. But my record speaks for itself, right? I’m always looking for the ground fight, and I think she never fought a grappler like this.”
Preparing for an important match during a global pandemic forced most athletes to adapt to different scenarios, and it was no different to Jandiroba. Yet, having a fellow MMA fighter as a teammate made things easier for the jiu-jitsu ace. Carcara’s main coach also moved in with them as soon as the UFC called with the offer to face Herrig on Aug. 15, so “it was a good camp despite the adversities, and we’ll test that out on Saturday.”
Herrig’s inactivity was due to a ACL injury that forced her out of a planned match with Yan Xiaonan in June 2019. Jandiroba knows a thing or two about knee surgeries, as she has also dealt with an ACL tear back in her jiu-jitsu days a decade ago.
“Maybe she’s a bit apprehensive (because of her knee), maybe not,” Jandiroba said. “She might be hungrier and more focused than ever. I always count on the toughest option, you know, that she will come hungrier. If she’s not, perfect. But I always expect the most complicated option for me so I have no surprises in the fight.”