Ekaterina Vandaryeva returns this week after a prolonged absence. She missed all of 2020 but the Belarusian was busy giving birth to her second child.

So while other fighters were frustrated as shows were cancelled and bouts fell through Vandaryeva thinks the Covid-19 crisis came at the perfect time for her,

“For all fighters it was a tough year but for me it was special because I gave birth so quarantine was a waiting period while I recovered.”

Showing my best

She made her promotional debut at ONE: ‘Century’ Part I and was stopped by Janet Todd. Vandaryeva contemplated retirement after this bout but says the break rekindled her passion for fighting,

“After my first fight (for ONE Championship) I was unclear on whether I wanted to continue but with the break for the quarantine I realized that I really want to fight and I want to get that belt from ONE Championship.”

At ONE on TNT Part IV this week she faces Jackie Buntan in a flyweight Muay Thai fight. The Fil-Am fighter trains with Todd and Vandaryeva is sure her opponent will have got some tips from her teammate,

“I’m sure she had a chat with my previous opponent but I don’t really think about it. The most important thing is for me to show my best.”

Well rounded

Vandaryeva has watched Buntan’s fights and believes her opponent is well rounded. She feels that the description could be applied to her too,

“Of course I studied Jackie and her style. She has diverse strengths and happily in Belarus our camp is very similar in that we don’t specialize in one strength, we are diverse too.”

Buntan came into her ONE Championship debut as an underdog but took out Wondergirl Fairtex in style, comprehensively outstriking the touted Thai prospect. Vandaryeva watched that fight and was understandably impressed,

“The more I watch this fight the more I understand that the strawweight division is very unpredictable. Jackie is really strong but I feel strong so let’s see in the fight what happens.”

Unpredictable business

Beating Buntan will be a big ask for a fighter who has been out of action for the best part of two years. But Vandaryeva also holds a win over former UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk from her kickboxing days and believes she has what it takes to prevail over the Fil-Am fighter,

“I know what her strengths are and right now what I have to do is make sure that I prepare accordingly. Mentally I have to be cool and do what I have to do.”

She prefers not to offer a specific prediction because in the fight business even the best laid plans can quickly go to waste. Vandaryeva plans to focus on her strengths and believes if she can do this she will prevail over Buntan,

“Fights are unpredictable and in the ring everything can change. I wouldn’t highlight one specific advantage because we work on everything so I believe that in this fight I will show all my capabilities and hopefully I can win.”