Valentina Shevchenko’s physical prowess had reached the climax where MMA fans were shocked when she got defeated in around.
By unanimous decision, Shevchenko (20-3) defended the 125-pound UFC Championship for the fourth time on Saturday, beating Jennifer Maia (18-7-1). All three judges scored a resounding victory for the champion, 49-46.
The flyweight title fight was a co-star of UFC 255, within the Apex.
“I’m very glad it was five rounds because I had a long layoff,” said Shevchenko, who had a battle for the first time since TKO won over Katlyn Chookagian in February. “I needed to feel the spirit in the Octagon, the spirit of the fight to know I’m back healthy, 100 percent. Nothing is bothering me. I’m glad it was Jennifer Maia, a tough opponent, first, and then it went the distance, so I know for the next one I’m 100 percent healthy.”
“Preparing for this fight, I knew she wouldn’t be an easy opponent. I watched her fight and saw what she is. She’s never given up. I knew it would be a good fight for the belt.”
It was a dominating performance for the 32-year-old champion, who is currently ESPN’s # 2 female fighter in the world. However, there was a glimmer of hope for Maia in the second round when she managed to drag Shevchenko down, put her on her back, and become the second flyweight in the tournament’s history. ‘UFC to win a round against Shevchenko.
The MMA community immediately responded to Maia’s ability to tie the game after two rounds. Still, any optimism she could derive from what would have been the biggest gambling problem in UFC history has been cut short. Shevchenko quickly took control in the third round, including an out on his part, and ran off the scorecards for the rest of the way on the scorecards.
“Every time, I work on both, striking and grappling,” Shevchenko said. “I prepare my body to react in the proper way.”
According to UFC Stats data, Shevchenko outperformed Maia with a total number of strikes, 231-101 – and the discrepancy showed. Maia’s face was bloody at the end of the fight, and Shevchenko won plenty of style points with elbows and spinning kicks. She engaged in five successful eliminations, which is the most she’s recorded in a UFC fight. She used five strikeouts in her decision to win Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the vacant title last 2018.
From Curitiba, Brazil, Maia proved to be a resilient opponent. Her physical strength by merely holding on to Shevchenko in the second round, and it was against the fence during other parts of the fight, was worth mentioning. Still, she barely scored an attack and was an easy target against the last round, when Shevchenko had gain dominance and found her power.
Kyrgyz native Shevchenko is currently fighting for Las Vegas and could face the former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade in her next most awaited fight and defending her title. She will be a firm favorite in this fight, but the belief is that it will be her most demanding test since she claimed the belt in 2018. Since then, her defense against Liz Carmouche, Katlyn Chookagian, Jessica Eye, and Maia.
To add a bonus to the night, Shevchenko’s older sister Antonina also picked up a win on Saturday by knocking out Ariane Lipski on UFC 255.
Shevchenko wants to fight at least three times in 2021, and she looks forward to fighting top contenders Lauren Murphy and Jessica Andrade. Suppose she continues to defend her title successfully. In that case, super fights will loom with second-division team Amanda Nunes (who twice beat Shevchenko by decision) and strawweight champion Zhang Weili appear to be oft-discussed possibilities.
But the next few years will pass for Shevchenko. She is not setting a retirement date because she wants to make sure when she’s done fighting. It’s because she has no reason to get back in the cage.
Opinions expressed by US Insider contributors are their own.