Valentina Shevchenko was a legitimate force in the Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight division, but she could develop into something far more significant -- and terrifying -- now that she has put down roots elsewhere.
Shevchenko downshifted to 125 pounds and looked downright stellar in doing so at UFC Fight Night 125 on Feb. 3 in Belem, Brazil, as she obliterated and then submitted the previously unbeaten Priscila Cachoeira in the second round of their co-main event. Cachoeira tapped to a rear-naked choke 4:25 into Round 2. Shevchenko landed 84 percent of the significant strikes she threw and outperformed the Parana Vale Tudo prospect in the total strikes department by a whopping 230-3 margin. She has now set her sights on a showdown with inaugural UFC women’s flyweight champion Nicco Montano later this year -- a pairing in which she would likely be favored. Shevchenko slides into the No. 2 position in our 125-pound rankings, one spot behind Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder Jennifer Maia and five spots ahead of the aforementioned Montano. Meanwhile, her departure from the bantamweight list has opened the door for the return of resurgent former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman, as she settles into the No. 10 position at 135 pounds.
Elsewhere, two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Ronaldo Souza bounced back from his technical knockout loss to Robert Whittaker in April and reaffirmed his place as one of the sport’s best middleweights. “Jacare” cut down Derek Brunson with a head kick and follow-up punches in their rematch atop the UFC on Fox 27 lineup on Jan. 27 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Souza remains firmly entrenched at No. 5 in our middleweight rankings.
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