Valentina Shevchenko has the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s flyweight division on lockdown, and there does not appear to be a legitimate threat to her reign anywhere on the horizon.
The 32-year-old Kyrgyzstan native was a decorated muay Thai practitioner before she branched off into mixed martial arts. Shevchenko arrived in the UFC in 2015 and built a strong resume that included wins over Sarah Kaufman, Holly Holm and Julianna Pena. She set her sights on the fledgling 125-pound weight class a little more than two years later and has not lost since, going a perfect 5-0 while establishing herself as one of the sport’s most dominant champions.
As Shevchenko awaits her next title defense, likely against Joanne Calderwood in the second half of 2020, a look at a few of the rivalries that have defined her rise to power:
Nunes strengthened an already ironclad grip on the women’s bantamweight division, as the American Top Team star retained her 135-pound title with a split decision over Shevchenko in the UFC 215 headliner on Sept. 9, 2017 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta. All three judges scored it 48-47: Sal D’Amato and David Therien for Nunes, Tony Weeks for Shevchenko. Nunes now holds a 2-0 edge in the head-to-head series between the two, having defeated “Bullet” by unanimous decision in their first confrontation at UFC 196 in 2016. All five rounds of the rematch were closely contested. Nunes paced herself in an attempt to curb the cardio issues that have plagued her in the past, with leg and body kicks serving as her most effective weapons. Meanwhile, Shevchenko frustrated “The Lioness” with crafty footwork and sublime head movement, countering effectively off her misses. With the outcome still up in the air entering the fifth round, Nunes changed course. She freed herself from an ill-conceived head-and-arm throw by Shevchenko, assumed a dominant position and fished for weaknesses. Later, Nunes powered her way to a takedown and spent the final 50 seconds on top sending a message to the judges.
What was long viewed as an inevitability became a reality in the UFC 231 co-main event on Dec. 8, 2018 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, where Shevchenko laid claim to a five-round unanimous decision over Jedrzejczyk and captured the vacant women’s flyweight championship. All three cageside judges arrived at the same verdict: 49-46 for “Bullet,” who was a step ahead of Jedrzejczyk in all phases. Shevchenko showed a little bit of everything against the onetime strawweight titleholder, from executing high-impact takedowns to doubling up on front kicks to the face. She executed a total of five takedowns against the difficult-to-ground Jedrzejczyk, three of them in the second round, and outperformed her in the standup exchanges, where she was the far more efficient striker.
Shevchenko played chess to another would-be successor’s checkers and retained her undisputed flyweight title with a unanimous decision over Carmouche in the UFC Fight Night 156 headliner on Aug. 10, 2019 at Antel Arena in Montevideo, Uruguay. All three judges scored it 50-45 for Shevchenko, as she not only maintained her stranglehold on the 125-pound weight class but avenged a September 2010 defeat to the “Girl-Rilla.” Carmouche connected with nothing of consequence across 25 minutes, a fact to which the data attests. She did not land more than seven significant strikes in any one round and whiffed on all four of her takedown attempts. Shevchenko toyed with the Team Hurricane Awesome standout at times, leaping in and out with punches and even obliging her with a few ground exchanges. Nothing Carmouche tried worked. She was spellbound, held captive by the overwhelming speed and precision with which she was confronted. Plenty of others have shared her fate.