Valentina Shevchenko has always been a terrific striker in MMA due to her championship-level muay Thai background, but she never showed off crushing knockout power until Saturday night.
Shevchenko was successful in the first defense of her UFC flyweight championship at UFC 238, and it couldn’t have come in a more spectacular way. While on the feet in the first and second rounds, “Bullet” continuously slammed her left shin into challenger Jessica Eye’s body. Those attacks set up the champion’s coup de grace: a devastating left head kick that knocked “Evil” Eye flat onto her back out cold, her head bouncing off the canvas like a pogo stick.
The impressive knockout instantly sent waves throughout social media, with fans and media alike enamored with the crushing blow and immediately comparing it to Holly Holm’s unbelievable head kick knockout of then-unbeaten Ronda Rousey. Some who follow the sport – and some who cover it – didn’t realize that the Kyrgyzstani bombshell had that sort of ability, but Shevchenko knew all along.
“I told everyone I’m a complete MMA fighter,” she said after retaining her 125-pound title. “I always had in mind that if I wanted to be and keep being a champion, I needed to be better in everything. And that’s what I’ve been doing; training to be the best in this sport. I’m really happy I was able to show this tonight.”
Eye was down for several moments and her body shook rather violently for a few seconds once she was iced from the champ’s shin. Thankfully Eye was able to come to and walked out of the Octagon on her own, but it was a scary and tense moment while she lied on the canvas motionless for what seemed like an eternity.
“At the very first moment [of impact], you can’t think about that because the fight is still going,” Shevchenko said in regards to any concerns she had for Eye’s well-being once the fight ended. “When she was going to the floor, I still was thinking that maybe… I did not know how [bad] it was. When the referee stopped the fight and I went to my corner, I saw that she was not getting up. Then I started to think about it. But this is a sport, this is MMA. If you don’t do that knockout to your opponent, it will happen to you. Every fighter who steps into the Octagon understands this.”
At the post-fight press conference, where she learned that she nabbed a $50K bonus for “Performance of the Night,” Shevchenko mentioned that she would love to eventually fight on the same card as her sister Antonina one day, but understands that, logistically, it might not be possible for a while. “Bullet” said she’d prefer to return to the Octagon within three or four months for her next title defense, but didn’t target any particular opponents.
Inside the cage while being interviewed by Joe Rogan, Shevchenko (17-3) stated that she is open to fighting everybody in the top 10 at flyweight. For now, however, Shevchenko would prefer to savor her latest victory.
“Anybody who is ranked No. 1 ranked in the flyweight division should have the chance to fight for the belt,” she said. “But nobody will take it away from me. I didn’t watch the fight between [Katlyn] Chookagian and Jojo [Joanne Calderwood], and I don’t want to think about a next opponent right now. Tonight I just want to celebrate my first belt defense.”