Despite its rather short lifespan so far the UFC women’s flyweight division has had a rather eventful and strange existence, with the crowning of the inaugural champ in Nicco Montano to her vacating after weight troubles and now a seemingly unbeatable ex-bantamweight contender holding the title. What is next for the division?
That is one of the trickiest questions to answer in the UFC as there is seemingly no reasonable challenge for the highly accomplished striker and grappler in Valentina Shevchenko.
At the time of writing this Valentina Shevchenko has defended her title three times against top tier talents in Liz Carmouche, Jessica Eye and Katlyn Chookagian. These were all high ranked competitors at the time of their fights yet Shevchenko didn’t seem to be in danger at any point other than her very recent encounter with Jennifer Maia where she seemed to have some ring rust early on and was controlled in the clinch and on the ground in the second round. How she quickly adjusted to Maia’s style and started looking sharp as usual, making her way to a very clear unanimous decision where she clearly won 4 out of 5 rounds.
So this leaves us wondering about the landscape of the division after this fight, to which I bring forward Jessica Andrade, having recently made her debut in women’s flyweight just last month with a fantastic body shot TKO on Chookagian who Shevchenko was either unable or chose not to finish. This fast-tracked her to the number one contender slot in the division and it appears that she will be next in line. Jessica Andrade was previously the strawweight champion after knocking out Rose Namajunas with a high single-leg slam, she lost to the current champion Zhang Weili.
Alexa Grasso also recently moved up to flyweight from strawweight after having lost to the inaugural strawweight champion Carla Esparza and then missing weight in her scheduled fight against Claudia Gadelha which forced her to move up the additional 10 pounds to flyweight. Grasso is a capable boxer with great pressure and cardio, she outpointed Karolina Kowalkiewicz with ease before dropping her close decision against Carla Esparza. After missing weight she made her 125 debuts against Ji Yeon Kim where she showed crisp boxing and a very strong sense of distance management and given that she is only 27 years old, 5 years the junior of Shevchenko it is very likely we will see her develop her game massively in the coming years, we will see her next fight against Maycee “The Future” Barber who is even younger at only 22.
So the landscape of the division currently seems shallow and barren with only Jessica Andrade being an immediate contender however we have top young talents in Alexa Grasso and Maycee Barber eager to shake the division up in the coming years as their abilities are refined and their natural talents honed.