Valentina Shevchenko: A detriment to the UFC women’s flyweight division?

Valentina Shevchenko: A detriment to the UFC women’s flyweight division?

It is not often in the sport of MMA that a fighter comes along who is so talented that they quite simply make the rest of the division look like amateurs in comparison. This was the case with the likes of Demetrious Johnson on his historic 11 fight title reign at men’s flyweight, where it seemed that the rest of competition was years behind in skill level. His level of greatness was never truly recognised amongst most fans – especially amongst the more casual fans – and he left the UFC with very little notoriety for ONE championship after only one razor-thin split decision loss to Henry Cejudo in 2018.

Johnson’s dominance over the division certainly wasn’t the only reason for his lack of recognition amongst the fans – the men’s flyweight division has long been seen as the least the entertaining weight class in the UFC – but a clear lack of any true challenge for the champ certainly removed any intrigue going into most of his title bouts.

This could seemingly be a problem regarding the current women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko. The aptly named ‘Bullet’ hailing from Kazakhstan is by far one of the most complete and dominant fighters that the sport has ever seen, especially after the UFC created a natural weight class for her in 2017. Shevchenko had already beaten every opponent she faced in the weight class above, bantamweight, bar the current champion, Amanda Nunes, in two close title bouts.

Since becoming the champion by defeating Joana Jedrzejczyk for the vacant title at UFC 231, there has been no close competition for the champion. In her first title defence against Jessica Eye, she obliterated Eye with a spectacular head kick only 26 seconds into the second round after a dominant showing up to that point. She has since defended the title twice since then and been shown no resistance against opponents in the already shallow talent pool of a division.

It does then beg the question – does Shevchenko’s dominance remove any intrigue from upcoming title bouts? She is scheduled to take on Jennifer Maia at UFC 255 and most see this fight as a forgone conclusion. The Las Vegas odds certainly do – Shevchenko sits as a staggering -1100 favourite for the bout. Whilst it can be interesting to see how Valentina will dispatch her opponents in upcoming bouts, it doesn’t exactly create fresh matchups for division and it doesn’t seem like it will be long before the ‘Bullet’ has wiped out any potential contender that the division has to offer.

There aren’t many solutions to this issue – unless a new up and coming talent emerge in the division to challenge Shevchenko. The UFC could book Shevchenko against Nunes for a third time in a bout that most would consider the best competitive matchup for the flyweight champion, but the the issue still remains when she returns to the division.

The division is in danger of stagnating entirely, and I believe that once all plausible contenders for the champion have been tested and 125 lbs, we could see Dana White do what he planned to with men’s flyweight. Dissolve the division entirely.

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