Valentina Shevchenko takes on Jennifer Maia this weekend at UFC 255. In this fight, she’s a -1300 favorite and to be quite honest, she’s held similar odds since joining the flyweight division. Against Chookagian she was -1200, Liz Carmouche was -1100, Jessica Eye was -1400, Priscila Cachoeira was -1000. Joanna Jedrzejczyk was “close” at -320 but that fight proved to be a one sided whooping by Shevchenko. Where’s the challenge for Bullet?
Who is there for Valentina Shevchenko?
The most obvious chose for Valentina Shevchenko is Amanda Nunes. Nunes has two wins over Shevchenko but they’re not very Amanda Nunes-y. Nunes struggled with the technicality of Shevchenko and many people thought she won the second fight. Nunes is now a double champion and is in a similar boat to Valentina: who is left? There’s Megan Anderson at 145 and then it’s bone dry with undesirable rematches. My inkling is the fact that Nunes already has two wins over Shevchenko and a third fight could go the same way, but it would be the most challenging fight for both champions. But, how does the UFC brass sell that fight? “Hey, here’s Nunes-Shevchenko 3. Amanda is up 2-0 and if Valentina wins, she’s still losing in the trilogy.” That doesn’t make much sense and is just asking for low PPV ratings.
The second option is another strawweight. The champion, actually. Weili Zhang dethroned Jessica Andrade and then defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her first defense. Zhang is fantastic at flyweight and shredded at that. She could conceivably bulk up and take a shot at becoming double champ. My issue with that is how hard she fought with Jedrzejczyk. That fight was probably your fight of the year up until this point and without her finishing Jedrzejczyk, it’s a hard sell for the UFC to make that fight. Aside from champion versus champion, why spoil their number one fighter in the Chinese market? Dana White and company are likely to steer clear from this one for some time.
Jessica Andrade is the best option for the next logical shot at Valentina Shevchenko’s belt. Andrade is the former strawweight champion and made her UFC flyweight debut at UFC Fight Island 6. Andrade dominated the long and lanky Katlyn Chookagian, a former title challenger. It seems as if Andrade still retains her power at 125 as well. The win was a hook to the body that shut down the live of Chookagian, something rare in WMMA. Being a former title holder, Andrade would be another great name on the resume of Valentina Shevchenko.
Last but not least is Rose Namajunas. Namajunas is another former champion and has some unique skills that could test Valentina Shevchenko. First is Trevor Wittman, the mastermind behind the evolution of Justin Gaethje. Wittman is a master tactician and, while he was caught off guard by Khabib in the Gaethje fight, who can blame him? Khabib is one of the best ever. Wittman can utilize Namajunas’ specific skills to present problems Shevchenko hasn’t faced yet: superb footwork. It is that footwork that won Namajunas her title at 115.
While three of these options are strawweights, these are really the only fights that matter for Valentina Shevchenko at this point in time. Everything else will just be another -1000 in Vegas. Thanks for reading!