Valentina Shevchenko showed that she is the woman to be beat in the flyweight division with her dominance of former strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231 on Saturday in Toronto.
Shevchenko had defeated Jedrzejczyk three times previously, but all three of those bouts were contested under Muay Thai rules. Things didn’t change much as they stepped into the Octagon. If anything, Shevchenko looked even more dominant.
While Jedrzejczyk quickly established an approach of darting in and out, using her quickness to try take control of the fight with quantity; Shevchenko patiently sat back, waiting for her opportunities to counter, which she did to great effect.
As Jedrzejczyk darted in with lightning quick punches, Shevchenko clinched and put Jedrzejczyk on her back. The former strawweight champion was quick to regain her feet, but Shevchenko was just as quick to land a hard knee to the face as they regained their footing.
Again, Jedrzejczyk tried to use her speed to her advantage, but Shevchenko was more effective in utilizing her strength advantage to wear on Jedrzejczyk along the fence.
Though Jedrzejczyk was able to escape and immediately started throwing again, Shevchenko landed a devastating spinning back kick as the opening round wore down.
The remainder of the fight played out in similar fashion.
Jedrzejczyk wasn’t short on motivation, never slowing, continuing to dart in and out, peppering Shevchenko with a quick jab, low kicks, and front kicks, but Shevchenko remained steady in her countering, landing the more effective shots as the fight wore on. She also continued to land takedowns.
A particularly devastating takedown came not when Shevchenko caught a Jedrzejczyk kick and tossed her to the canvas, but after Jedrzejczyk regained her footing. Almost the instant they were back to their feet, Shevchenko threw Jedrzejczyk hard to the canvas, marking the point in the fight where it became nearly impossible for Jedrzejczyk to shift the momentum to her favor.
Jedrzejczyk tried valiantly to take control. Midway through the fight, she nearly did when she stuck Shevchenko with a solid one-two combination and followed with a head kick, but Shevchenko quickly returned to her clinch and takedown strategy, which shifted the momentum back to her favor.
Though Jedrzejczyk never slowed down, she also never really could find an answer to Shevchenko’s strength and timing, which only improved as the fight wore on.
Shevchenko slowed a bit in the final minutes of the fight, but her timing never waned. If anything, she became more selective but made up for less quantity with more power.
The judges agreed, issuing unanimous scores of 49-46 in Shevchenko’s favor, naming her the new UFC flyweight champion of the world.
“I was waiting for so long this moment, for those magic words,” Shevchenko said after the fight.
It was Shevchenko’s second consecutive victory at 125 pounds after failing twice to defeat UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes.
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After reigning supreme for several years, the loss was Jedrzejczyk’s third in her last four bouts, leaving her to reassess whether she should remain at flyweight or return for another run at strawweight.
Though she dominated the bout, Shevchenko gave full credit to Jedrzejczyk, almost thanking her for adding a level of validation to her UFC flyweight championship.
“I am very happy that I get this belt in the fight with Joanna because she is very professional,” said Shevchenko.
“It is more valor for me to get this belt from this kind of fight than any other opponent.”
(Photo courtesy of UFC)