Valentina Shevchenko’s first UFC knockout was a shot heard around the world.
Heading into her first flyweight title defense, Shevchenko was expected to walk through challenger Jessica Eye and she certainly looked the part of the dominant champion as she controlled Eye in the standup and on the ground in the first round of the UFC 238 co-main event Saturday.
The worst was yet to come for Eye as Shevchenko’s body kicks forced her defense to shift at a critical moment and as she moved her hands to protect her mid-section, “Bullet” connected with a shin that landed right across Eye’s forehead. Eye collapsed onto her back immediately, unmoving.
It was a scary scene and like everyone else, Shevchenko could only wait to see the condition that Eye was in before proceeding to celebrate her victory. Shevchenko was asked at the evening’s post-fight press conference if she was concerned for Eye once she saw the effects of her strike and her response was pragmatic.
“The very first moment, you cannot think about this because the fight is still going and while she was going to the floor, I still was thinking that maybe—I didn’t know how deep it was,” Shevchenko said. “It wasn’t until the referee stopped the fight and I went to my corner, I saw that she was not getting up. And then I start to think. But the very, very first moment, it’s difficult to think about it.”
“First of all, of course it’s sport,” Shevchenko continued. “It’s MMA and we are training for this. If you are not doing this kind of KO, you will get this kind of KO, and no one wants to get it. That’s why we are training very hard to be better than our opponents. Everybody who steps into the Octagon, they know what they can get inside.”
At 125 pounds, Shevchenko has lived up to the highest of expectations, handing out a lopsided beating to Priscila Cachoeira and then winning a clear-cut five-round decision against Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231 in December. In both fights, she showed her top shelf all-around game, though she couldn’t finish either woman with a one-shot KO as she did to Eye.
Shevchenko was not hunting for the spectacular finish, rather she pounced on the opportunity when she saw an opening.
“About this exact kick, it’s about the exact moment,” Shevchenko said. “But in my training, I train everything, because being an MMA fighter, I have to be able to use every single moment to win the fight. And if I see the opportunity to make KO, I can do it, because I have [the tools], and if I see opportunity to make submission, I will be able to do it because I was training for it. That’s why I think it’s very important to train everything.”
Up next for Shevchenko could be another woman who was victorious on Saturday, top contender Katlyn Chookagian. “Blonde Fighter” defeated Joanne Calderwood by unanimous decision to pick up her fourth win in five fights (the only loss during that stretch came via split decision against Eye) and entered the night No. 2 in the UFC’s official flyweight rankings.
Shevchenko said she’d like to compete again in 3-4 months and if it’s Chookagian who is booked for her second title defense, she’ll be ready.
“I didn’t see the fight because I didn’t see any fight on the card,” Shevchenko said. “But if she’s in the position of No. 1 contender, why not?”