Once again, Valentina Shevchenko proved to be too much for Joanna Jedrzejczyk, as she topped the former strawweight champion via unanimous decision in the co-main event of UFC 231 in Toronto to win the UFC women's flyweight championship Saturday.
Shevchenko's strength advantage was apparent early. She scored a quick takedown and employed a clinch-heavy strategy in the opening frame. Bullet controlled the tempo and distance as well.
She continued to bully the former strawweight champion in the second frame. The beginning of the round featured some offense from Jedrzejczyk, but there were many more clean counters from her opponent. The round ended with more takedowns and a grinding away at Jedrzejczyk with ground-and-pound.
As the fight continued, Shevchenko became more comfortable in the stand-up—willing to trade for longer and with more consequences for her foe.
Jedrzejczyk tried to play the aggressor, but every time she moved forward with an attack, Shevchenko quickly deferred it and countered with something that took the fight where she wanted it.
It was a masterful performance, and Shevchenko was celebrated appropriately.
Shevchenko and Jedrzejczyk have a history that goes back to their days as muay thai combatants. Shevchenko had the upper hand in three thai clashes, proving she's not only the better striker, but also the better mixed martial artist.
Now Shevchenko holds the title in the newly minted 125-pound women's division. Bullet had previously fought in the 135-pound class but feels much more comfortable at the lighter weight.
"It was different to fight someone bigger," she said, per Thomas Gerbasi of UFC.com. "Every time, it was thinking about the right tactics for the fight and how you have to manage this size of the opponent. Now, with more weight classes for females in the UFC, I'm very happy that I can finally fight in my best weight, where I feel just great."
Nicco Montano was the inaugural champion of the newly created division, but the UFC stripped her of the belt when she failed to weigh in (she was hospitalized) and her UFC 228 fight with Shevchenko had to be canceled.
With a name and fighter of Shevchenko's caliber at the top of the division, the new class is exciting and has lots of matchup possibilities between her and a plethora of contenders from the 135- and 115-pound levels.