Don't Wait, UFC: Book Valentina Shevchenko vs. Amanda Nunes and Weili Zhang ASAP

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2020

Valentina Shevchenko celebrates after defeating Jessica Eye during their women's flyweight title mixed martial arts bout at UFC 238, Saturday, June 8, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

Nothing is worse than superfights that should have happened but never did.

After watching UFC women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko defeat rugged Brazilian contender Jennifer Maia over five rounds on Saturday night in the co-main event of UFC 255 at UFC APEX in Las Vegas, it's crystal clear that UFC president Dana White should book Shevchenko in superfights against Amanda Nunes and Weili Zhang as soon as possible.

Because anything can happen in MMA, and Shevchenko-Maia was a good reminder of that.

ESPN MMA @espnmma

Another challenger falls to flyweight queen @BulletValentina 👑 #UFC255 https://t.co/ClovUX6AYD

Entering the fight, ESPN's Jon Anik noted that Maia was vying to become the biggest underdog (+950 per DraftKings) to win a fight in UFC history.

"A lot of people were looking at this fight as an execution," Joe Rogan added.

There were good reasons for this. Shevchenko, 32, from Kyrgyzstan, was undefeated in her natural weight class of 125 pounds. She had hardly even been tested there, and she had been a huge favorite in all of her title defenses to this point.

Entering UFC 255, Shevchenko's 55 percent significant striking accuracy was tops in the women's 125-pound division. To make matters worse for Maia, Shevchenko also entered UFC 255 with the highest significant striking defense rate in the division's history (71.2 percent).

But beyond mere statistical analysis, Shevchenko can just plain fight.

Her athleticism alone separates her from most of her opponents, and the Kyrgyzstani fighter carries with her into the Octagon on fight night the kind of experience only someone who started training at the tender age of five could have.

But Maia made things a lot harder on Shevchenko than most people expected. In fact, there were brief moments during the second round that pretty much everyone watching the fight was forced to wonder whether Shevchenko's title reign was about to go up in smoke.

UFC @ufc

"This is extraordinary..." 🇧🇷 @JenniMaiaUFC is capitalizing early! #UFC255 https://t.co/JT8onwDYEb

But Shevchenko withstood Maia's ground-and-pound assault in the second round, and the women's flyweight champion retained her title via powerful strikes and timely takedowns over the rest of the fight.

While women's flyweight does include the likes of Lauren Murphy and former women's strawweight champion Jessica Andrade, the real money would be pitting Shevchenko against the likes of Nunes or Zhang in UFC champion vs. UFC champion fights.

Sure, Nunes, 32, from Brazil, already twice defeated Shevchenko, but the women's flyweight champion has improved greatly since those defeats. Besides, there are some in the sport who believe Shevchenko deserved the nod in the second fight anyway.

Meanwhile, Zhang, 31, from China has looked scary good since grabbing hold of the women's strawweight throne.

On top of that, Zhang, like Shevchenko, is a tremendously fast and powerful striker. The two going head-to-head could produce a Fight of the Year candidate.

In case your wondering, White revealed earlier this week he's already got some big fights in mind for Shevchenko.

"There's talk of her and Weili Zhang if Weili wins her next fight," White told TMZ Sports.

And the Nunes trilogy?

"Sure. Those two keep cleaning out divisions, it just makes sense to see those two fight again," White told TMZ Sports.

As for Shevchenko, she said she's down for that kind of action, too.

"I'm not discarding any opportunity," Shevchenko told Heavy earlier this week.

And then, Shevchenko went on to suggest she would be ready for those superfights against Zhang and Nunes whenever they seemed best for everyone involved.

With apologies to the rest of the field in all three weight classes, that's most assuredly right now. Because anything can happen in MMA, so the UFC should do whatever it takes to make those fights happen now.

"It's going to be great," Shevchenko said, per Heavy. "When it’s going to be there… When there is only one fight that makes sense for everyone, we are going to do it.”

Indeed, superfights are great, but only when they actually happen.


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