Our first of two title fights this weekend at UFC 231 in Toronto, sees two of the most technical strikers in women’s mixed martial arts history clash for the vacant flyweight title as former professional Muay Thai foes, Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jedrzejczyk meet.
Shevchenko acts as the welcoming party for Joanna who makes her division return after two straight defeats to Rose Namajunas at strawweight and a decision win over Tecia Torres, while ‘Bullet’ Valentina made the drop to flyweight from bantamweight after a rematch loss to Amanda Nunes. Kyrgyzstan native Shevchenko was tipped to reign supreme at 125lbs and exacted a brutal first and second round beat down on Brazilian newcomer Priscila Cachoeira at the beginning of the year to earn an immediate title shot.
Despite this being the first time these women have clashed in mixed-martial arts competition, they are more than familiar with each other’s striking pedigree – Shevchenko picked up two decision victories over the Pole during they’re Muay Thai careers back in 2007.
A seamless transition to MMA displayed Valentina’s incredible striking and distance management to a wider audience and earmarked her as a potential world champion. Notable wins against the likes of former Bantamweight queen Holly Holm, top contender Julianna Pena and a one-sided victory over Cachoeira flaunted leaps in her grappling. The Judo black belt scored multiple takedowns over Holm and submitted both Pena and Priscila and landed her trademark counter right hand at will, something the more aggressive volume striker Jedrzejczyk must be wary of.
Before her first-round knockout defeat to ‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas back in 2017, Joanna was regarded as one of the most formidable forces in Octagon history. An undefeated 14-0 pressure fighter who had dispatched each and every one of her opponents with relative ease, this undefeated record led to some considerable bravado and almost a feeling of invincibility, something Namajunas exploited.
On paper, Joanna was expected to steamroll Rose but was dropped twice in the exchanges of a frantic paced first round and in a mere three minutes, her Strawweight throne was over. A redemption story followed a much more collected Jedrzejczyk into her rematch with ‘Thug’ Rose and despite a much-improved showing, she lost a close decision to Namajunas. An incensed Joanna was convinced she regained her crown and disagreed with the judge’s unanimous decision ruling. Tecia Torres was next in line for Jedrzejczyk and despite some cagey exchanges, Joanna scored a three round decision win.
Olsztyn native Jedrzejczyk has made the 125lbs limit before, amassing a 5-0 record at the weight and a return to Flyweight will more than likely benefit Joanna, with her well-documented struggle to meet the Strawweight limit leaving her compromised, although it would be hard to notice given her dominance over the division for such a long time.
Shevchenko is the better grappler in this one but Joanna has been tested before in wrestling exchanges and has come out on top. Joanna’s pace pushing, volume striking style could bare the key to Valentina’s success with her distance control and counter striking ability second to none. Expect a highly significant and total strike count come to the culmination of this one with Valentina landing quickest.
Valentina Shevchenko via unanimous decision.