Before UFC 255, the storyline for women’s flyweight would be whether or not anyone could beat Valentina Shevchenko, period, let alone within the next several years. Shevchenko isn’t just a graceful fight lattice of highly defined skills. She’s also highly driven. Whatever fighting is to Shevchenko, she’s been engineered to do it. Or at least that was the storyline until Jennifer Maia came along.
The perception now is that Maia made Shevchenko look ‘human.’ I suppose one round of grappling Shevchenko to the ground, and five rounds of dippy UFC commentary will do that to people. If dominance is a spectrum, sure, maybe Shevchenko didn’t go Full Anthony Johnson vs. Tommy Speer or anything, but Maia having momentary top control for one round and Shevchenko kind of fast fooding her normal strategy do not a “competitive” fight make.
Shevchenko is still the woman to beat. Nothing has changed. Nor will it. Although there is this former strawweight...
Andrade shouldn’t be next, but it’s better than Calderwood
As it is with any division still gathering, and making history, flyweight continues to be a revolving door of contenders who either have a clear shelf-life, or are coming from other divisions. Shevchenko was originally scheduled to face Joanne Calderwood at UFC 251 before an injury sidelined the bout: nothing against Calderwood, but that tells you a lot about the division’s status.
In some ways, Jessica Andrade entering the flyweight fray is fitting. 2-2 in her last four regardless, she’s a former champion, and a handful for most fighters (with Weili Zhang being the only one strenuously objecting to that statement). And best of all: Shevchenko wants her. It’s not the fight I think Andrade has earned, or deserves, but as William Money once said, ‘deserve’s got nothing to do with it.’
Don’t find Shevchenko a superfight
I like superfights. Fedor vs. Brock would have been great, and the same could be said for GSP vs. Anderson Silva. But superfights don’t come from nothing, They happen precisely because a champion has demonstrated beyond all shadow of a doubt that they are, in fact, the Daigo of their division, and legacies like that take time.
To that end, I’d like to see Shevchenko string together so many wins that she brands the division ‘boring,’ for lack of a better word. Plus, we’ve already seen her fight Amanda Nunes. I’m glad she’s ‘not impressed’ — my word, not hers — with Zhang. And I’m glad she ‘doesn’t care’ — her words this time, not mine — if Nunes retires before a potential trilogy.
Whoever’s next needs to prove they’re next
I know. Pretty obvious, isn’t it? Well yes. It’s very obvious. More to the point, what choice does the UFC have? Women’s flyweight has to contend with a much smaller stable. Vanessa Porto got signed by Bellator. And flyweight isn’t exactly brimming with prospects.
Still, I can’t say I mind if Shevchenko is ‘on ice’ for longer than she needs if it means one win over Calderwood, and one loss to Katlyn Chookagian isn’t enough for Maia to get a title shot. And it’s not just Maia. Liz Carmouche and Jessica Eye did what they were supposed to do, but their resumes didn’t add the spice needed to fuel the legitimacy of fighting for a title. This isn’t an argument for less fights. It’s an argument for more: more matchups involving contenders versus veterans, and maybe even some exhibition fights for Shevchenko.
Is that crazy? Just stupid? Maybe. But we didn’t complain when Anderson Silva fought James Irvin and Forrest Griffin. Nor did we complain when Fedor violently discarded non-contenders like Zulu and Goodridge. Maybe Shevchenko is not the fighter to showcase in this fashion, but anything to avoid a Chookagian rematch, or whatever could resemble the bout versus Priscila Cachoeira ever again is a good thing in my hot-take opinion.