After Valentina Shevchenko defeated Jéssica Andrade at UFC 261, she sent a warning to the rest of the division.
“I want to say one thing. While my opponents try to figure out what is a weakness of mine, don’t waste your time. There is none,” Shevchenko told Joe Rogan during her post-fight interview.
Taila Santos did not heed that warning, though. The No. 4 ranked contender sought out what she sees as weaknesses of the reigning flyweight champion before their fight at UFC 275 on Saturday.
Santos admitted there were not a lot of weaknesses but still found a few that could be exploited. And that is enough to become the first woman to dethrone Shevchenko.
“She’s about as close as you can get to a perfect fighter, but nobody is perfect,” said Santos through an interpreter (video provided by MMA Fighting). “There’s always room for improvements for everybody. Doing the tape study, we were able to locate a few things we can work on and that’s basically what the strategy has been put around those flaws that we found, and that’s what I’m going to impose on Saturday.”
Shevchenko has heard the exact same thing from each of her opponents before their fights. It had no effect on ‘Bullet’, who dominated those opponents and successfully defended her flyweight championship six times. She told assembled media that Santos could try to convince herself she could win, but it will not work.
“I think it’s kind of hypnotizing herself, trying to convince there is something there should be,” said Shevchenko during media day (video provided by MMA Fighting). “Like everyone is not perfect. Definitely not everyone is perfect. But all of my opponents, they were saying the same. The same over and over.
“It’s like, ‘No one is unbeatable. She has some holes in her game,’” continued Shevchenko. “But once they step inside the Octagon, they feel the opposite side. They feel the difference between the fighters and this is the most important. She’s trying to hypnotize herself to convince that there should be, but she’s wrong. It’s not gonna work for her.”
If Shevchenko defeats Santos, there are a few options at flyweight for her to consider, given the recent emergence of contenders like Alexa Grasso or Manon Fiorot. There is also a chance she returns to the bantamweight division and challenges the winner of Julianna Peña vs. Amanda Nunes 2 that is scheduled for UFC 277 on July 30.
The Tiger Muay Thai product has a win over Peña and two close losses to Nunes, but would entertain a fight against either woman for her next outing.
“No matter what outcome is gonna be in their fight in July, either works for me because it’ll be an interesting fight against Amanda and we have history with Julianna because a few years ago, I submitted her,” said Shevchenko. “So either option is gonna work for me.”
UFC 275 goes down on Saturday, June 11, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore.