The Start of an Era of Greatness: Valentina Shevchenko
By James Lee
As Valentina Shevchenko leaned against the back of the cage, her eyes solely focused on the unconscious Jessica Eye, who she had just dismantled in under six minutes, a new era of unprecedented greatness had just presented itself on the sport.
A greatness where the champion is so dominant, the act of beating contenders is a somewhat formality, and easy to foreshadow.
The thud of her left high kick at UFC 238 was heard around the world, but the perpetrator was the quietest in Chicago’s United Center. Assassin-like as Joe Rogan had described her. An assassin with years of experience, fighting in multiple different disciplines all her life.
As Dana White entered the cage to congratulate the defending champion, Shevchenko gave him a bow. A bow signalling another opponent defeated. Another victory with ease.
The number one contender was an 8/1 underdog against the champion and if anybody had expected Eye to have success, it would have been in the grappling realm. The champion shut down those theories however, by proving she was the better grappler in the first round before finishing her opponent early in the second with a knockout of the year contender.
No follow-up strike was necessary. Just a brutally clean knockout.
There is something eerie about the most dangerous flyweight in the world nodding to the sound of calm, traditional Eastern European folk dance music whilst entering the world’s most dangerous combat arena. A calm and ostensibly unassured presence, but one that isn’t deceived as a weakness.
She is almost an anomaly in today’s UFC, being a champion so dominant that her inside-the-cage antics is all that attracts attention.
Shevchenko has a lifetime of work in combat sports. She started her journey at five years old in Taekwondo before taking on muay thai and kickboxing, where she later on amassed a kickboxing record of 56-2 before her last contest in 2015.
The Kyrgyzstan-native initially delved into professional MMA in 2003 at the age of fifteen, going 7-0 by 2006, before taking a four year hiatus from the sport to concentrate on her kickboxing and muay thai.
Upon returning to the sport in 2010, she suffered her first MMA loss to Liz Carmouche via second-round TKO. About half way into the second round, a kick from Carmouche caused a cut above the eye of Shevchenko, with the doctors calling an end to the fight and therefore ending the fight in an unsatisfying manner.
Consequently, a rematch with the American will be Shevchenko’s next title defence this Saturday in the UFC’s debut in Uruguay. A chance to clear up a bitter and unfulfilling ending to her first professional loss. Also a chance to add another red stone onto her belt.
Carmouche represents her toughest challenge currently in the flyweight rankings, with her jiu jitsu experience potentially a threat. Even her biggest threat is a 5/1 underdog. Shevchenko is so dominant she is expected to dominate in both striking and grappling.
Providing she is successful in Montevideo, the 31-year-old will enter a period of expected dominance that is difficult to see an end to at this moment. A period in that we could see the record number of consecutive title defences broken. She has placed herself amongst the best pound for pound fighters in the world and right now, nobody looks at her level.
Aside from her potential record-breaking dominance, the 125 lbs champion could become a big star for the UFC with the right marketing push. A highly-skilled, attractive, dominant champion sells. Especially with her support from the South American, Asian and Russian market.
Eventually a shocking loss of her flyweight title might come, but until then, the fighting world should begin to appreciate a period of dominance that they are about to be a part of.