Chookagian vs Shevchenko Preview
By James Lee
Saturday night will see the UFC continue alone in the major sporting world, as they return for their fourth event since their pause amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
As they opened back up in Jacksonville, they will instead return to Las Vegas on Saturday, with a welterweight contender fight between former champion Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns headlining.
Despite most concentration being fixed on the headliner, a flyweight fight between Antonina Shevchenko and Katlyn Chookagian has the most intriguing backstory and is therefore worthy of the highest anticipation. Crucially, it acts as yet another embodiment of the quality at 125 lbs.
Although formally established in 2017, the women’s 125 lbs division is the promotion’s newest, but has already established itself as a staple to the sport’s regular appearance and Saturday will be no different. In fact, it will feature two mainstays of the division across the three years.
It is not difficult however to establish who has more on the line though. Katlyn Chookagian is coming off a loss to flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko; sister to her opponent on the weekend strangely.
Although a heavy underdog, Chookagian stood little chance in her championship fight in February, as she fell drastically short in the third round. If the New York fighter maintains her serious title ambitions, a vital step would be to beat the champion’s sister and build towards a rematch.
In Antonina Shevchenko’s case, she is seemingly on a path of no end. Her sister is as dominant as any champion in UFC history and it seems as if she will keep the flyweight title until she pleases which doesn’t bode well for all below her in the rankings. Unquestionably, a win for Antonina would be positive, but the question still lingers over her fighting future, regardless of Saturday’s outcome.
La Pantera’s last outing was her most impressive. A submission victory meant she became the first fighter to finish fellow European Lucie Pudilova and rectify her first career loss months prior. Nevertheless, she could climb to the number one contender spot, but will seemingly never reach the sport’s top.
Her sister Valentina is almost an anomaly in the UFC today, being a champion so dominant that her inside-the-cage antics are all that amount of attention. The pair share a lifetime of work in martial arts, but with her sister at the throne, it seems Antonina’s title aspirations will never be fulfilled.
Aside from the backstory, the bout is expected to be a back-and-forth striking battle as both women have thrived in striking. Shevchenko clearly has the more extensive kickboxing record, but Chookagian has more experience in MMA, especially in the sport’s largest outlet.
The betting odds are close which further adds intrigue to an already attractive encounter and although the main event has serious championship implications, the backstory behind the preliminary card headliner means it is one that should not be missed.