LAS VEGAS – Valentina Shevchenko’s dominance has reached a point where MMA fans are surprised when she loses the round.
Shevchenko (20-3) defended the UFC 125-pound championship for the fourth time on Saturday, defeating Jennifer Maia (18-7-1) by a unanimous decision. All three judges won him -4 .– 46, for the champ.
Flyweight title fight co-titled UFC 255 inside Apex.
“I’m very glad it was five rounds, because I had a long layoffs,” said Shevkenko, who fought for the first time since February to win TKO Katlyn Chookagian. “I need to feel the spirit in the octagon to know the fighting spirit. I’m back healthy, 100 percent. Nothing is bothering me. I’m glad he was Jennifer Maia, tough opponent, first, and then he’s gone the distance, so I know I am 100 percent healthy for the next time.
“Preparing for this fight, I knew she wouldn’t be an easy opponent. I watched her fight and saw what it was. She never gave up. I knew it would be a good fight for the belt.”
All told, it was a strong performance of the 32-year-old champion, ESPN’s No. 2 ranked female pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. There was a brief lack of hope for Maia, however, in the second round, when she managed to pull Shevchenko down, put her on her back and became only the second flightweight in UFC history to win a round over Shevchenko.
The MMA community immediately reacted to Maia’s ability to score even after two rounds, but any optimism he could pull off would upset the biggest bet in UFC history was short-lived. Shevchenko easily took control in the third round, which included one of his own takedowns, and ran on the rest of the scorecards.
“Every time, I work on both, strike and quarrel,” Shevchenko said. “I prepare my body to react properly.”
According to UFC statistics, Shevchenko outlawed Maya in a total strike of 231-101 – and showing inconsistencies. Maia’s face was bloodied at the end of the fight, and Shevchenko earned plenty of style points with spinning elbows and kicks. She merged into five successful withdrawals, the most combined she has ever recorded in a UFC fight. She used five withdrawals in her decision to win over Joanna Jedrejjekjek for the vacant title in 2018.
Brazil’s Kuritibani Maiya proved to be an resilient opponent, and during other parts of the fight her physical strength was noticeable, just keeping Shevchenko down and against the fence, but she committed very little real offense and was an easy target through the final round, while Shevchenko clearly His groove was found.
Shevchenko, who was born in Kyrgyzstan and fought in Las Vegas, could face former Strovet champion Jessica Andrade in the next title defense. It will probably be a significant favorite in her, but the belief is that it will be her most difficult test since she claimed the belt in 2018. Since then, his defenses have come up against Jessica I, Liz Carmoche, Caitlin Chokagian and Maiya.
To add to the evening’s bonus, Shevchenko’s older sister, Antonina, also scored a victory on Saturday, beating Arian Lipsky on the UFC 255 undercard.