With Nicco Montano stripped of her 125-pound belt earlier this year because of weight cut-related issues, two of the baddest females in professional mixed martial arts (MMA) today — Valentina Shevchenko and former women’s Strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk — locked horns for the promotion’s vacant Flyweight title in UFC 231’s pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event tonight (Sat., Dec. 8, 2018) from inside Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
It was a fairly competitive fight if not dull at times, but after 25 minutes of action, it was clear that Shevchenko’s effective counter attacks and body lock takedowns were just too much for Joanna to overcome, ultimately earning her a unanimous decision win (49-46x3), and of course, her first-ever UFC belt after a hard-fought, passionate championship chase.
Shevchenko got on the judges scorecards early with a strong takedown, slamming Joanna to the canvas and pinning her there until the former champion was eventually able to work her way back to her feet. Shevchenko did not relent on the pressure, though, pressing Joanna up against the fence and angling for another takedown. She was unsuccessful, though, settling for a compact elbow on the break that forced Joanna to adjust her mouthpiece. Joanna tried to get something — anything — going at the end of the round, but all she did was essentially shadow box until it came to a close.
Joanna continued to shadow box to start the second stanza; meanwhile, Shevchenko connected with a front kick to the face and a flashy spinning backfist. Joanna continued to pump out all sorts of strikes that caught nothing but air, allowing Shevchenko to sit back and actually land counter shots. Nothing of significance landed, though, for either fighter in the empty exchanges. With about 90 seconds remaining in the round, Shevchenko scored her third takedown of the match and was able to land some nice short punches and elbows. Joanna tried to get back to her feet, but Shevchenko drilled her with a knee to the face and another takedown to close out another dominant round.
Joanna tried to muster offense to start the the third round, but once again, Shevchenko timed it right and blasted her in the chest with a solid spinning back kick. Midway through the frame, Joanna actually began to land some shots, including a solid right hand and a kick upstairs — her best shots of the fight. Toward the end of the round, Shevchenko was once again able to get Joanna pinned up against the fence, where she drilled her with two nice knees to the face. Blood trickled out of Joanna’s nose as she headed to her corner for the quick break.
In the championship rounds (four and five), it was seemingly just more of the same: Joanna pumping shots into thin air and Shevchenko countering with more efficient shots that actually landed. Joanna did pick up the pace, more than likely realizing that she was down on the judges scorecards, but she simply did not have the tools and/or ability to dent Shevchenko’s armor. Perhaps it was because she was up against a bigger, stronger opponent, but regardless of size or strength, Shevchenko outclassed her tonight in all aspects of MMA.
This certainly puts Jedrzejczyk — who has now suffered defeats in three consecutive title bouts — in a terrible spot. She moved up a weight class because she could not defeat Rose Namajunas, and now she has proven that she can’t topple Shevchenko, who also holds three previous wins over her in international Muay Thai / kickboxing competition.
Nevertheless, that’s for Dana White and Co. to figure out sometime in 2019. For now, Shevchenko deserves this night — she has worked perhaps harder than any female on UFC’s roster to hoist that strap after a pair of tough losses to current Bantamweight queenpin, Amanda Nunes.
For complete UFC 231: “Holloway vs. Ortega” results, including play-by-play updates, click here.