It didn’t take long after the brutal one sided beating of Priscilla Cachoeira at the hands of Valentina Shevchenko for UFC president Dana White to weigh in on the fight, setting blame for the fiasco squarely on the shoulders of referee Mario Yamasaki. “Unfortunately the ref is there to protect you and Mario DID NOT do that,” White declared in an Instagram post directed to Cachoeira.
Completely missing from his initial statement was any mention of the part the UFC had to play in the fight, like, oh I don’t know, booking the #1 ranked women’s bantamweight against an unranked fighter who had never competed in the UFC before. But it didn’t take long for people on social media to point that out to White, who responded in typical fashion by calling them “goofy looking f**ks” and “morons.”
“For the MORONS says it’s her UFC debut ... it’s the entire divisions debut,” he wrote. “There will be Fights like this until the entire division starts to weed out who belongs and who doesn’t. That’s why u need good officials who stop fights when they need to be stopped!!!!!!”
We can’t disagree with White’s declaration that the last line of defense is the referee, and the referee clearly failed Cachoeira in this fight. But there’s a big hole in the UFC president’s argument that this wasn’t avoidable because the division is too new for us to know any better.
Women’s flyweight may have just become a thing in the UFC, but Valentina Shevchenko has been fighting in the UFC for six fights over two and a half years. Her last fight in the organization was a title fight against 135 pound champ Amanda Nunes. It doesn’t take an expert matchmaker to see what a lopsided affair this would be. The sportsbook reflected this with Shevchenko a -1000 favorite, odds previously reserved for fighters like Ronda Rousey when she was on fire.
To put things in the starkest terms possible, when Cachoeira hit rock bottom as a crack addict in 2014, Shevchenko had already amassed a 10-1 MMA record and more kickboxing titles than you can count. That’s not to disparage Cachoeira’s past, it’s just an attempt to illustrate how obviously ridiculous this booking was on its face.
There is a disturbing truth in White’s statement, though: it’s very likely we’re going to see more ugly fights like this as the division shakes out. This win over Cachoeira puts Shevchenko firmly at the front of the line to face champ Nicco Montano, who is just 4-2 and won the inaugural women’s flyweight belt on The Ultimate Fighter. Minus the belt, you could say it’d be borderline promotional malpractice to match Shevchenko up against Montano. Yet here we are.
Still, the UFC would be smart to try to avoid more egregious mismatches when possible. As Shevchenko vs. Cachoeira showed, they’re not pretty to watch and could get someone seriously hurt. Since Cachoeira was allegedly a last resort after other fighters turned the Shevchenko fight down, they clearly knew she wasn’t a great choice ... just the best available choice. The UFC decided to book it anyways, and that’s on them.