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UFC 238, The Morning After: Can anyone stand up to Valentina Shevchenko at Flyweight?

In her last four fights, Shevchenko has faced two of the greatest female fighters of all time. Opposite Amanda Nunes — the defending double champ of the two weight classes above “Bullet” — Shevchenko lost a split-decision by a margin so small it might as well have been a draw.

Afterward, she dropped down to face women of a more similar stature to her own, which resulted in a title opportunity against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, the former Strawweight queen who defended her title five times. Against the most skilled challenger available, Shevchenko was never forced out of second gear, cruising her way to a decision victory via snappy counters and clinch takedowns.

Those two fights were not the most entertaining, but there were at least competitive. The other two fights of her recent four were clinical, professional savagery. The first look we saw of Shevchenko opposite a woman her size who was not a decorated champion came against Priscila Cachoeira. Shevchenko smashed her with counters, landed savage elbows on the mat, and thoroughly brutalized the Brazilian before finishing with a submission in the second round.

It was fairly easy to write off the dominance of that win — Cachoeira was a lamb brought to slaughter in her UFC debut, and she’s winless since. Yet last night Shevchenko faced the middle ground with little change in result. Eye was not a decorated champion like Nunes or Jedrzejczyk, but she was no rookie either. A nine year pro, Eye had faced many of the best Bantamweight’s on the roster, never being finished. At her own more natural weight class of Flyweight, Eye won three straight and rightfully earned her title shot.

The result was no different. Shevchenko slammed her foe with hard body kicks from the first bell before landing a pair of effortless takedowns. She was in complete control from top position, nearly finishing an Americana in the final 10 seconds of the round. Shevchenko opened the second with those same crushing body kicks, only to go high with the kick and send Eye deep into unconsciousness.

So what’s next for Shevchenko and the women’s Flyweight division? Most likely, it’s Katlyn Chookagian, who was victorious on the undercard of last night’s event. I am a fan of “Blond Fighter.” She understands how she wants to fight, is part of a great team, and her ability to sit down on her strikes opposite Joanne Calderwood was a significant improvement.

Is she ready for Shevchenko though? She’ll need a miracle.

After Chookagian, what’s next? I suppose Liz Carmouche will probably earn a second shot at UFC gold, or perhaps pioneer Roxanne Modafferi will find herself in a title fight. Either way, it seems likely that we’ll be looking to Strawweights and Bantamweights to shift divisions and give it a shot, which is a bad sign.

Shevchenko is set to rule for a long time with few credible challengers. If UFC wants to keep the division interesting and prevent stagnation, it would be best to outbid Bellator for any Flyweight prospects or even try to sign over champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane.

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