LAS VEGAS – Valentina Shevchenko’s dominance has reached the point where MMA fans are shocked when she loses a round.
Shevchenko (20-3) defended the UFC’s 125-pound championship for the fourth time on Saturday, defeating Jennifer Maia (18-7-1) by unanimous decision. All three judges scored it as a blowout victory for the champion, 49-46.
The Air Force title fights with UFC 255 inside the Apex.
“I’m very happy it was five rounds because I had a long firing,”
“Preparing for this fight, I knew she would not be an easy opponent. I saw her fight and saw what she is. She never gave up. I knew it would be a good fight for the belt.”
All in all, it was a dominant performance by the 32-year-old champion, who is ESPN’s No. 2 ranked female pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. There was a brief spark of hope for Maia, but in the second round, when she managed to pull Shevchenko down, put her on her back and only become the second flyweight in UFC history to win a round over Shevchenko.
The MMA community immediately responded to Maia’s ability to level the score after two rounds, but any optimism she could draw what would have been the biggest bet in UFC history was short-lived. Shevchenko took easy control in the third round, including his own removal, and ran away on the scorecards the rest of the way.
“Every time I work on both, striking and struggling,” Shevchenko said. “I prepare my body to respond properly.”
According to UFC State data, Shevchenko persuaded Maia in total strikes 231-101 – and the discrepancy showed. Maya’s face was bloody at the end of the match, and Shevchenko earned plenty of style points with spinning elbows and kicks. She mixed in five successful takedowns that bind the most she has recorded in a UFC fight. She used five takedowns in her decision victory over Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the vacant title in 2018.
Maia from Curitiba, Brazil, proved to be a resilient opponent, and her physical strength by simply holding Shevchenko down in the second round and against the fence during other parts of the match was worth noting, but she scored very little actual offense and was a easy goal in the last round, when Shevchenko had clearly found his groove.
Shevchenko, who was born in Kyrgyzstan and is fighting out of Las Vegas, could meet former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade in her next title defense. She will likely be a major favorite in this match, but the belief is that it will be her toughest test since claiming the belt in 2018. Since then, her defenses have come against Jessica Eye, Liz Carmouche, Katlyn Chookagian and Maia.
To add a bonus to the evening, Shevchenko’s older sister, Antonina, also picked up a win on Saturday, knocking Ariane Lipski out on the UFC 255 undercard.