Last night, the best fighter on the planet fought at UFC 247. No, not Jon Jones. I’m talking about Valentina Shevchenko.
Shevchenko came into her co-main event title defense against Katlyn Chookagian as the biggest favorite on the card at -1200 according to the PPV broadcast. For all intents and purposes, this was a squash match on paper. And once the cage door closed, it proved to be one in real life as well, with Shevchenko out-everything-ing Chookagian en route to a third-round mercy stoppage from top crucifix position.
But the thing is, Chookagian isn’t some scrub. This was not some promotional ploy by the UFC to build up their charismatic star against an aging veteran (*cough* McGregor-Cerrone *cough*). “Blonde Fighter” was the consensus and legitimate No. 1 contender in the division. She’s the woman that, but for Shevchenko, may well be the champion of the women’s flyweight division. Unfortunately for Chookagian, that “but for” appears to be etched into stone by divine right and she stood as much chance against “Bullet” as a random civilian would.
Shevchenko entered MMA as a multiple-time world champion in Muay Thai and kickboxing and that kind of pedigree is hard to replicate anywhere, especially in WMMA. But on top of her technically brilliant striking, she’s also proven to be a legitimately great grappler and she’s BY FAR the most athletic fighter in the division. All of it adds up to a combination that is seemingly unbeatable by the current crop of flyweights. There are just no avenues to attack her and find success.
Take the current WMMA GOAT, Amanda Nunes for instance. Nunes is rightly considered the best female fighter of all time. But despite having a significant size advantage over Bullet in their two outings, Nunes was unable to definitively best Shevchenko. This is a woman who blew the doors off Cris Cyborg in just 51 seconds but against Shevchenko, she could do none of the things that made her a dominant champion, and arguably should have lost her title. If Nunes couldn’t clearly beat Shevchenko, what chance does the flyweight division have?
No disrespect intended to the 125-pound division, but Shevchenko is so much better than her contemporaries that it strains credulity. Georges St-Pierre, Jose Aldo, Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, and Fedor Emelianenko have been (or still are) great, dominant champions, but at no point in their careers was it inconceivable that they lose. Right now, that’s where we are with Shevchenko. It’s not unfair to say that the gap between Shevchenko and the next best contender at 125 is wider than for any other champion in UFC history.
Shevchenko’s closest parallel as far as degree of dominance over her contemporaries is Demetrious Johnson, the man who set the UFC record for title defenses and has a strong claim to being called the greatest fighter of all time. Shevchenko is well on her way to setting similar records and staking her own claim for GOAT status. So just sit back and enjoy the ride. She’s going to be champion for a long time.
UFC 247 Quotes
“I do feel disrespected. One of the judges had it 49-46. Like, who are you? I might want to have a word with you. Other than that, I know I won that fight. I was in that fight. I don’t have to watch the replay. I was there. I made Jon Jones look like just a man. I brought the fight to him.” - Dominick Reyes on the controversial decision.
“I don’t think he was disrespected. I got takedowns. He got no takedowns. I got his back. At one point I put a hook in. The fifth round, I was surprised in the output difference we had.” - Jon Jones after the fight.
“The reality is? Who gives a sh*t? We’re not judges. None of us are judges. The judges call the fight and that’s that. As far as the judging and the reffing tonight, do I think it was perfect? I do not. I think that we need to do some work down here.” - Dana White after the main event.
“Lol.” - Israel Adesanya on Twitter after Jones won the decision.
Dominick Reyes: Heading into UFC 247, most people were writing off Dominick Reyes and his claims that Jon Jones had never fought someone like him before. Then for the better part of the fight, Reyes backed his talk up, out-striking the champion and hurting him on a couple of occasions. Ultimately the judges didn’t reward him for his stunning performance, but Reyes did nothing but impress on Saturday.
Valentina Shevchenko: For all of the reasons above. Bullet absolutely thrashed the number one contender in the division to the point that Joe Rogan candidly asked if there was any point in her fighting the other top contenders. Sometimes, doing what is expected of you is enough to keep your stock rising.
James Krause: It almost didn’t matter what happened on Saturday because Krause is a winner just for stepping in on one-day’s notice to save a fight. Then he went and put on a Fight of the Night performance and banked an extra $50K for his efforts. Not a bad weekend for Mr. Krause.
Jon Jones: It doesn’t seem crazy to suggest at this point that age, and more specifically cage time, is starting to catch up to Jones. In his last three performances Jones has looked listless, gun-shy, and vulnerable, and there’s a real case to be made that the champion should now be on the first two-fight losing streak of his career.
Juan Adams: He’s still young in his career, but it seems clear that Adams is not ready for the UFC.
Mirsad Bektic: Considering the grand heights that were projected for Bektic, no fighter has had their stock drop more after Saturday. Bektic fought hard on Saturday but he has clearly regressed as a fighter and his issues with getting hit are still glaringly obvious. More to the point, Bektic just hasn’t looked very good since Darren Elkins authored the comeback of the year against him in 2017.
Where to even begin?
It’s never a good thing when the biggest talking point coming out of a card is the officiating and by that metric, UFC 247 may well be the worst card of the year. Four of the fights on the card went to split decisions, which is usually not the sign of a high level of competency, the most egregious of which was Lauren Murphy inexplicably beating Andrea Lee. The worst part of it was that it wasn’t just gross incompetence that affected the outcomes, it was willful dereliction of duty. At one point during the Murphy-Lee fight, Joe Rogan and Dominick Cruz pointed out that a judge literally wasn’t even watching what was happening. This is completely unacceptable and should legitimately lead to some firings.
And none of that even includes the biggest controversy of the night, the unanimous decision win for Jon Jones that saw one official score four rounds for Jones, including the second round where Reyes out-landed Jones by a measure of 33-22.
The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation has never been a bastion for quality work but on Saturday night they really showed their ass.
Fights to make
Jon Jones vs. the winner of Corey Anderson vs. Jan Blachowicz: Given his last few outings, I’m less interested to see Jones at heavyweight where there are a number of opponents who may well beat him up. Jones should keep reigning over the next contender and then rematch Reyes and Thiago Santos.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Joanne Calderwood: Yes, Shevchenko will be a -2000 favorite and yes she will run over JoJo, but that’s the sport. Champions defend against the most deserving contenders. And for Shevchenko, if she keep obliterating the contenders in her division, she gets to establish a legacy as arguably the best fighter ever.
Derrick Lewis vs. Alistair Overeem. Given his recent performances, Overeem may well turn into Curtis Blaydes against “The Black Beast—not to mention he has a fight with Walt Harris next—” but if not, let’s see the Baddest Dude at the Barbecue try to cook some Horse Meat.
Dan Ige vs. Shane Burgos: Ige deserves his crack at the top-15 and Burgos fits nicely into that role. Plus that would just be a really fun fight to watch.
Lauren Murphy vs. Roxanne Modafferi: The two have basically agreed to this already and there’s no reason to stand in the way of it. The winner probably would earn the right to get trucked by Shevchenko.