TORONTO -- When the UFC created a 125-pound female weight class one year ago, many believed Valentina Shevchenko would be the one to rule it. Those projections are looking rather accurate.
Shevchenko (16-3) claimed the UFC's flyweight title on Saturday in a dominant decision against former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. The 125-pound title fight co-headlined UFC 232 inside Scotiabank Arena.
Jedrzejczyk (15-3) did everything she could to change the course of the bout, but Shevchenko had an answer for everything. She took Jedrzejczyk down five times and neutralized her long-range striking. All three judges scored the fight 49-46.
"I've been waiting so long for this moment," said Shevchenko, who was supposed to face Nicco Montano for the belt three months ago, but Montaño withdrew at the last minute because of a bad weight cut.
Fighting out of Kyrgyzstan, Shevchenko was nearly perfect on Saturday. She expertly slipped Jedrzejczyk's jab, and countered well with right hands and leg kicks. She closed distances quickly, often securing bodylock takedowns after slipping punches. She also took Jedrzejczyk down on multiple occasions after catching kick attempts.
According to Fightmetric, Jedrzejczyk actually outlanded Shevchenko 124-118 in total strikes, but there was no question Shevchenko's were far more meaningful. Jedrzejczyk's best shot of the fight was probably a right head kick in the third round, but Shevchenko walked right through it.
Shevchenko's ability to halt Jedrzejczyk's offense on the outside, and her dominance anytime they were in a clinch or on the ground, added up to a runaway score on the cards. It was actually her third victory over Jedrzejczyk, although the first two came in amateur Muay Thai 10 years ago.
"It was more valuable for me to win this belt in this fight because of this type of opponent," Shevchenko said.
In addition to claiming the UFC title, Shevchenko further solidified herself as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. She came close to winning the bantamweight championship in 2017 but came up just short in a split-decision loss to Amanda Nunes.