Valentina Shevchenko has long been billed as one of the best strikers in all of MMA, male or female. On Saturday, she decided to give everyone a reminder that she is nowhere near a one-dimensional standup fighter.
Shevchenko dominated Jessica Andrade with her wrestling and then finished in violent fashion with elbows on the ground. The result was a TKO victory for Shevchenko at 3 minutes, 19 seconds of the second round at UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida.
With the triumph, Shevchenko defended her UFC women's flyweight title for the fifth time. She has been champion since Dec. 8, 2018.
"I like to surprise people," Shevchenko said in her postfight interview. "They don't expect this from me, but here I am. I can do everything."
In her previous bout, Shevchenko struggled a bit with wrestling and physicality against Jennifer Maia at UFC 255 in November. Shevchenko ultimately won by unanimous decision against Maia, but it was a small weakness she undoubtedly wanted to correct before fighting the similarly strong Andrade. And things were never close Saturday night. Shevchenko was 6-for-6 on takedown attempts.
"Opponents trying to figure out a weakness of mine?" Shevchenko said. "Don't waste your time. There is none."
Shevchenko took Andrade down over and over in the first round, ragdolling her shorter foe around the Octagon. The second round was more of the same, until Shevchenko was able to slip into the mounted crucifix position and land elbow after elbow to Andrade's head, until referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in to stop it.
"My plan was to come into the Octagon and destroy my opponent," Shevchenko said.
ESPN had Shevchenko ranked No. 2 and Andrade No. 6 on its women's MMA pound-for-pound list coming in. At women's flyweight, ESPN has Shevchenko and Andrade ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.
The bout took place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, the first UFC event during the COVID-19 pandemic with a capacity crowd.
Shevchenko (21-3) has won seven straight and is one of the most dominant champions in the UFC, regardless of gender. The Kyrgyzstan native, who lives and trains out of Las Vegas, has the most wins in UFC women's flyweight history with seven. Shevchenko, 33, sports a 10-2 UFC record and has only lost to one woman: Amanda Nunes (twice), the UFC women's bantamweight and featherweight champion. Only three fighters have more title fight wins in UFC history than Shevchenko: Jon Jones, Nunes and Jose Aldo. Shevchenko has six, tied with Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Stipe Miocic.
"[Shevchenko] was like a f------ demon tonight, pissed off that anybody believed that [Andrade muscling her] was possible," UFC president Dana White said. "She looked incredible. It was one of the best performances of her career."
White added that a third fight between Shevchenko and Nunes is not on his radar right now. Nunes won the first two meetings, but the most recent at UFC 215 in September 2017 was a very close split decision. No one has challenged Nunes as well since that fight.
"I know this fight is gonna happen," Shevchenko said of a potential third fight with Nunes. "It's gonna happen just naturally when everyone feels like, there is no more -- only this fight makes sense for everyone. ... When it's time to happen, it will be something big and huge."
Andrade (21-9) was coming off a first-round TKO over Katlyn Chookagian in October. The Brazil native held the women's strawweight title in 2019, after knocking out Rose Namajunas with a slam at UFC 237. Andrade, 29, has the most fights in UFC women's history (19), across three weight classes: bantamweight, strawweight and flyweight.