Kyrgyzstan’s Shevchenko, 30, came agonizingly close to winning the UFC women’s bantamweight title back at UFC 215 in September 2017 when she was edged out by Amanda Nunes via split decision. It was a result that split opinion among fans and media alike, with many believing “Bullet” had done enough to defeat Nunes on the night.
But now, following the opening of a new 125-pound flyweight class in the UFC, Shevchenko has taken the decision to make the drop down to her more natural weight class in search of championship gold.
And standing in her way is a very familiar face. Poland’s Joanna Jedrzejczyk was one of the most dominating women’s world champions in UFC history during her spell as strawweight champion, but following back-to-back losses to American Rose Namajunas, the 31-year-old Pole has moved up to flyweight, where the extra 10lbs will make her weight-cuts significantly easier and allow her to fight at her best.
The pair have met in competition three times before, during their formative days in Muay Thai competition. Shevchenko won all three bouts, but both women have been keen to stress the fact that the match-up will be different under MMA rules.
Nonetheless, Shevchenko’s hat-trick of Muay Thai wins means she has the psychological advantage heading into Saturday’s contest, and the bookmakers’ odds reflect that theory, with “Bullet” set as the odds-on favorite to take the win, and the title, on Saturday night.
That view is also echoed by Shevchenko’s older sister Antonina, who made her successful UFC debut at The Ultimate Fighter Finale last weekend.
Antonina said Valentina has a dominant grip over her old rival and will make it four in a row against Jedrzejczyk on Saturday night.
“Joanna was a UFC champion for a long time. She did a great job in that division, in 115,” she said talking to RT Sport.
“But against Valentina she has no chances!”
Both women are at the top of their game and are among the world’s best strikers in women’s MMA.
And, regardless of the result in Toronto on Saturday night, the smart money is on the pair meeting in a world title rematch once again as the pair look to continue their competitive rivalry into 2019 and beyond.