At UFC 238 in Chicago, a highly anticipated flyweight fight is set to go down as Muay Thai specialist Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko will look to defend her flyweight crown versus the resilient Jessica “Evil” Eye.
In many ways, the UFC flyweight division feels as if it began on December 8, 2019, at UFC 231 when Valentina Shevchenko defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk to claim the vacant title.
That’s not to discredit season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter, or the division’s inaugural champion, Nicco Montano– multiple title fight changes, delays, and cancellations made it hard for fans to invest in the division. Plus, as fighter’s moved up from strawweight and down from bantamweight to make125 pounds, the division took some time to settle and establish rankings.
Fast forward to June of 2019 and we have Valentina Shevchenko opening as a heavy favorite by bettors in her first flyweight title defense versus Jessica Eye. Though, it’s not like Eye is the biggest underdog we’ve seen. Remember Holm/Rousey? It’s cliché at this point, but there’s always a puncher’s chance. If that’s something you truly believe in, or you just want to take a flyer on a long shot, first review these rankings of sportsbooks to shop around and find yourself the best possible payout.
Regardless of the betting lines, both women have fought tooth and nail to earn their way.
Before joining the UFC, Jessica Eye (14-6, 1 NC) made a name for herself as one of the world’s top 125-pound fighters. When she signed to UFC in 2013, she was forced to move up to bantamweight as it was the only women’s division in the promotion at the time.
Though at a size disadvantage in most of her bantamweight bouts, Eye showed her resiliency and toughness versus some of the divisions best– unfortunately for Eye, more often than not, it wasn’t enough. Eye would go 1-5, 1 NC during her bantamweight tenure with decision losses to Alexis Davis, Miesha Tate, Juliana Pena, Sara McMann, and Bethe Correia.
When it looked like her back was against the wall, Eye relied on her self-belief and mental fortitude to pull through. The UFC finally introduced a women’s flyweight division and she seized the opportunity.
“Evil” made her UFC flyweight debut in January of 2018– looking stronger and hungrier than ever, she defeated a game Kalindra Faria. She followed up that performance only a few months later by outworking Australia’s Jessica-Rose Clark to earn a spot in the divisions top ten.
With momentum on her side again, Eye met Katlyn Chookagian in a number one contender’s bout at UFC 231. It was a hard-fought battle that ended with Eye getting her hand raised.
Finally reaching the mountain top, Jessica Eye realizes her toughest test to date. A determined Eye looks to stay “bulletproof” versus the division’s best sniper.
Just three women are in the UFC’s top-15 pound-for-pound rankings and Valentina Shevchenko (16-3)(#14) is one of them. In the last nine years, she’s lost just two fights and both were against the only woman who sits ahead of her in the top 15: Amanda Nunes. Jessica Eye is a game fighter but has never beat anyone on Shevchenko’s level.
With many years still ahead of her, Valentina has made a name for herself as one of the greatest women’s mixed martial arts fighters. In every outing, the decorated 16-time Muay Thai world champion proves that she is not just a striking specialist– she is a complete MMA fighter in every sense of the word.
Making her UFC debut on just eight days notice, Shevchenko debuted at bantamweight and defeated former Strike Force champion Sarah Kaufman. A competitive loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 194 did not set her back much– she immediately thrust herself back into title contention with impressive wins over Holly Holm and Juliana Pena.
A 2017 rematch with Amanda Nunes ended with Shevchenko on the wrong side of a split-decision. Though she was still a top (if not the top) bantamweight, her path was clear when the UFC opened the flyweight division.
Back at 125-pounds, a more suitable and natural weight class for Shevchenko, fans were quick to peg her as the division’s uncrowned champion. After brutalizing Priscila Cachoeira in her flyweight debut, Shevcheno’s destiny was clear.
Now wearing the crown, Valentina understands what it means to be a champion. She is both physically and mentally strong, disciplined, and humble. She knows she has a target on her back– and she couldn’t be more comfortable with it.
Who will you be rooting for? #AndNew or #AndStill?