Nobody has been able to defeat UFC superstar Valentina Shevchenko in the women’s flyweight division, and that’s helped the 33-year-old from Kyrgyzstan become one of the most dominant UFC champions in the sport.
Shevchenko is 7-0 at 125. She’s the longest-reigning champion ever from her weight class, and it doesn’t appear her stranglehold on the crown will be in danger anytime soon.
Streaking contender Lauren Murphy will hope to change that at UFC 266, but the 38-year-old American will have her work cut out for her.
Shevchenko is a freight train in her division, and none of her opponents have come anywhere close to derailing her.
Here are five reasons nobody has been able to defeat Shevchenko at 125 pounds.
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1. Unparalleled Striking Skills
Shevchenko is the queen of her division for the same reason UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has been the king of 185 since entering the UFC. Shevchenko is an incredibly gifted kickboxer who is just plain better on her feet than just about every opponent she could face.
While Adesanya got a late start to his combat sports life, Shevchenko was working on her craft well before she was even an adult. She’s won numerous world championships in Muay Thai, and she started her professional fighting career at the tender age of 15.
She’s won pro fights in boxing, kickboxing, and MMA, and she’s gotten so many rounds under her belt by now that nothing can happen to her in a fight that might surprise her.
Shevchenko even hails from a fighting family. Her older sister Antonina Shevchenko is also a UFC star, and her mother is a former multiple-time Muay Thai champion, too.
So Shevchenko steps inside the cage a wealth of talent, skills, and experience that just can’t be matched, at least when it comes to her striking skills.
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2. Single-Minded Approach to Life
If you follow Shevchenko on social media or watch any of her interviews, you know she loves to do two things. Shevchenko loves to train, and she loves to travel.
A case study of the UFC star’s Instagram page on any given day shows that’s just about all Shevchenko likes to do. Shevchenko travels around the world with her sister, Antonina, and her coach (and sister’s husband) Pavel Fedotov.
They’ve moved all over the world together in pursuit of their dreams. Team Shevchenko has lived in Kyrgyzstan, Peru, Houston, and Las Vegas. Even when they travel across the country together for road trips, the defining aspect of these moves is that they’re centered around two things: training and seeing the world.
Her single-minded approach to living the life of a world champion UFC fighter has helped her become a superstar, and her continued focus on keeping gold wrapped around her waist has paid off in a big way.
3. Style Suited Specifically for Her
Shevchenko and her coach, Fedotov, are more than just business acquaintances. They’re family, and the closeness of their bond and the longevity of them working together has created a situation in which Shevchenko’s talent, skills, and experience have been molded into the perfect fighting style for her.
While fighters can sometimes latch on to coaches for far too long in their careers, other times loyalty between a fighter and coach can pay huge dividends.
There’s no better example of that being true than Shevchenko’s dominant run in her natural weight class of 125 pounds. Shevchenko, the striking savant of the women’s flyweight division in the UFC, would seem to be at risk against savvy grapplers and submission experts.
Except that hasn’t been the case at all. Nobody has really come all that close to testing Shevchenko in her division no matter where the fight takes place.
So Shevchenko’s style is working perfectly for her. She’s an otherworldly striker on her feet, and she’s almost equally adept at keeping a dominant position when it comes to grappling.
4. Division Lacks Similarly Talented Stars
The UFC’s women’s flyweight division isn’t packed with stars as talented as Shevchenko.
Part of the issue there is that Shevchenko is a one-of-a-kind athlete. There aren’t serious contenders to her throne right now because she’s just that much better than everybody else.
But part of the issue is also that the top talent in women’s MMA seems to be above and below her weight class.
Women’s strawweight is one of the most thrilling divisions in the sport. Rose Namajunas just seized the crown from Zhang Weili, and now the two stars are headed into a hotly-anticipated rematch.
Last year, Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk competed in what some observers considered to be the Fight of the Year.
Then, there’s UFC women’s “champ champ” Amanda Nunes, who rules the women’s bantamweight and featherweight divisions. While Nunes has already defeated Shevchenko twice in bantamweight bouts, some people in the sport believe Shevchenko might have deserved the nod in the second fight.
If anything, she sure gave Nunes her toughest test in recent memory.
Regardless, Shevchenko’s division hasn’t produced enough quality contenders for her to date for her to have done anything at 125 but win fights in which she’s almost always heavily favored by oddsmakers.
Potential fights outside her division, particularly against Nunes at 135, are just about the only legit competition she might have on her horizon.
5. The ‘It’ Factor
Whatever it is that all-time great UFC fighters have that makes them special, Shevchenko has it.
Call it the ‘it’ factor or any other vague term you might come up with to help explain it. Shevchenko walks into fights with confidence that’s rare in the sport because she doesn’t just expect to win.
She knows she will win.
That’s something few people in the world know what it’s like to have, but she’s definitely one of them.
If the rest of the sports world are little flickers, Shevchenko is a bright shining light.
Shevchenko is genuinely kind to fans and media outside the cage, a menacing warrior inside of it, and almost eerily comfortable in both arenas stating her belief that she’s one of the best fighters in the world.
She’ll have the chance to do all that against Murphy at UFC 266, and she’s likely to pull it off.
Because nobody has been able to beat Shevchenko in the women’s lightweight division.
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