In the co-main event of Saturday’s (December 8) UFC 231 from the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada, the vacant women’s flyweight title will be on the line, as ex-bantamweight title challenger Valentina Shevchenko is slated to meet former 115-pound champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a highly anticipated contest.
While it’s clear that both Shevchenko and Jedrzejczyk represent two of the very best female fighters in the world, some may not know that the two actually have quite a history. In fact, Saturday won’t mark the first meeting between the two, although previous encounters took place in a different sport entirely.
From Muay Thai to MMA
Throughout their respective mixed martial arts careers, both females have become known as well-rounded fighters, but it’s also well-known that both are primarily strikers, specifically skilled in the art of Muay Thai. In fact, both Shevchenko, known as “Bullet” and Jedrzejczyk were accomplished Muay Thai competitors prior to transitioning into MMA and it’s in that arena of combat that the two first crossed paths.
Years ago, with both fighters competing in the amateur ranks of Muay Thai, Shevchenko and Jedrzejczyk competed against each other for the first time in 2006 in Thailand. They would then rematch in 2007 once again in Thailand and again in 2008 in Korea. Shevchenko would go on to win each contest.
Looking back on her history with “Bullet”, Jedrzejczyk admits that the initial meeting provided her with a lesson learned.
“The first fight, she won the first fight it was in like 2006,” Jedrzejczyk told MMAWeekly. “I was training only two years at that time and I went to the World Championships in Thailand and I thought that I was going to rule the world and win. It was a big lesson for me and I was back the next year and two years after. Our last two fights were pretty close. The last fight in 2008 in Korea was really close. She’s a tough chick, not only physically but mentally as well.”
Now 12 years after their first contest, Shevchenko and Jedrzejczyk are just days away from once again competing against each other. Although the stakes are much higher this time around. This isn’t the amateur ranks, but rather professional MMA and a UFC world title is on the line.
UFC 231 co-main event could make history
In regards to the history between the two, the outcomes of the previous encounters likely don’t provide much insight into how this weekend’s fight will play out, as this fight will not only take place under different rules, but the two combatants have obviously improved and evolved immensely over the years.
Shevchenko, for example, is now 15-3 as a professional mixed martial artist. In addition to her kickboxing acumen, she’s developed a dangerous grappling skill set, as seven of her victories have come by way of submission. Jedrzejczyk, meanwhile, is 15-2 in MMA and had previously defended her UFC strawweight title five-straight times. She’s also rounded out her game, developing high-level takedown defense training at American Top Team.
Obviously, neither Shevchenko nor Jedrzejczyk is the same fighter in 2018 as in 2006, but will those previous match-ups play a role in the mind of either fighter? Could Jedrzejczyk be at a mental disadvantage knowing that “Bullet” is fully capable of beating her in a form of combat? Could Shevchenko draw confidence knowing that she’s defeated this opponent before?
Only time will tell, but it’s certainly interesting to contemplate. After all, Jedrzejczyk has said that she isn’t out for revenge and that may be true. In the end, however, may the best fighter win and this time around, that fighter will walk away with UFC gold wrapped around her waist.