After a result that came as a shock to many, long-time, dominant champion, Valentina Shevchenko was choked out by the #6 ranked, Alexa Grasso at UFC 285. Closing as a -900 favourite, Shevchenko was gracious in defeat, however, called for an immediate in her post-fight speech with Joe Rogan. With a number of highly ranked contenders at 125lbs, we have to ponder whether Bullet will actually get the rematch or whether the UFC and Dana White will choose to go in a different direction.
Does Shevchenko deserve an immediate rematch?
As an MMA community, we have to get out of the mindset that all champions deserve an immediate title shot following a long reign. In recent times, Kamaru Usman, Amanda Nunes and Israel Adesanya have all been granted immediate rematches after dropping their titles. In the case of both Usman and Adesanya, they were arguably winning the fight before they were stopped in the final round. With Nunes, she lost in just the second round via rear naked choke.
Comparing Usman, Adesanya and Nunes to Shevchenko, all competitors were on a good run of unbeaten form. Usman was unbeaten in 19 fights, Adesanya was undefeated at middleweight during his entire career and Nunes was unbeaten in 12 across two weight classes and beat some of the best in the world on her way. Grasso snapped Shevchenko’s nine-fight winning run.
The fights for the other three fighters in question, prior to their losses weren’t even close, they were dominant. Usman unanimously defeated Colby Covington, Adesanya won almost every minute against Jared Cannonier and Nunes retired Megan Anderson after a first-round submission. Shevchenko questionably defeated Talia Santos via decision.
The issue lies with the competitive nature of the flyweight division. There are plenty of stars that haven’t had their opportunity to compete for the belt yet at 125lbs. Grasso herself was a fresh challenger to Shevchenko’s crown. Manon Fiorot is ranked #2 in the division, undefeated in the UFC, defeated gate-keeper, Katlyn Chookagain and has looked like a finisher throughout her career thusfar. Erin Blanchfield is a logical contender. She’s come on massively in recent times, rising to #3 and finishing Jessica Andrade in her first main event slot. Again, she’s a possible contender to the flyweight strap. Blanchfield seemingly called for the fight for international fight week in July on her Instagram.
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In the fight itself, Shevchenko may have been winning but she was seemingly slowing down, Grasso was making her reads, defending Shevchenko’s takedown attempts and caused her more problems than anyone has on the feet at 125lbs. Although stats don’t tell the whole story, Grasso out-landed Shevchenko in all of the rounds aside from the fourth, where she finished it. Grasso’s boxing looked crisp, her takedown defence needs a lot of work, however, Shevchenko far from dominated Grasso. At best, she was 2-1 up in rounds. The score didn’t matter, however, Grasso’s squeeze had the last word.
Alexa Grasso's SQUEEZE 😱 pic.twitter.com/xigzC0oS1G
— No Context Ariel Helwani (@NoContextAriel) March 5, 2023
We shouldn’t just automatically see the long-time champion an immediate rematch when there are at least two viable contenders. It’s illogical. Have Shevchenko fight either Fiorot or Blanchfield and have the other woman clash with Grasso for the title.
The Other side of the Argument – Give The Bullet the Rematch, MMASucka’s View
The first-ever flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko has won every fight she’s had at 125lbs. Speaking to members of MMASucka, there has been a consensus that Shevchenko, without a doubt deserves an immediate rematch. Posed with the question “Do you think Valentina Shevchenko should get an immediate rematch?” the answers are as follows:
“100% – absolutely. She is the only (true) champion her division has ever known. She is also perhaps the most talented women’s fighter of all time. Her style, particularly over the last couple of years, can be maddening, and her inability or refusal to set the tone and instead be reactive to her opponent ultimately cost her the belt. The division is also catching up to her, but I still believe she is the better fighter and can defeat Grasso in a rematch IF the proper adjustments are made.”
“100%. I don’t think there is anyone else that you could justify giving a title shot ahead of the rematch. One of the most dominant champions ever and if Stipe (Miocic) gets a shot at Jones, Usman gets one at Edwards and Adesanya at Pereira then Valentina has to get one. It’s only fair”
“Yes. Absolutely. Barring some exceptions, I think when a champion defends more than 3 times an immediate rematch is due. Valentina has been dominant in almost all her fights as champion and took on the proper challengers. She never held up the divison, never pulled some BS that other champions do.”
There was also an in-depth discussion on the most recent episode of the MMASucka podcast, which can be found below:
What are your thoughts? Does Valentina Shevchenko deserve an immediate rematch at Alexa Grass0? Let us know in the comments below!