On February 3 in Belem, Brazil, Valentina Shevchenko has an in-cage date with Brazilian flyweight Priscila Cachoeira. The bout will be Cachoeira’s first in the UFC.
Given that Shevchenko holds wins over Holly Holm and Julianna Pena, and came within a whisker of defeating outstanding UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes in September last year, you could be forgiven for thinking this was merely a showcase fight for the Muay Thai standout.
The idea that this is a tune up bout designed to get Shevchenko in the win column in the newly formed flyweight division is a narrative that the Kyrgyzstani-Peruvian does not buy into.
“My opponent, she’s 8-0 so she’s undefeated. She has really strong hands,” Shevchenko told Cage Side Submissions Radio on Tuesday.
“She has very strong game plan because she never gives up. She’s going for the last seconds of the fight and she’s giving everything to this fight. I’m not expecting an easy fight.”
Despite the respect shown by Shevchenko to her upcoming opponent, their resumes in the sport are worlds apart.
Shevchenko is a 17 fight pro in MMA, with a long kickboxing and muay thai career behind her, and three scheduled five round fights in the UFC’s octagon on her ledger. Three times she has headlined major events in the UFC.
By contrast Cachoeira’s eight professional MMA bouts have all taken place on the regional circuits of Brazil. Two of Pedrita’s four 2017 opponents had more losses on their record than wins. One of them, Laisa Coimbra, had no professional wins to her name at all.
Yet listening to Shevchenko speak about her preparation and mindset going into the fight, there is an authenticity to her claims of taking Cachoeira as seriously as any of her more experienced previous opponents.
“Every time you cannot underestimate your opponent, so this is what I do before all my fights. I’m preparing for all opponents like it’s my last time in my life, and I’m trying to give all my best to each fight. It doesn’t matter who you’re fighting but you have to show all your skills, in very good shape and very good fighting spirit. This is most important for me.”
The bout will take place at the Arena Guilherme Paraense at an event headlined by Brazilian legend Lyoto Machida. The winner will have a strong claim for a shot at newly crowned UFC flyweight champion Nicco Montano. It is an important few weeks for the division.
Jessica Eye and Jessica-Rose Clark both secured wins this past weekend without impressing. That has left the door open for Katlyn Chookagian and Mara Romero Borella on January 27, and Shevchenko and Cachoeira one week later, to head straight to the top of the list of flyweight contenders.
With a handful of fighters who have previously fought at 115lbs and 135lbs in the UFC awaiting their own flyweight debuts, and a bunch of top fighters still plying their trade outside of the UFC, the division is expected to retain its fluidity throughout 2018. That leaves Shevchenko with no doubt that the division is going to be a hit.
“Everything can happen, and I think about 125 that this weight class will be the most exciting weight class in UFC because it will be fighters from 115 going up, from 135 going down, and more very skilful and talented fighters from outside will be joining UFC too. So I’m expecting it to be very interesting, very dynamic and very unexpected weight class.”
As the frame of the women’s 125 pound division continues to flesh out, one thing is certain. Valentina Shevchenko is not looking past her Brazilian opponent on February 3.
You can check out Shevchenko’s full interview below, along with that of UFC women’s featherweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino who also joined Cage Side Submissions on Tuesday.
If you missed yesterday show its already up on @Stitcher myself and @NikBos were joined by @ufc @criscyborg and @BulletValentina https://t.co/fdbuK6dIx0 #PodernFamily @Podcast_Genie #CSSRADIO #RealMMAFamily #cyborgnation #TeamBullet pic.twitter.com/WxOZGEGpJL
— CageSideSubmssions (@CSSRadio) January 17, 2018