The next challenger for Valentina Shevchenko’s flyweight belt could emerge from Saturday’s UFC 244 when former Invicta FC champion Jennifer Maia battles Katlyn Chookagian.
Maia doesn’t see “Bullet” as an unbeatable force in the division. She’s coming off wins over Alexis Davis and Roxanne Modafferi in 2019, while Shevchenko holds a perfect 4-0 record since moving down from 135 pounds.
“She’s a sensational athlete, really tough, really good, but I don’t think anyone is unbeatable,” Maia told MMA Fighting. “Someone will come and get her out of the throne. No one is unbeatable. She’s doing great as a champion, but she’s not unbeatable.”
“I do think I can get her out of that throne,” she continued. “If (I get a title shot) after this fight, I feel I’m capable of dethroning her.”
So far, there are few signs of a short reign at flyweight for Shevchenko. She demolished Priscila Cachoeira, won a decision against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, knocked out Jessica Eye, and cruised in a lackluster win over Liz Carmouche in her most recent UFC title defense.
For Maia, the champ and challenger Carmouche just “respected each other too much and were afraid to take risks.”
“Maybe because Valentina has already lost to Carmouche,” Maia said. “Carmouche should have taken risks, since she’s the one trying to take the title away from the champion. That’s why this fight didn’t have much action.”
If given a title shot with a win at UFC 244, Maia promises to “be aggressive and show I want this title more” than Shevchenko. But she’s not looking past Chookagian.
The rising flyweights will collide at Madison Square Garden in New York, and the Chute Boxe product is “anxious and very excited” to perform in one of the biggest cards of the year.
“I know this is a very important fight, but I think one step at a time,” Maia said. “I’m very focused on the task I have in front of me, and then we’ll think about what this win might bring to me.
“She’s a dangerous fighter who fights really well on the feet and has a dangerous ground game, so I had a great camp to make sure I’m comfortable wherever we go. My last fights were all on the feet, and I like fighting on the feet, but if I feel comfortable I will take her down and take more risks to show I have a lot more to offer.”
Maia misses winning by stoppage after going the distance in her previous seven MMA bouts, which include a win over current Invicta FC champion Vanessa Porto, two victories against Roxanne Modafferi, and a sole defeat to Carmouche.
“Coming out victorious is more important, but it’s been a while since I last won before the third round,” she said. “So I would be really happy to finish the fight by knockout or submission.”