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UFC 238 Aftermath: Maybe Valentina Shevchenko will finally start getting her due

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

On Saturday night at UFC 238, Valentina Shevchenko delivered one of the scariest knockouts of the year, laying out Jessica Eye with a head kick that had the title challenger unconscious for several minutes afterwards. It was Shevchenko’s most dominant performance to date and left Dana White wondering who would want to fight Shevchenko next. It also may have finally started to silence some of the criticism surrounding the UFC flyweight champion.

It’s hard to say that a -1200 betting favorite is being disrespected but coming into UFC 238, that was sort of the case. Obviously everyone was expecting to handle Eye without issue but the conversation centered largely around how thin the flyweight division was, not the excellence of its champion. Moreover, though Shevchenko was a -1200 favorite, she was still an underdog to stop Eye, with Shevchenko Inside the Distance at even money. That’s in part because a large portion of MMA fans have decided that Valentina Shevchenko is a boring, safety-first fighter, albeit a great one. This might be true when she’s fighting elite fighters with serious size advantages on her, but Shevchenko has also proven to be a ferocious finisher when paired against equal or lesser opponents. Just ask Priscila Cachoeira who is probably still feeling the effects of the beatdown Shevchenko put on her.

Shevchenko is a fighter that is all about control, that’s true. But to only grudgingly respect her is to not appreciate one of the very best fighters on the planet. Aside from being a multiple time world champion in both Muay Thai and kickboxing, Shevchenko has also only lost three times in MMA, with one of them being a cut stoppage loss to Liz Carmouche in a fight she was winning. Other than that, her only failings in MMA have been a pair of decision losses to current GOAT Amanda Nunes, and Shevchenko arguably won both fights despite giving up a considerable size disadvantage. Even if you think Nunes won both fights, the fact that a woman ten pounds her lesser managed to push Nunes to the brink when Nunes obliterated all-time wrecking ball Cris Cyborg is seriously impressive.

Last night, Henry Cejudo called himself the greatest combat sport athletes of all time because he won two UFC titles and an Olympic gold medal. Perhaps he’s right. But as you marvel on the variety of accomplishments Cejudo has achieved in his career, remember that Shevchenko went 56-2 in kickboxing and Muay Thai, just obliterated the top contender in her division with a KO of the Year contender, thanked the crowd in three languages afterwards, and is an accomplished dancer and shooter in her spare time. She’s a Renaissance woman par excellence and it’s damn time we started putting respect on her name.

UFC 238 Quotes

“Bend the knee! The King of Cringe is here!” - Henry Cejudo rolling into the post-fight press conference in a wheelchair.

“She is literally a wrecking machine. She is an animal. It’s getting to the point where you have to start thinking, who is she gonna fight next? There’s always opponents but she is so nasty, I don’t know who is gonna be jumping up screaming for Shevchenko, I can tell you that. Maybe somebody will but I wouldn’t want to fight her.” - Dana White on Valentina Shevchenko’s scary KO win.

“If Dustin Poirier don’t do it, I’m going to do it. Tiramisu needs an ass whooping. He needs two to the stomach from me. If it’s McNuggets for a money fight or whatever. He’s an athlete, too. I know the division misses him inside here. I’m pretty sure he misses the fight game, too.” - Tony Ferguson on what he wants next.

Stock report

Up: Henry Cejudo. On Saturday, Cejudo didn’t just win a UFC title (which always increases one’s stock), he also staked a legitimate claim for the title of top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport as well as making himself one of the most decorated combat sport athletes in history. The King of Cringe has launched himself into the pantheon of all-time greats in less than a year and he is still in his prime. The big question is how much further can he rise?

Down: Marlon Moraes. It was an unfortunate night for Moraes. The former WSOF champion had looked sensational for much of his UFC tenure and likely deserved a title shot long ago. And for the first round it looked like he was every bit the best bantamweight in the world. But when Cejudo adjusted, Moraes did not and the “Magic” died out very quickly. In the shark tank that is 135, it’s unclear when Moraes will find himself back in title contention, if ever.

Up: Valentina Shevchenko. It’s hard for someone’s stock to rise when they were a -1500 favorite heading into the fight but Shevchenko’s domination and then execution of Jessica Eye looked like the work of a -15,000 favorite instead. That head kick KO will be on the short list for KO of the Year come December and sent a violent message to any future challengers: test me at your peril.

Down. Donald Cerrone. Cerrone suffered his first loss since becoming a father and he did it in the most unexpected way: the most seasoned, veteran fighters in UFC history made a rookie mistake, blowing his broken nose and cause his right eye to swell shut almost immediately. Cerrone certainly looked to be on his way to losing anyway but to have your chance to win taken away by a mental lapse has to sting. Especially since that loss probably closes the door on Cerrone’s title window.

Up: Aljamain Sterling. It’s clear the Team Serra-Longo product has been working diligently to become a better striker and it paid of huge, with Sterling winning every phase of the fight against a dangerous opponent but really impressing with his improved boxing ability. Now Sterling should be next in line for a bantamweight title shot but when that will happen is anybody’s guess.

Official matters

It was a rough night for Dan Miragliotta. The longtime referee had two assignments on the main card, both of which involved some after the bell shenanigans that Miragliotta dismissed without much care.

In the second round of Blagoy Ivanov vs. Tai Tuivasa, Ivanov had Tuivasa in a guillotine near the end of the round. It was fairly tight but Tuivasa was saved by the bell. However, Ivanov didn’t release the choke at the buzzer, causing Tuivasa to clearly tap out after the bell. Miragliotta thankfully didn’t perceive the tap as legitimate but he also barely admonished Ivanov for holding onto a choke too long. Then in the Ferguson-Cerrone fight, Ferguson landed a combination that snapped Cerrone’s head back but was blatantly after the buzzer. Ferguson got a “stern talking to” but that was it. Then Miragliotta went to the replay and confirmed that the illegal strikes were not the cause of the swelling that stopped the fight because they landed on the nose and not the eye - EXCEPT THE JACKED UP NOSE THAT HE BLEW IS WHAT RESULTED IN THE SWELLING! All in all, it was a night to forget for Tan Dan.

Fights to make

Henry Cejudo vs. Aljamain Sterling: Sterling has done enough to warrant a shot and with a second belt now around his waist, we can all stop with the fantast that Cejudo is ever returning to 125 pounds.

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Katlyn Chookagian: Sure, why not? It doesn’t really matter because no one in this division is going to touch her. Chookagian is next in line so bring that lamb on to slaughter.

Tony Ferguson vs. the winner of Khabib Nurmagomedov-Dustin Poirier: It’s time. It’s past time really, but if this doesn’t happen next everything is a farce.

Petr Yan vs. Raphael Assuncao-Cory Sandhagen winner: Yan still needs one more win and this would be a ready-made title eliminator bout.

Marlon Moraes vs. Pedro Munhoz: Both came up short but had their moments. A win puts one right back in title contention.

Donald Cerrone vs. Conor McGregor: Both are coming off losses and looking to rebound. It’s a fight that has been talked about for months and checks all the boxes. I would also accept a Justin Gaethje fight.

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