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Paul Felder praises Valentina Shevchenko ahead of UFC 275: ‘She’s levels above’ everybody right now

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Valentina Shevchenko has laid waste to every contender vying for her flyweight championship, and she’s once again a massive favorite ahead of her next fight at UFC 275.

As she prepares to face Taila Santos in the co-main event on June 11, Shevchenko current stands as a 7-to-1 favorite to beat her Brazilian challenger. The last time anybody was less than a 5-to-1 underdog against Shevchenko was in 2018, when she faced Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a fight for the then-vacant title at 125 pounds — a fight Shevchenko ultimately won by a lopsided decision.

While the old adage that anything can happen in a fight still holds true, UFC commentator and retired lightweight contender Paul Felder has a hard time believing anybody will beat Shevchenko, especially if she’s competing at 125 pounds.

“She’s level above [everybody else],” Felder said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “It takes years to close those gaps, maybe to let the titleholder age a little bit, or maybe get a little complacent. She’s not right now.

“She’s one of those women who doesn’t do anything crazy. She doesn’t have some crazy family. She travels. She like drinks tea and she beats women’s asses. That’s what she does, and she shoots guns.”

Since making the move to flyweight, Shevchenko has only dropped a couple of rounds, and perhaps the scariest thing about her is the way she’s decimated opponents handpicked as her toughest challenges. She needed less than two rounds to finish ex-UFC strawweight champion Jessica Andrade, and she also dispatched by TKO Katlyn Chookagian and Lauren Murphy; both of those fighters are still ranked among the best in the world at 125 pounds.

There have been several new additions at flyweight that could serve as future opponents for Shevchenko, including French striker Manon Fiorot as well as top prospect Casey O’Neill. But Felder doesn’t believe anybody comes close to the champion right now.

“I don’t see her going anywhere either,” Felder said. “Now again, we could be eating our own words when she fights, but if we’re talking [somebody beating Shevchenko] this year, not yet.

“Manon [Fiorot], I thought she was really good, too, but she’s not ready. I saw that last fight, I thought she was throwing too many of the same combos over and over again. You do that against Shevchenko and you’re just going to get knocked out. Even as powerful as you are, however good your karate is, you go out and throw [that same combination], or what power is behind it, she’s going to figure that out and smoke you. That’s just it.”

Lately, Shevchenko has been hinting at a potential return to bantamweight with an opportunity to become a two-division UFC champion against either Julianna Pena or Amanda Nunes.

“I think there’s quite a few contenders, who, if given enough time, could be the next biggest challenge, but this year [nobody beats her],” Felder said. “She might smoke me, and I’m probably 50 pounds heavier than that woman.”

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