Considering the long list of bodies left in her wake, Valentina Shevchenko should be bulletproof against any criticism about her abilities as a fighter.
With a 23-3 overall record, including 12 UFC wins and seven consecutive title defenses as a flyweight, Shevchenko has looked almost untouchable at times. But rising star Erin Blanchfield believed differently when recently examining her game.
“I think on the actual floor, her jiu-jitsu, it’s not bad – it’s just very, very basic,” Blanchfield said recently. “I don’t think she has many submissions. I don’t think she can get out of certain positions very well, like what we saw against Taila [Santos]. I kind of think that’s where her game is the most basic and probably could use some improvement.”
Addressing those comments, Shevchenko didn’t seem offended. Rather, she was unamused by Blanchfield’s assessment, especially considering the wide gap between them in experience.
“It’s really funny to see her say that, especially when it’s coming from a girl 23 years old and having five fights [in the UFC],” Shevchenko told MMA Fighting. “It’s really funny.”
Shevchenko has been here before. Other young, up-and-coming prospects have promised to end her reign as champion. She doesn’t discount Blanchfield as a quality contender by any means, but she also understands that with time comes knowledge and maturity — two qualities in abundance with more rounds against the best fighters in the world.
“For me, it’s good comparing when you see a young puppy, he’s barking around, jumping around, he’s happy, he hasn’t seen life yet, didn’t experience any trouble in life and the ears are up,” Shevchenko explained. “Like in example in nature when a puppy is growing up, they step into the adult, mature life, they start to experience all these real life problems. Then they start to learn how to live, how to deal, how to be smart, how to be themselves and find their lifestyle.
“That’s what’s happening with these kinds of fighters, as well. They are young, they are not afraid yet. They didn’t experience much pressure yet. It’s before the first strikes, before the first real competition. It happened with Maycee Barber, it’s happened with a lot of other fighters. After that happened, you kind of see them start to speak differently. You see them to be a more mature person.”
Shevchenko is confident Blanchfield will eventually start singing another tune once she’s faced the kinds of trials and tribulations that come along with experience.
“It’s kind of fun, not only what they’re speaking right now in this moment but watch them speak completely the opposite way in one or two years,” Shevchenko said.
As of now, Blanchfield currently sports an 11-1 record overall with five straight wins in the UFC with her most convincing victory coming over Andrade with a second-round submission. That was also the first time Blanchfield had dispatched a top-five ranked opponent but even that didn’t exactly convince Shevchenko that she’s necessarily looking at the future of the flyweight division.
“It’s kind of like she won the fight but Jessica Andrade took [the fight] on one week’s notice,” Shevchenko said. “Hard to think that she even trained for this fight.
“My opinion, she kind of walked in there, got money and flew back home. It’s not blaming her for doing that but she wasn’t the same shape when you have an entire training camp.”
That said, UFC President Dana White seems to think Blanchfield is probably next in line for a title shot assuming Shevchenko can get through Alexa Grasso in her title defense coming up at UFC 285.
“Should Valentina beat Grasso, Blanchfield makes a lot of sense actually,” White told Barstool Sports. “She looked f****** unbelievable, bad ass [against Andrade].”
With a title fight just days away, Shevchenko isn’t really thinking about Blanchfield. But she always welcomes fresh challenges if that’s the fight the UFC wants in the future.
“I’m not discarding [her],” Shevchenko said. “Erin, she has a lot of skills, she has good perspective and if she continues to do the same, it could bring her to the title as well.”