Valentina Shevchenko will make her first Octagon appearance of 2023 at UFC 285 on Saturday. The UFC women’s flyweight champion will put her title on the line against Alexa Grasso in the co-main event (ESPN+ PPV, 10 p.m ET).
Shevchenko has been one of the most dominant fighters in the promotion and the sport since making her UFC debut in 2015. Her only losses have come against women’s GOAT Amanda Nunes in March 2016 and again in September 2017. However, both of those fights took place at women’s bantamweight.
Since the UFC debuted the women’s flyweight division in 2017, there have been only two champions: Nicco Montano, who won the title on Season 26 of “The Ultimate Fighter” but was stripped for failing to make weight for what was to be her first title defense, and Shevchenko, who claimed the vacant title in 2018 and has successfully defended it ever since.
Here is a look at the numbers behind Shevchenko’s dominance, starting with one of her many records in the women’s flyweight division:
When Shevchenko enters the Octagon on Saturday night, it will have been 1,992 days since her last defeat, a split decision loss to Nunes for the women’s bantamweight title at UFC 215. In that fight, Shevchenko showed that she is undoubtedly one of the top fighters in the world as she went toe to toe with the GOAT.
After the second loss to Nunes, Shevchenko made a move down to 125 pounds, with her debut being a submission win against Priscila Cachoeira. That began a nine-fight win streak for Shevchenko, tying Katlyn Chookagian for the longest in the division’s history. During that streak, Shevchenko has racked up wins over many of the top fighters to come through the division, including Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Chookagian, Jessica Andrade and Taila Santos. The Santos fight is the only one that was close. Shevchenko beat Santos via split decision in her most recent title defense at UFC 275 in June 2022 (watch the fight on ESPN+).
Shevchenko holds the record for the highest significant striking accuracy percentage in a UFC women’s fight. It came in her flyweight debut against Cachoeira, one of the most dominant performances in the division’s history. Shevchenko did most of her work on the ground, spending nearly the entire first round in top position, raining down vicious ground and pound. In a bout that lasted just under nine and a half minutes, Shevchenko spent eight minutes and 32 seconds in control on the mat and landed 95 significant strikes, 84 of which happened on the mat.
Shevchenko ended that fight with a plus-93 striking differential, the third-best in any women’s flyweight fight.
Against Cachoeira, Shevchenko also set a women’s flyweight record for the most strikes landed in a round, as she connected on 135 of 146 total strikes thrown in Round 2. Shevchenko finished the bout with 230 total strikes landed, which ranks fifth all-time in the division, while Cachoeira ended the fight landing just three total strikes.
While dominant, Shevchenko is not necessarily known for making quick work of her opponents. Of her nine fights at flyweight, she has won five by knockout or submission and four by decision. And only three of those fights ended before Round 3.
Rather than rushing for the finish, Shevchenko has shown she is comfortable with fights that go into the deep waters of championship rounds. Her average fight time of 17 minutes and 20 seconds is the eighth-longest of any fighter in the promotion. Being such a skilled striker and grappler, Shevchenko often allows the fight to come to her and takes her time to feel out opponents to find the best path to victory. In a sport where athletes are often appreciated for how quickly they can end fights, Shevchenko’s ability to remain dominant while taking part in fights that last longer than anybody else’s in the division is worth all the praise.
Fans are likely in for another fight that extends into the championship rounds this weekend, as Grasso has had all but two of her 10 UFC fights go to a decision. And since joining the UFC in 2016, Grasso has posted an average fight time of 13 minutes and 40 seconds.
Of her 2 hours, 33 minutes and 13 seconds of total fight time at flyweight in the Octagon, Shevchenko has spent nearly an hour of that, 55 minutes and 28 seconds, in dominant positions and controlling her opponents. When fighting at 125 pounds, Shevchenko averages over six minutes of control time per fight. She also has a division-leading 31 takedowns and 70.5 percent takedown accuracy.
Santos is the only fighter that managed to outwork Shevchenko on the mat. Although she still came up short, Santos recorded more than twice the total control time that Shevchenko did — 8 minutes and 49 seconds for Santos compared to just 4 minutes and 15 seconds for Shevchenko.
In Grasso, Shevchenko will take on a striker with solid takedown defense. Grasso has successfully defended 65 percent of the takedowns attempted on her, which is tied for the fifth-best of any Shevchenko opponent at 125 pounds.
Not only is Shevchenko often the more skilled grappler in her fights, but she is usually also the more skilled and diverse striker, making her a matchup nightmare for most opponents no matter where the fights end up. Her 1,231 total strikes landed lead the women’s flyweight division and are over 100 more than the next best fighter, Chookagian, who has four more fights in the division than Shevchenko does. Chookagian has 1,106 total strikes landed.
Shevchenko is also more accurate than any fighter in the division, connecting on 56.4 percent of her significant strike attempts.
This could be something to watch for in the fight against Grasso, as the title challenger averages 4.02 significant strikes absorbed per minute. While that is the third lowest of any of Shevchenko’s opponents at flyweight, it is more than double what the champ absorbs (1.90). The only two title challengers with fewer significant strikes absorbed per minute are Santos and Jedrzejczyk, respectively.
Shevchenko’s striking defense isn’t too shabby, either. Her 1.49 significant strikes absorbed per minute are the fewest of any fighter in the division, with at least five UFC fights. So, in addition to controlling opponents for more time and dishing out the most strikes of any fighter in the division, the champ also is the hardest for opponents to connect on. That’s a tough matchup for anybody.