Valentina Shevchenko is at the height of her powers and looking to embark on a long reign, but Jessica Eye is looking to complete her career resurgence with an epic upset. Who will prevail at UFC 238?
Since she came down to flyweight, Valentina Shevchenko has been regarded as the best all-around fighter in the division. She has looked every bit the part and many predict a long title reign ahead. But on the other side of the cage, Jessica Eye has undergone one of the most amazing career resurgences ever seen in the UFC and has her sights set on completing the journey by upsetting Shevchenko at UFC 238.
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At bantamweight, Valentina Shevchenko was one of the most dangerous contenders in the division. At flyweight, “Bullet” has looked virtually unstoppable. She came into the division with a victory over former champion Holly Holm and is the only one to come close to toppling current two-division title-holder Amanda Nunes since the Brazilian developed into the elite powerhouse she is today. Furthermore, she claimed the flyweight belt last year with a dominant performance against longtime strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk.
How does Shevchenko top her career year? The path is seemingly laid out in front of her to become a candidate for Female Fighter of the Year. There are several contenders in action between June and July which will determine the next title contenders. Assuming she comes out of Saturday healthy, another title defense is likely for the fourth quarter of 2019.
In 2016, no one could have predicted this for Jessica Eye. She elected to take a year-long break following her fourth consecutive loss. She was granted “one more chance,” and upon her return, entered the newly opened flyweight division. Since then, she has looked like a completely different fighter in defeating former Titan FC champion Kalindra Faria and Australian striker Jessica-Rose Clark. This past December, she notched the biggest win of her career over surging contender Katlyn Chookagian, which cemented her place as the number one contender in the division.
Stylistically, Eye should look to force a brawl with Shevchenko. The champion figures to be able to slip and counter in a technical battle so forcing her to engage in close quarters gives Eye the best opportunity to do damage. Shevchenko is not known for having devastating power in a single shot so making the fight a physical battle is key. Furthermore, Eye should look to threaten with takedowns and maintain top position with steady ground-and-pound.
For Shevchenko, the strategy should be to keep the fight at mid-range in the center of the Octagon where she can get in-and-out with high volume. It is expected that she will be able to pick apart Eye fairly easily if she is able to execute this game plan. Using her footwork will be key as Eye will be looking for opportunities to surge forward and close the distance. As the fight enters the later rounds, it’s expected that Shevchenko will be the fresher fighter.
Currently, the winner of Liz Carmouche vs Roxanne Modafferi on July 20 stands out as the likely next challenger for the title. Or even the first fight of the night at UFC 238 between Katlyn Chookagian and Joanne Calderwood. There is also a key bout between Montana De La Rosa and Andrea Lee on June 22 in which the winner would also be on the short list for a title fight should the top contender be unavailable. It is expected that Saturday’s winner will defend the title in the latter part of 2019.