Since making flyweight her home, Valentina Shevchenko has looked nothing short of phenomenal.
Picking up three wins and the title, she has established herself as one of the strongest UFC champions in little over a year in the division. She announced her return to flyweight by choking out Priscila Cachoeira. Next, she dominated former strawweight queen, Joanna Jedrzeczyk, and picked up flyweight gold in the process.
Most recently she head-kicked Jessica Eye into oblivion, causing shock-waves throughout the MMA world.
The search for the next flyweight contender begins. In a shallow division, we look to highlight the key contenders that may well be next to face Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko.
Next in Line:
Katlyn Chookagian currently sits at #2 in the Flyweight rankings and seems the most logical option for “Bullet”. Her lofty place within the divisional rankings comes despite riding just a one fight win streak. She impressively beat Joanne Calderwood by decision at UFC 238 earlier this month.
Before that she dropped a split decision to Shevchenko’s most recent foe Jessica Eye. She holds two earlier wins in the division over Alexis Davis and Mara Romero Borella.
Katlyn Chookagian, although the obvious choice, is not the most appealing match-up. A fighter who lacks stars power, last time out being confined to the early prelims. She has already lost to someone Shevchenko emphatically KO’d last time out in Jessica Eye. This fight is hard to sell at this stage and the UFC may well look in other directions for the next challenger at 125lbs.
Liz Carmouche may well be the other direction the company choose to go in. The former bantamweight title challenger is currently riding a two-fight win streak and sits at #3 in the flyweight rankings.
She holds several key wins as well as a strong reputation for providing Ronda Rousey with some scary moments in her promotional debut. Carmouche is a name that commands much more attention than Chookagian, who she also holds a win over. Most notably she was the first woman to defeat Valentina Shevchenko, a defeat that has yet to be avenged by “Bullet”.
The 2010 fight saw Carmouche emerge victorious via TKO, with the doctor stepping in midway through round two. An already written narrative for the UFC to run with makes for a much more interesting spectacle for fight fans. She still has some work to do to earn her shot. Next up she faces Roxanne Modeferi on July 20.
A win would stretch her streak to three, making her title credentials undeniable. However, victory for #5 ranked Modeferi could well see her getting another crack at the flyweight belt. The MMA veteran fought Nicco Montano for the inaugural title back in 2017. She dropped a unanimous decision that night but will be keen for another shot.
After beating Valentina’s sister last time out, she will have a strong call for the next in line with a win over Liz Carmouche in this one.
The Chasing Pack:
With such a shallow division in terms of contenders, on big win could catapult any of the top 15 into the title picture.
Paige VanZant whilst currently sidelined after undergoing arm surgery, is very much in the mix despite sitting #14 in the rankings. She impressively tapped Rachael Ostovich last time out and is one of the most popular fighters in the sport. Another big win and the UFC will be more than happy to feed her to Valentina Shevchenko.
Maycee Barber emerged victorious from a tough debut with the organization. The 21-year-old became the youngest fighter in the UFC when she faced off against J.J. Aldrich in May. She has the hype and a ton of fans behind her, so the company may be keen to test her against the best sooner rather than later.
The chance to make history as youngest champion in UFC history is still possible for Barber who may find the opportunity to hard to pass up should it be presented to her. Although it’s certainly too soon for this #13 ranked flyweight prospect.
The former Invicta and Legacy champion Andrea Lee is very much in contention. Since switching to the UFC, she is unbeaten and has looked unfazed by the jump to the biggest show in town. A two-fight win streak and a #10 ranking may well be enough to earn her the next shot at the belt.
With a whole host of fighters competing for places in the 125lb rankings, the division is in a state of flux. Anyone within the top 15 could emerge as the next contender with just one win.
A couple of strong contenders are already in play, but time will tell weather its one of these or someone else who is next to step in front of the “Bullet”.
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The Scrap’s Jordan Ellis of Liverpool, UK is a lifelong fight fan and aspiring writer. Covering all things MMA and Boxing, you can follow him on Twitter (@JordanEllisUK) for daily fight news and content.