Valentina Shevchenko’s win over Holly Holm shows parity of UFC women’s bantamweight division

UFC bantamweight Valentina Shevchenko vaulted her name into title-contention with an upset win over former champion Holly Holm on Saturday in the main event of UFC Fight Night Chicago. Shevchenko’s victory is yet another example of the massive shakeup in the women’s 135-pound division.

Ronda Rousey stood head-and-shoulders above the division for more than three years, dominating her opponents and making it look like there was no viable competition for her. Holm put an end to that notion last November with a dominant second-round knockout win to derail Rousey’s title-reign. In her first attempt at defending the belt in March, Holm looked to be cruising to a win until Miesha Tate slapped on a submission in the fifth round and choked her unconscious to win the title that had eluded her for so long. When the original main event of UFC 200 fell apart, Tate’s star-power allowed her title-defense against Amanda Nunes to get pushed up to the top-billing. But it was Nunes who shined brighter on the night of July 9, submitting Tate in the first round to become the undisputed women’s bantamweight champion.

So to recap, after nearly four years of the Rousey-era, four different women have held the title in the past calendar year. And instead of Holm taking a step towards reclaiming her belt, it was Shevchenko who took a leap towards a title shot. The Kyrgyzstan-born striking specialist joined The Luke Thomas Show on Monday to weigh in on the newfound parity in her division and why it’s so hard for a champion to hold onto the belt.

“My opinion is that the weight division of women’s bantamweight, it’s too strong,” Shevchenko said. “It’s very, very strong. Every time every fighter goes, they put all their power to getting stronger and stronger. That’s why we can see how it’s difficult, how it’s very difficult to stay there.”

Shevchenko suffered a unanimous-decision loss to Nunes in March, but she wasn’t dominated by any means. The fight was close enough that some are thinking she should be at the top of the list for Nunes’ first title-defense. UFC president Dana White has maintained that Rousey will get an immediate title-shot once she returns from her hiatus, but there is no timetable yet for when that may happen.

Currently ranked seventh in the division, Shevchenko is sure to move up the ranks soon. The only other viable contender for Nunes is Julianna Pena, who is on a four-fight win streak and is coming off a dominant win over former title-challenger Cat Zingano at UFC 200. Zingano is actually the last woman to beat Nunes, so a win over her definitely adds weight to Pena’s claim to a title shot.

Whatever the case, one thing is clear: the women’s bantamweight division is more competitive that it’s ever been.

“It’s a great thing, because I like that women’s martial arts is growing so fast,” Shevchenko said.

The Luke Thomas Show airs Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays from 3-6 pm ET on SiriusXM Rush (Ch. 93).

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