10 fighter options for Valentina Shevchenko’s vacant flyweight title fight

Joanna Jedrzejczyk Valentina Shevchenko

It’s been a chaotic day atop the UFC women’s flyweight division. And now that everything has been resolved, it’s onto what happens next.

After the inaugural champion Nicco Montano’s hospitalization due to complications with her kidneys during her weight cut, the UFC opted to pull her from the bout and strip her of her title.

It has now been established that the would-be challenger Valentina Shevchenko will go on to compete for the vacant title at a later date to be determined. What also remains to be determined is who it will be against.

So let’s take a look at some likely options.

 

10. Paige VanZant (7-4)

PhotoCred: MMAMania

I know what you’re thinking… ‘No, this just can’t happen’ or something along those lines. But think about the UFC we’re dealing with in 2018. It’s the entertainment business now and it’s all about money and drawing eyeballs…who does that? Paige VanZant.

Upon the introduction of the flyweight division, VanZant was even offered to be Shevchenko’s very first opponent in the division but decided to turn it down so the groundwork is kind of there.

However, since that time, VanZant made her 125-pound debut against Jessica-Rose Clark in a losing effort that also resulted in a bad arm break that has kept her out of action since that January encounter. Despite these facts, she is ranked No. 14 in the rankings.

VanZant has recently been cleared and is expecting to be back early next year which lessens the likelihood of her getting this fight as UFC president Dana White says Shevchenko will fight before the year’s end.

 

9. Vanessa Porto (20-8)

PhotoCred: Invicta FC

Vanessa Porto has yet to officially make her way to the UFC Octagon but by all accounts, she should be making it sooner rather than later.

The 34-year old Brazilian is one of the division’s most experienced fighters and still is widely regarded as one of the very best overall regardless of organization.

With her losses really only coming to some of the best fighters out there, Porto has somewhat been a Urijah Faber of the flyweights as she’s done pretty much everything except for winning the title. No offense, Urijah.

Some of the names on her resume include the likes of former Invicta FC bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger, Roxanne Modaferri, Kalindra Faria, Milana Dudieva, Zoila Frausto, Hitomi Akano, Tara LaRosa, former Invicta FC flyweight champion Jennifer Maia and former UFC featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie.

Skillwise, Porto should be a higher choice but her lack of popularity with a casual audience outside of hardcores makes her fairly unlikely.

 

8. Pearl Gonzalez (9-3)

PhotoCred: Sherdog

Since her brief UFC stint where she went 0-2 against the top prospects in Cynthia Calvillo and Poliana Botelho, Pearl Gonzalez has turned the ship around in Invicta FC as she’s won three in a row.

Gonzalez’ popularity has grown with every fight and it will be a surprise if she isn’t fighting for the vacant Invicta FC crown for her next time out. That is unless she fights for the one that’s vacant in the UFC.

Gonzalez is marketable, she’s fairly well known, she’s been in the UFC before and whether it’s for this fight or not, she’ll surely find her way back at this rate. But most likely we’ll be seeing her face Porto in Invicta…we truly never know though.

 

7. Ariane Lipski (11-3)

PhotoCred: KSW / Fight24.pl

Arguably the holder of the greatest nickname in MMA is the current KSW champion, “The Violence Queen” Ariane Lipski.

What isn’t arguable is that the 24-year old phenom is one of if not the best 125-pound fighter in the world today. Which is quite telling considering her youth.

A finisher through and through, Lipski is a superstar in Poland as KSW’s champion and she is destined for superstardom in the US as well once she inevitably makes the move over.

Running out of options for opponents herself, it’s currently believed that Lipski has one more fight on her contract then she will be free and willing to explore her options. But what’s going on behind closed doors is never 100 percent certain and surely the UFC could pull some strings if they really wanted to.

Stylistically, the fight is a dream and must see type of fight so here’s to hoping that we do get it one day whether it’s now or later.

 

6. Liz Carmouche (12-6)

PhotoCred: BloodyElbow

The first female fighter to ever make the walk to the Octagon was Liz Carmouche.

She has name value, she just recently defeated who most believed was the No. 1 flyweight in the world in the previously mentioned former Invicta FC champion Jennifer Maia. She also holds a win over one of the next options and higher ranked contenders in the UFC’s official rankings…

Oh yeah, and Carmouche is actually the only MMA fighter outside of the bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes to have defeated Shevchenko. Rematches can sell, especially when Carmouche is the one with the win.

 

5. Sijara Eubanks (3-2)

PhotoCred: MMAJunkie

Like her Ultimate Fighter 26 counterpart in the former champ Montano, Sijara Eubanks surprised many with her success in the tournament that led her to the finals.

Also, like Montano…she would be hospitalized during her weight cut leading to her removal from the title bout in December 2017.

So there’s that. Eubanks earned her title shot but lost it without fighting. Since then she has defeated Lauren Murphy and is expected to face Jessica Eye at UFC 232 this upcoming December.

 

4. Katlyn Chookagian (11-1)

PhotoCred: MMAJunkie

Currently in Dallas for UFC 228 where Montano vs Shevchenko was supposed to take place and called out by Shevchenko to fill in was Katlyn Chookagian.

That’s obviously not happening tomorrow night but now this matchup is on our minds and Chookagian has been rather successful so far in her return to 125. Her one career loss coming to Carmouche in 2016 at bantamweight.

Since Dana White claimed that Chookagian isn’t who they have in mind to fight Shevchenko, that means she probably is…

All jokes aside, Chookagian holds a perfect record at 125-pounds as well as a win over Eubanks. Her No. 3 ranking and interesting stylistic matchup for Shevchenko puts her in the conversation no matter how you look at it.

Her popularity remains in question though.

 

3. Jessica Eye (13-6)

PhotoCred: MMAJunkie

Plain and simply put, the UFC likes Jessica Eye. For the most part, she puts on pretty entertaining fights too so it makes sense.

After going 1-5 (1 NC) in the UFC at bantamweight, the UFC would bring in the 125-pound division where Eye had fought for most of her career prior. So the drop back down was a no-brainer.

Now having fought twice since doing so she has added two more wins to her near flawless 12-1 record below 135-pounds.

Currently No. 8 in the rankings and set up vs the No. 2 in Eubanks, the UFC surely wouldn’t hate to finally give Eye the title shot that has eluded her thus far in her career.

 

2. Joanne Calderwood (12-3)

PhotoCred: FanSided

Another fighter with a large fanbase is Scotland’s own Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood.

After a year-long layoff, the former strawweight title hopeful returned to action at UFC Lincoln where she picked up a big win over Kalindra Faria in her return to 125-pounds. A weight in which she has never lost at (3-0, 4-0 above 115-pounds).

The often striking oriented Calderwood picked up her very first submission win and showed that she has quickly improved now under the tutelage of Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas.

Now that she’s back and even hoping to fight again before 2019, she’s in the discussion and the UFC themselves showed that be throwing her into the No. 11 spot in their rankings.

 

1. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (15-2)

PhotoCred: BloodyElbow

Now all jokes aside once again, Dana White also stated that whoever fights Shevchenko will be a top flyweight…which would cancel out the former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. And anyone with a brain can see straight through that lie.

It would actually be a pretty solid surprise if this isn’t the route that the UFC takes. It’s about money and “super fights” in 2018. Jedrzejczyk fighting for a title in a new weight division against her old Muay Thai foe (who is 3-0 over her) has dollar signs written all over it for the UFC.

These two have already expressed interest in fighting each other once again in the past but this time in MMA.

After UFC 213 lost the fight that would feature Nunes defending against Shevchenko, Jedrzejczyk became the potential hero who looked to step up and fight at 135-pounds but couldn’t get cleared in time.

Also…UFC 230 in Madison Square Garden is coming up on November 3 and there is still no main event. This stuff writes itself in this day and age, people.

 

This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 9/7/2018