The flyweight title fight co-titled UFC 255 inside the Apex.
“I’m very happy it’s five rounds because I had a long layoff,” said Shevchenko, who fought for the first time since TKO won over Katlyn Chookagian in February. “I needed to feel the spirit of the Octagon, the spirit of combat, to know that I am back 100% healthy. Nothing bothers me. I’m glad it was Jennifer Maia, a tough opponent, first, and then walked the distance, so I know for the next one I’m 100% healthy.
“As I prepared for this fight, I knew she wouldn’t be an easy opponent. I watched her fight and saw what she is. She never gave up. I knew it would be a good fight for the belt. ”
All in all, it was a dominant performance for the 32-year-old champion, who is ESPN’s # 2 ranked pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. There was a brief glimmer of hope for Maia, however, in the second round, when she managed to drag Shevchenko down, put her on her back and become the second flyweight in the history of the UFC to win a round against Shevchenko.
The MMA community immediately reacted to Maia’s ability to tie the game after two rounds, but any optimism she could derive from what would have been the biggest betting shake up in UFC history has been cut short. duration. Shevchenko easily took control in the third round, including an out on his own, and ran off the scorecards for the rest of the time.
“Each time I’m working on both, the strike and the grapple,” Shevchenko said. “I prepare my body to react in the right way. ”
According to UFC Stats data, Shevchenko beat Maia in total 231-101 strokes – and the spread showed. Maia’s face was bloodied by the end of the fight and Shevchenko won plenty of style points with elbows and spinning kicks. She’s been in five successful eliminations, which is the most she’s recorded in a UFC fight. She used five strikeouts in her decision win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the vacant title in 2018.
Maia, from Curitiba, Brazil, proved to be a resilient opponent, and her physical strength in simply keeping Shevchenko in the second round and against the fence during other parts of the fight was worth noting, but she did. scored very little actual attacking and was an easy target by the final round, when Shevchenko had clearly found his rhythm.
Shevchenko, who was born in Kyrgyzstan and fights in Las Vegas, could face former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade in her next title defense. She will likely be a strong favorite in this fight, but the belief is that it will be her toughest test since winning the belt in 2018. Since then, her defenses have come against Jessica Eye, Liz Carmouche, Katlyn Chookagian and Maia.
To add a bonus to the night, Shevchenko’s older sister Antonina also picked up a win on Saturday, knocking out Ariane Lipski on UFC 255.