UFC 261: Valentina Shevchenko to defend flyweight title vs. Jessica Andrade next

Valentina Shevchenko of Kyrgyzstan celebrates her victory over Jennifer Maia of Brazil in their women's flyweight championship bout during the UFC...

Reports today have confirmed UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko (20-3) will make the fifth defence of her title against former strawweight title-holder Jessica Andrade (21-8) in two months’ time, an intriguing bout expected to headline their UFC 261 PPV event on April 24.

ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was the first source to confirm the news, after UFC president Dana White informed their broadcast partner of the same earlier today. The event currently doesn’t have an official location or venue, though it’s the fourth matchup already pencilled in for the card.

Middleweight: Chris Weidman (#11) vs Uriah Hall (#9)
Light-heavyweight: Anthony Smith (#6) vs Jimmy Crute (#12)
Bantamweight: Danaa Batgerel vs Kevin Natividad

Shevchenko (20-3, 9-2 UFC) has been dominant in the 125-lb division since dropping down a weight class three years ago. She won the vacant belt beating another fierce former strawweight champion in Poland’s Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231 (49-46 x 3) and hasn’t looked back since.

Successful title defences against Jessica Eye, Liz Carmouche, Katlyn Chookagian and most recently, Andrade’s compatriot Jennifer Maia at UFC 255 on November 21, have set her apart.

Shevchenko is ranked #2 to only the consensus best female fighter of all-time in two-weight champion Amanda Nunes, who inflicted her only UFC defeats (March 2016, September 2017).

READ: UFC 259 – Nunes-Anderson featherweight title fight rebooked for March 6 card

Andrade’s route to two-weight title challenger

Jessica Andrade of Brazil celebrates her TKO victory over Katlyn Chookagian in their women's flyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside...
Andrade celebrates immediately after her dominant TKO win over Chookagian late last year

Andrade (21-8, 12-6 UFC) knocked out Rose Namajunas in May 2019 at UFC 237 to win the strawweight championship on her second attempt, before suffering successive defeats to China’s Zhang Weili and a Namajunas Fight of the Night rematch last summer at UFC 251.

She returned to winning ways with an emphatic first-round TKO win over Chookagian last October on her flyweight debut, earning a Performance of the Night bonus to boot, before revealing she was prepared to wait her turn in line for a title shot.

Also read: Andrade reveals her willingness to wait for flyweight title bout

Although #3 ranked flyweight Lauren Murphy has made her thoughts clear on why she deserves the next opportunity, Andrade has done precisely that – skip the line. It’s not surprising either.

Shevchenko wants to stay active, and had this to say after her latest title defence:

“I don’t choose my opponents, whoever in front of me [is] who I’m going to face. It doesn’t make any difference – Andrade or someone else, whoever.

It would be fair to have Andrade vs Lauren Murphy because Lauren showed her strengths and has a lot of wins. But the question [is] if I want to wait that much, I don’t because I was waiting a lot already.

I’m ready to go back to the octagon as soon as I feel good – and I feel good.”

After all, the 29-year-old appears the best and toughest matchup for Shevchenko to face.

It’s a main-event fight – five rounds – which could benefit her over the course of 25 minutes judging by how she acquitted herself to recover from a sluggish start vs. Namajunas last summer.

Some critics believe that Maia’s display, while ultimately unsuccessful and largely frustrating to watch, equally proved Shevchenko isn’t as unbeatable as many are making her out to be. Only time will tell, though this appears her toughest challenge since beating Joanna three years ago.

Jennifer Maia of Brazil punches Valentina Shevchenko of Kyrgyzstan in their women's flyweight championship bout during the UFC 255 event at UFC APEX...
Maia had some success, but it was too infrequent to trouble the defending champ

As far as competition goes, that can only be a good thing.

Picture source: Getty

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