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Valentina Shevchenko nears Anderson Silva-like dominance, plans to 'destroy' Taila Santos

·Combat columnist
·4-min read
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The UFC has been considering shuttering its women’s featherweight division because there is no one remotely close to being able to challenge champion Amanda Nunes for the title.

By that standard, though, it probably should have shuttered its women’s flyweight division long ago.

Valentina Shevchenko’s dominance at 125 pounds has surpassed what any woman in UFC history has been able to do, and is looking like it will approach the levels of dominance that Anderson Silva showed in ruling the middleweight class for so long.

Even Shevchenko’s opponent Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 275 in Singapore, Taila Santos, concedes her greatness.

“[Shevchenko] is about as close as you can get to the perfect fighter, but nobody is perfect,” Santos said. “There’s always room for improvement for everybody.”

That’s accurate, as far as it goes. Shevchenko is human and humans are flawed. And yeah, she’s not perfect but she’s as close to it as any fighter in the modern UFC.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 25: Valentina Shevchenko of Kyrgyzstan celebrates her knockout of Lauren Murphy in their UFC flyweight championship fight during the UFC 266 event on September 25, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Valentina Shevchenko of Kyrgyzstan celebrates her knockout of Lauren Murphy in their UFC flyweight championship fight during UFC 266 on Sept. 25, 2021 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Shevchenko is so good and so dominant that she’s got UFC president Dana White singing the praises of Santos. White is a promoter whose job is to sell pay-per-views and tickets. If people think a fight is a mismatch, they don’t have nearly as much interest.

So White’s been out on the circuit talking about Santos, as he did Tuesday in an interview with Yahoo Sports.

“I’ll say this, and it’s that she more than has a chance,” White said of Santos. “The problem with this fight is that Santos is way more dangerous than people realize she is. Now, when you’re talking about women fighting, and you’ve got a woman in Taila Santos who has 13 finishes, 10 of them are knockouts. She has knocked out 10 other women and submitted three.

“This woman is very dangerous. She’s only got one loss in her entire career. And the problem is, people don’t realize how dangerous this woman is.”

Santos is a quality fighter, 4-1 in the UFC in her three-plus years in the promotion since earning a slot by winning on the Contender Series. But her win over Joanne Wood in her last fight is her only win over a ranked opponent, and Wood is ranked 10th.

None of the other women she’s fought are ranked, nor is the woman who defeated her in her UFC debut, Mara Romero Borella.

Santos is capable of winning the fight because any of the fighters at the top level are capable if they land a shot on the chin or the favorite makes a mistake. Fighters in the UFC are good enough to capitalize on that.

But it would seem that Shevchenko’s biggest issue is looking past Santos and making a mistake that Santos takes advantage of to finish.

SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - JUNE 08: UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko (L) of Kyrgyzstan and Taila Santos of Brazil face off ahead of their title bout as UFC Senior Vice President Kevin Chang (C) looks on during UFC 275 Media Day at Mandarin Oriental on June 08, 2022 in Singapore. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)
Valentina Shevchenko and Taila Santos face off ahead during UFC 275 Media Day at Mandarin Oriental on June 8, 2022 in Singapore. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

Shevchenko, though, insists she’s not looking past anyone and is expecting a difficult fight. That, of course, is what makes her so great; she’s not only physically talented, but she’s able to concentrate and stay focused at all times.

“She showed that in her previous fights she is a tough opponent, a strong opponent with a lot of power, and you cannot take it from her,” Shevchenko said. “But my goal is not just looking at her fight game and saying, ‘Oh my God, she’s so powerful.’ My thing is to see where her holes and where I can destroy her?

“So I’m not going out there to admire her but to destroy her. When I start to study my opponent, this is what I focus into. And definitely, I understand that she’s very strong. Yes, maybe she didn't have that much time, but, you cannot take her power away from her. She didn’t have an opportunity to fight against all those top-rated fighters, as you mentioned before. So I just look at her and try to see where she is good, where she is bad and what I can take advantage of to win.”

Shevchenko is 34 and has been doing martial arts in one form or fashion for nearly 30 years. She’s learned a lot in that time and that experience is what has helped her remarkable consistency.

She’s 22-3 in MMA with two close losses to Nunes and a loss years ago to Liz Carmouche that was stopped because of a cut.

At his peak, Tiger Woods would talk about winning tournaments when he had his C game. But you rarely see Shevchenko at anything less than her peak.

And if she’s on her game, there’s not much any woman can do about it.

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