What was expected to be Valentina Shevchenko's most difficult women's flyweight title defense to date turned out to be the perfect distillation of her greatness.
In the fifth defense of her 125-pound title, Shevchenko (21-3) had her way with stunning ease against former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade (21-9) by dominating her on the ground en route to a second-round TKO on Saturday at UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Shevchenko's statement inside the Octagon, which included a stunningly flawless opening round, was only bested by her uncharacteristic cockiness on the microphone during her post fight-interview with UFC's Joe Rogan.
"Why my opponents can't figure out what the weakness of mine is?" Shevchenko said. "[Because] there is no weakness."
For anyone expecting Shevchenko to use her length to keep the shorter Andrade at the end of her punching range, the 33-year-old champion flipped the script early by taking the fight to the ground. All five attempts in Round 1 ended with Shevchenko controlling Andrade from top position.
"I like to surprise people. I can do everything," Shevchenko said. "My plan was to come into the Octagon and destroy my opponent."
Outside of body punches from the standing clinch, Andrade was barely able to muster any offense of note. The 29-year-old native of Brazil was taken down without much of a struggle twice more in the second round until Shevchenko secured a crucifix position to trap Andrade's arms and leave her face open to uncontested strikes.
A flurry of punches and short elbows opened up a cut on Andrade's forehead and led to the stoppage by referee Dan Miragliotta at 3:19.
"I saw the blood and I knew it was inevitable. I knew that I had to go hard in order to get the stoppage," Shevchenko said.
Considering the gap between Shevchenko and everyone else at 125 pounds, her next fight of consequence will likely come against a champion from a different weight class whether it be the winner of Saturday's Weili Zhang-Rose Namajunas strawweight title bout or a third fight against bantamweight and featherweight queen Amanda Nunes.
"Here I am, anyone who is asking to fight me," Shevchenko said. "Here I am."
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