Valentina Shevchenko entered the sixth defense of her women’s flyweight title on Saturday at UFC 266 as an almost comically high favorite according to oddsmakers. It turns out the betting line might not have been wide enough.
Shevchenko (22-3) continued to make a claim with her performance that she’s the most dominant UFC champion, regardless of gender or weight, following a fourth-round TKO of Lauren Murphy (15-5). The 125-pound title bout served as the co-main event inside T-Mobile Arena.
“It’s just amazing and the best feeling,” Shevchenko said. “If you don’t believe in martial arts, you are wrong because martial arts is everything.”
Despite Murphy, 38, having entered on a five-fight win streak, she was simply never in the fight. Shevchenko picked away at her with a variety of strikes using all four limbs at multiple distances. The champion also took Murphy down at will and dominated ground control.
Murphy did well to accumulate damage without going down through three rounds even though Shevchenko’s pressure succeeded in completely disarming her as Murphy became increasingly reluctant to throw because of how quickly she was getting countered.
Finally, the 33-year-old Shevchenko broke through in Round 4. Following a hard body kick and a front kick to the face, Shevchenko visibly wobbled Murphy with a counter, check right hook. The champion swarmed in with a flurry of punches before taking Murphy down with ease.
A savage assault of elbows and punches from top position ensued from Shevchenko until referee Keith Peterson called off the fight at 4:00 of Round 4.
“When you feel that this is the moment where you can get the finish, you have to go with it until the end,” Shevchenko said. “I just started to elbow, elbow and I knew the finish would come soon.”
Although Shevchenko did not name a specific opponent she is targeting next, UFC president Dana White said during fight week that he would be interested in staging a trilogy bout with Shevchenko and two-division champion Amanda Nunes, likely at 135 pounds, despite the fact that Nunes holds two close decision wins.
“I am ready for anyone, no matter weight class or anything,” Shevchenko said. “I am here, I am the champion.”