Wants to fight: Valentina Shevchenko
The callout: “Ever since I got in the UFC, I’ve never had an easy fight. I always test myself in those fights. I’m happy the champion is talking about me. I’m ready to fight for the title. I want to fight with the champion. It’s going to be a pleasure to fight her.”
The reality: Joanne Calderwood entered this weekend as many people’s pick as the top contender to face Valentina Shevchenko next, so it stands to reason that, after Jennifer Maia finished the Scot at UFC on ESPN+ 31, the Brazilian should now occupy that slot.
However, the UFC women’s flyweight rankings also have Cynthia Calvillo right there at the sharp end of the division, as well, and the UFC has given her a promotional push in the past. On paper, at least, it looks like it’s a straight coin-flip between Calvillo and Maia for the next shot at Shevchenko.
Maia did the right thing in calling for a shot at the title, but perhaps missed a trick a little by not issuing a stronger call to fight for the belt next. Her win over Calderwood certainly sent a statement, but with perhaps a bigger name also in contention in Calvillo, a stronger call for the next shot would have strengthened her claim.
It’ll be interesting to see who gets that next shot, or whether the UFC opts to match Maia and Calvillo to cement a clear No. 1 contender for the belt. But what is clear is the Brazilian has catapulted herself right into the title picture at 125 pounds.
Will she be next? Well, Shevchenko certainly seems to think so. After the fight, the reigning champion took to Twitter and posted, “See you soon Jennifer Maia.” UFC president Dana White also indicated he was leaning in that direction, but nothing is ever guaranteed until the ink is dry on the contracts.
Watch this space.