Champion Montano Historic Underdog Against Valentina Shevchenko At UFC 228
It’s rare to see a UFC champion enter a title defense as an underdog, but it’s happening this weekend at UFC 228 when UFC women’s flyweight champion Nicco Montano puts her belt on the line for the first time against top-ranked contender Valentina Shevchenko. Not only is Shevchenko the favorite to take home the title, but she’s a 13-to-1 favorite, which would be far and away the biggest line ever for a challenger in a championship fight in the UFC. At first glance it might seem crazy, but there’s good reason.
Ever since Shevchenko announced last year that she would be dropping down to flyweight, it was just a matter of time until she got a title shot. Most people considered Montano, who ran the table on TUF 26 to become the UFC’s first champion at 125lbs, just a placeholder champion until she fought Shevchenko. And that was fair to believe considering Shevhenko beat former bantamweight champ Holly Holm and lost a razor-thin decision to UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes for the title last September. Shevchenko looked amazing in her flyweight debut earlier this year when she beat the tar out of Priscila Cachoeira and for the last six months fans have been waiting for her to finally fight Montano. Injuries have kept Montano on the shelf since she won the title late last year against Roxanne Modafferi at the TUF 26 Finale, but now she’s finally look to make her first title defense against Shevchenko.
It’s not like Montano is a bad fighter or anything. After all, she beat Lauren Murphy, Barb Honchak and Montano De La Rosa in the TUF house and then beat Modafferi at the Finale to become the champ. But she also won all of those fights by decision and has shown no sign of being able to finish a fight at this level. She’s also missed almost a year of fighting, and she doesn’t have much professional MMA experience. She’s talented and is likely one of the top flyweights in the UFC, but does she have a chance against Shevchenko? The odds say no, but the odds say more about what bettors think about Shevchenko than what they do about Montano. The bettors are high on Shevchenko and believe she’s going to take home the title with ease. And considering how good she looked in her flyweight debut and how good she’s looked in the UFC aside from when she fights Nunes it makes sense that she is so highly favored to win the belt.
Montano is a good fighter and she shouldn’t be completely written off from defending her belt. It’s possible that she’s actually improved with the time off, and she looked really good on TUF. That being said, Shevchenko has looked amazing in pretty much all of her UFC fights. She has a ton of experience in combat sports, she’s the more well-rounded fighter in this matchup, and she has all of the confidence in the world to get the job done. The fight takes place both inside the cage as well as in the mind and based on what we’ve seen and heard over the leadup to this fight Shevchenko is winning the mental warfare part of this fight. Now it’s up to her to go in the Octagon and show off her physical skills and win that part of the fight. She has all the talent in the world to win the belt, and based on the odds, the bettors believe she’s going to win too. Shevcheko is a historically large favorite as a title challenger in this fight, but it will likely be the last time she’s a title challenger and not the champion for a while.
Do you agree with the odds showing Shevchenko as a massive favorite? Leave a comment below with who you think will win the fight.