Las Vegas, March 30: Everyone loves a champion versus champion bout, especially one where there is seemingly a bit of needle between the fighters as appears to be the case with Valentina Shevchenko and Weili Zhang.
Flyweight champion Shevchenko has not exactly been shy in questioning the credentials of strawweight strap-holder Zhang.
UFC president Dana White has in the past tipped Zhang to blaze a trail similar to how Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor did in the company.
But in Shevchenko, the Chinese would face a formidable challenge in her quest to achieve the sort of acclaim those two UFC greats have earned.
In the third edition of our UFC dream fights we would love to see series, we have taken a closer examination of Shevchenko and Zhang's records in the Octagon.
WHY DO WE WANT TO SEE THIS FIGHT?
Firstly because this would be a hugely exciting fight. But also, Shevchenko has asked the questions and we would really love to see if Zhang has the answers.
Shevchenko has impressive wins on her resume, including Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Holly Holm and, while she has twice come up short against the dominant Amanda Nunes, she is the woman to beat at flyweight.
Her prior claims that Zhang does not belong among the upper echelons of UFC's best female fighters seem a little harsh considering she has wins over Jessica Andrade and Jedrzejczyk to her name, but the best way to answer the detractors would be to beat Shevchenko in the Octagon.
Shevchenko is a veteran of the game and became the UFC's flyweight champion with a dominant decision victory over Jedrzejczyk in December 2018. She has successfully defended the belt on three occasions since.
Zhang is a star on the rise in UFC and knocked out Andrade in under a minute to clinch the strawweight strap and become China's first UFC champion. She defended her belt against Jedrzejczyk on March 8.
WHAT'S THEIR MMA RECORD (W-L-D)?
TALE OF THE TAPE
Height: 5'5″ (165cm)
Weight: 125lbs (56kg)
Leg reach: 38″
Height: 5'4″ (162cm)
Weight: 115lbs (52kg)
Leg reach: 36″
WHAT THEY'VE SAID ABOUT A POTENTIAL FIGHT
"I see now, competing in the top level competition, you can tell what she is in reality. She is a good fighter, but it's not enough for the high, elite competition. I cannot see her defending her title in the next fight...And you definitely see her fighting against me? I don't think so," Shevchenko, speaking in March, remains unconvinced by Zhang's credentials.
"I definitely want to fight the best of the best, and I think Valentina is the best among the female athletes, so that's why I want to fight her," Zhang said in October last year.
FIGHT STATS IN UFC
- Shevchenko averages 3.06 significant strikes per minute, absorbing 2.12 such blows.
- Of 1002 significant strikes attempted, Shevchenko has landed with 506 - giving her an accuracy of 51 per cent.
- She has attempted 42 takedowns, 12 of which landed, meaning Shevchenko has a grappling accuracy of 55 per cent.
- In terms of defence, she has seen of 63 per cent of significant strikes and avoided 78 per cent of takedowns.
- Zhang has a significant strike success rate of 45 per cent, having connected with 379 of 840 such attempts.
- Her grappling is not quite as impressive. Zhang has just five successful takedowns from 21 - just 24 per cent landing.
- Of her successful strikes, 77 per cent come from a standing position.
- She has managed to avoid 54 per cent of significant strikes from her opponents.