The future of the UFC women’s flyweight division is left uncertain. A title bout between Valentina Shevchenko and Jessica Andrade has been booked for April 24th. Strawweight emperor Zhang Weili is looming in the corner, potentially seizing the winner, should she beat Rose Namajunas the same night. Where does that leave perennial contender Joanne Calderwood and her fellow flyweights though?
Having been booked against Shevchenko before (with the champ pulling out due to injury), Calderwood is looking for another opportunity to strike gold. Unfortunately for the Scot, she risked her would-be title shot in fighting Jennifer Maia last fall. She would lose her chance to be fight the undisputed champ, however she may be well within reach with another win.
“JoJo 2.0” would upgrade to 3.0 with a muay thai clinic against former title challenger Jessica Eye at UFC 257. Being back in the win column, her fiancée and coach John Wood says she is now 1 or 2 fights away from challenging Shevchenko for the strap.
What opponent would possibly propel the flyweight into title contention? Team Calderwood had the answer. #3 in the world, Lauren Murphy.
“Lucky” Lauren Murphy is riding a 4-fight win streak, the second longest streak in the division. After finishing Liliya Shakirova at UFC 254, Murphy called for a title shot. Unluckily, the title shot would never come, with former champ Jessica Andrade stealing the spotlight with a 1st round KO of #1 ranked Katelyn Chookagian earlier that month.
“We definitely put it out on our side that we would love to have that fight.” Wood told MMA Island. “Jojo would love to have that fight. It makes the most sense. While Andrade and Shevchenko are fighting, the division doesn’t get log-jammed.”
Wood definitely sees the potential catalyst at stake with Zhang Weili vs Rose Namajunas headlining the same card as Valentina Shevchenko vs Jessica Andrade. If Zhang defends her belt, the Chinese champion may end up moving up in weight to go for dual-champion status, fighting Shevchenko or rematching Andrade, who she KO’ed to earn the strawweight title back in 2019. Coach Wood acknowledges the potential matchup and continues with the landscape paved at 125.
“You’ve also got Viviane [Araujo] and [Katlyn] Chookagian fighting, so that’s another one.” Wood added. “Whoever wins that reaches the line and gets in there [title contention].”
“It would make sense to have Jojo and Lauren go in, but you never know. That’s the matchmaker’s job.”
“Jo is one of those people that wants to stay active. It’s kind of a numbers game at this point in time. I don’t really know that the rankings make much difference over the point of just going out there getting fights and beating people. Lauren hasn’t really beat anyone. She hasn’t, but she’s got four fights in a row.”
Is Joanne Calderwood vs Lauren Murphy the next fight to make?