MMAmania.com resident fighter analyst — and aspiring professional fighter — Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC 213 headliner Valentina Shevchenko, who looks to avenge a prior loss this Saturday night (July 8, 2017) inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Experienced Muay Thai fighter, Valentina Shevchenko, will attempt to dethrone Ultimate Fighter Championship (UFC) Bantamweight queen, Amanda Nunes, this Saturday (July 8, 2017) at UFC 213 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Shevchenko has been something of a miraculous pick up for UFC.
She appeared out of nowhere, taking a short-notice bout opposite long-time veteran Sarah Kaufman. Having fought mostly outside of the United States, few had heard of Shevchenko ahead of her 2015 Octagon debut, but that win proved she was something special.
Immediately after, Shevchenko came up short in a very close fight with her upcoming opponent. Then, she cleanly took out a pair of Top 5-ranked contenders, showcasing some of the best technique in her division in all areas of the game.
Let’s take a closer look at her skill set:
Shevchenko is a multiple-time K-1 and Muay Thai champion, holding a professional record of 58-2 in kickboxing. She’s also won a pair of professional boxing matches, and has a list of ranks and accomplishments on Wikipedia that will make your head spin. On the whole, Shevchenko’s counter fighting style has proven very effective thus far in her mixed martial arts (MMA) career.
Working out of the Southpaw stance, Shevchenko is very much a counter puncher and absolutely despises initiating exchanges. Shevchenko stays very light on her feet, ready to counter, and waits for her opponent to move.
As she showed opposite Holly Holm, Shevchenko will wait … and wait … and wait.
To encourage her foe to lead, Shevchenko will attack with non-committal blows to score points. This was most necessary opposite Holm, her fellow Southpaw counter puncher. In that match up, Shevchenko quickly stabbed at her foe with inside low kicks and sharp jabs, putting some pressure on Holm to make a move.
Once her opponent moves forward, Shevchenko is in her wheelhouse. Often, she’ll take advantage of her light footwork and skip backward, just out of her opponent’s range. At this point, she’ll fire off her favored check right hook, her go-to counter punch. While throwing the right hook, Shevchenko can also angle off and set herself up for a hard body kick.
The check hook is a near constant weapon for the kickboxer.
Shevchenko is very skilled at countering kicks as well. If her opponent throws a kick to the body or head without setup — which isn’t uncommon if her opponent is fighting Orthodox — Shevchenko will spring forward and fire off either a left cross or her usual counter hook. Either way, it’s an effective tactic, as her opponent is not in position to absorb or counter a punch. Opposite Holm — who maintained more distance — Shevchenko instead countered with low kicks, blocking or checking her foes kick before returning with one of her own.
Additionally, one of the most unique traits I’ve seen in Shevchenko is her habit of countering outside low kicks — again, a common tactic for an Orthodox fighter taking on a Southpaw — with spins. Against Sarah Kaufman, Shevchenko utilized both spinning kicks and spinning punches to punish her opponent’s quick low kick attempts (GIF).
As a counter puncher, Shevchenko is quite hard to hit cleanly. Part of that is due to her excellent habit of waiting for her opponent to engage before smothering their attempted offense in the clinch. Ducking down, Shevchenko will step towards her foe and look to grab the head and an underhook. Similarly, when she relies on her check hook, Shevchenko does well to get her head off the center line.
Once in the clinch, Shevchenko is a very effective striker. She does an excellent job of using head position to turn her opponent and force her into the fence. Once there, Shevchenko will attack with hard elbows and knees. It’s a really strong area for “Bullet,” as she breaks her opponent down quickly from in-close.
A black belt in Judo, Shevchenko has proven to be a solid wrestler so far. Thanks to her background in Judo as well as Muay Thai, Shevchenko possesses some very solid clinch wrestling that is well-suited to MMA, which is the topic of her technique highlight.
In her bout with Holm, Shevchenko proved just how good her clinch takedowns really are. Relying on basic attempts like the inside trip or head-and-arm throw, Shevchenko timed her attempts and entries very well, allowing her to catch Holm off-balance and land in top position (GIF).
Defensively, Shevchenko is definitely at a bit of a disadvantage, as she likely is more suited for the Flyweight division. That said, her takedown defense has been pretty solid thus far. While Nunes found success with clinch trips and by catching kicks, Shevchenko rejected the Brazilian’s shots far more often than not.
Thanks to her counter punching style, it’s difficult to land double legs on the Russian. In fact, Shevchenko doesn’t just defend takedowns, she actively batters opponents for trying. In this, she uses similar techniques to her past opponent — and current UFC Strawweight queen — Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
If Shevchenko is able to stop a shot, she usually responds with one of two attacks. For one, she’ll latch onto a double-collar tie and jam knees into the body or head before switching to elbows. Alternatively, Shevchenko will weigh heavily on a whizzer or head lock, breaking her opponent’s posture. Once that happens, Shevchenko will jam her forehead into her opponent’s jaw to prevent any reshot and use the created space to deliver more elbow strikes.
Prior to her last bout, the biggest weakness in Shevchenko’s game appeared to be her jiu-jitsu. When put on her back opposite Nunes, Shevchenko was far from comfortable, plus it’s the one area where she isn’t a black belt or Master of Sports.
Luckily, she showed real improvement in her most recent bout. Julianna Pena is a very talented grappler, and her size and determination eventually allowed her to get into top position. However, Shevchenko was patient, capitalizing on her opponent’s focus on ground striking to isolate an arm and pull it across her waist. Once Nunes’ arm was across her body, it was in perfect position for Shevchenko to swivel and attack the arm bar.
It was textbook, and Shevchenko’s ability to maintain the position and pressure throughout the roll was impressive as well (GIF).
Defensively, Shevchenko did manage to survive a large jiu-jitsu black belt’s back mount in the second round. Besides anything else, defending the back mount is about focus and toughness, and “Bullet” passed both tests. Despite being in some deep trouble, she remained calm, fought the grip and kept her chin down.
Shevchenko was a bit rough around the edges in terms of MMA when she first entered UFC, but her individual martial arts abilities are among the most impressive of any female fighter. The holes in her game have been filling up consistently, and this is her chance to put all those improvements on display opposite the only woman to beat her inside the Octagon.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.
Source:: mma mania