Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight contenders Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena will clash TONIGHT (Jan. 28, 2017) at UFC on FOX 23 inside Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
Despite being relative new to the Octagon, Shevchenko has made a big impact. She’s won a pair of fights over really strong opposition, and her sole lose came in the form of a close decision opposite the current champion. With a win here, she’ll receive an opportunity to avenge that defeat. Pena is on a hot streak of her own. The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 champion was sidelined for several years with injuries, but she’s returned and put together three victories, announcing herself as a top five contender.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both women:
Key Wins: Holly Holm (UFC on FOX 20), Sarah Kaufman (UFC on FOX 17), Jan Finney (LFC 39)
Key Losses: Amanda Nunes (UFC 196), Liz Carmouche (C3 Fights)
Keys to Victory: Shevchenko is an excellent counter striker with a strong background in Muay Thai and kickboxing. She also possesses some slick Judo, as she’s successfully landed takedowns from the clinch opposite each of her opponents.
For a closer look at a pair of Shevchenko’s counter striking standards, check out the video below.
In this match, Shevchenko needs to avoid doing a couple things in order to win. First and foremost, Shevchenko should avoid the brawl, which her background and style set her up to do without much trouble. Secondly, when she takes top position — and she almost definitely will at some point — Shevchenko needs to avoid scrambles.
Pena is so rushed to get into the clinch that she gives away top position, but she’s able to get away with it because she baits her opponents into scrambles, get on top, and then completely control. Zingano, for example, attempted an inverted triangle from back mount only to end up tired and stuck beneath Pena.
If Shevchenko can instead remain disciplined by staying slick on her feet and focusing on maintaining control from top, she really shouldn’t encounter many problems.
Key Wins: Cat Zingano (UFC 200), Jessica Eye (UFC 192), Milana Dudieva (UFC Fight Night 63)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Pena is a dominant athlete who thrives from top position. She also tends to overwhelm her opponents, growing stronger as the fight wears on and breaking her foe’s will with constant grappling exchanges.
That should be the plan here, as Pena wants no part of Shevchenko’s stand up game.
Pena’s desperation to clinch may not be a defensively sound trait, but it will likely benefit her here. So long as she can consistently close range with the kickboxer, Pena has a clear path to victory.
In a five round fight, it doesn’t matter all that much if Pena is occasionally reversed. While working in the clinch and on the mat, Pena’s physical strength and size advantage will tire her opponent. Plus, her scrambling from the bottom is a strong suit and will ensure that Shevchenko has no time to rest.
Whether it’s through a trip or sweep, if Pena is able to take top position, it’s very bad news for her opponent. Pena is an expert from there, whereas her foe struggles on her back.
Pena only needs one opportunity to change the fight in a big way.
Bottom Line: This is a title eliminator.
Shevchenko has a ton of potential to become champion. She has some insane credentials and already performs quite well inside the cage despite her inexperience in MMA. From a kickboxing stand point, she’s simply far beyond most of her peers, which has allowed her to succeed despite being undersized. With a victory here, Shevchenko will square off opposite Amanda Nunes once again. A five round fight favors her, as Shevchenko was able to outlast the Brazilian in their first match but ran out of time to overcome the early deficit.
On the other hand, a loss leaves her in a less desirable position, but the potential of a 125-pound division keep her title dreams alive.
As for Pena, the 27 year old has the potential to win a title shot as well. Like her foe, she definitely has a path to victory opposite the champion, as Pena can match her physicality without slowing down. While a loss will delay Pena’s goals, it could actually be the best thing for her. She’s young enough to improve, and there are areas of her game that could use technical refinement. Pena has plenty of room to improve despite her current level of talent, and often a loss pushes young fighters to grow.
TONIGHT at UFC on FOX 23, Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena will duel. Which woman will take another step towards the title?
Source:: mma mania