Pena-Shevchenko battle it out for title shot against Nunes
January 24, 2017 3:06 AM
by Vegas Runner
The UFC women’s bantamweight division proved to be one of the promotion’s most competitive and captivating in 2016. The title changed hands multiple times and though this weight class had been dominated by Ronda Rousey since its inception, that all changed this past year.
Over the last 12 months a number of potential stars have emerged within the womens 135-pound division, including the title holder Amanda Nunes. She closed out 2016 by completely wrecking Rousey in the very first round of their championship bout just a few weeks ago.
This coming Saturday night the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado plays host to UFC on FOX 23, and 2017 begins with another bantamweight main event. Valentina Shevchenko (13-2) faces Julianna Pena (9-2), with the winner slated to get a shot at Nunes and her 135-pound strap.
The perception heading into this fight is these two women are very evenly matched, with the phrase “coin flip” being used repeatedly. Therefore it should come as no surprise the betting line reflects the market’s impression. Oddsmakers made each fighter -110, and as we go to print Shevchenko is now a very slight favorite of -120.
Rather than waste any time sharing statistics that are readily available, I’ll instead get straight to the bottom line… Personally, I believe the betting line is way off.
Simply put, the goal of the betting line is to do one of two things, either split the money being wagered or split the result. Since sportsbooks have a built-in edge by way of the “vig.” doing either of those two successfully limits risk and makes them a mathematical certainty to turn a profit long term.
For this fight I’m very confident the betting line will enable bookmakers to split the action, which in turn results in offering up more than enough value to warrant a wager… so let’s fire.
PICK: JULIANNA PENA
This is a terrible matchup stylistically for Shevchenko. Granted she’s a well-rounded mixed martial artist, but her disciplines heavily focus on striking. Shevchenko was 56-2 in her professional Muay Thai career, besting the likes of current UFC champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and capturing world titles before she competed in MMA. She is a very efficient striker with excellent defense, but lacks one-punch finishing power.
Pena employed strong wrestling to get signed by the UFC, but she’s continued to improve her striking with every bout. Her aggressive style coupled with an edge in strength and power will be difficult for Shevchenko to deal with. As long as Pena doesn’t allow her opponent to dictate distance the entire bout, it’s only a matter of time before she puts Shevchenko on her back.
That is where Pena will enjoy her greatest edge, as she’s shown in past fights. I expect the Venezuelan will be able to get top control and inflict a lot of damage via vicious ground and pound. That should make Shevchenko less of a threat while standing as the bout progresses, and allow for Pena to either close the show or grind away at a unanimous victory.
Either way, I’m confident the wrong fighter is favored in this one and that backing Pena gives us the best of it in this main event.