UFC 215 this Saturday in Edmonton features a women’s title fight that has been too long in the making. I wrote about it back in July and will reaffirm my position here.
It was at UFC 213 that the scheduled bout between the women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes (14-4) and No. 1 contender Valentina Shevchenko (14-2) was supposed to occur. Then last May they were booked to meet but it fell through.
This will be the second time in a little over a year these two women will face off. Both were trying to make their way up the bantamweight ladder when their paths crossed at UFC 196. Nunes won via unanimous decision and parlayed the victory into a title fight against Ronda Rousey.
Nunes continues to receive no respect from both the oddsmakers and the bettors alike. Even after winning seven of her eight UFC bouts, beating arguably the most dominant female mixed martial artist of all time in Ronda Rousey, and owning a victory against Shevchenko, Nunes is still being bet against. I don’t mind that one bit, since it results in even more value when backing her.
In their first bout Nunes dominated rounds 1 and 2, by out-striking Shevchenko when standing and then completely controlling her on the ground. In fact, Valentina had absolutely no answers at all when Nunes had top control. The challenger attempted no submissions off of her back and took a lot of punishment. But in the third round it appeared Nunes had gassed and Shevchenko took full advantage, taking the momentum away and clearly avoiding a sweep on the judges’ scorecards.
Nunes’ cardio has been the greatest concern heading into the rematch; since this is a championship bout it will be a five round fight. Since September 2014 the champion has finished all of her opponents inside the first round, except for one, Shevchenko. The champion is big for a bantamweight and when both enter the octagon, her size advantage will be obvious. Having so much muscle on a 135-pound frame takes its toll and Nunes’ endurance has had to pay the cost.
Therefore it should come as no surprise to see Shevchenko take her time early on in the bout and attempt to take it into the championship rounds. Stylistically, the former muay thai and kick boxing champion is a very patient counter puncher. She’s an extremely technical and accurate striker who prefers to use her range even though she’s undersized for the division. The challenger is still developing her ground game and though she’s not afraid to take a fight to the mat, she’s much more comfortable standing or in the clinch.
Nunes will have a strength advantage and is much more aggressive offensively. That allowed her to dictate which way they circled on their feet, which should once again be vital. Since Shevchenko fights from the southpaw stance, Nunes wants to circle left in order to stay away from her power. On the flip side, by doing this the champion simultaneously walks Shevchenko into her power right hand.
Finally, Nunes is an excellent wrestler with devastating ground and pound to go along with a decent submission game. She’s undoubtedly the biggest puncher in the division, with seven of her last eight wins coming via knockout/submission. Unlike the challenger, the champion showed the ability to fight off her back and get to her feet when Shevchenko had top control, showcasing how well rounded Nunes has become since joining American Top Team.
Bottom line, Nunes almost put Shevchenko away in the second round at UFC 196 before settling for a unanimous decision victory. The challenger proved her toughness by not only surviving, but coming back to win the third and final round. Many said afterward if it had been a five round bout, Shevchenko would’ve gone on to win. I believe that’s the main reason so many have already bet on her to extract revenge and capture the UFC women’s bantamweight crown on Saturday night.
Therefore my plan is to sit back and let the Shevchenko money continue rolling in, then step up to the betting window and fire on the champion, hopefully as an underdog!