Valentina Shevchenko ran out of time in her first meeting with Amanda Nunes. When they meet again, she’ll have two extra rounds with which to work.
Barring some unforeseen circumstances, Shevchenko likely clinched a title shot against Nunes with a second-round submission of Julianna Pena in the UFC on Fox 23 main event on Saturday night. With Pena working from top position in the second frame, “Bullet” transitioned to an armbar and held the position during a scramble, forcing a tapout at the 4:29 mark of the period.
“This is one of those sports where you never know what’s gonna happen. I thought if the fight was standing, Shevchenko wins, and if it goes to the ground, Julianna is gonna submit her and ground-and-pound her,” UFC President Dana White said. “Valentina proved tonight that she’s ready for a title shot.”
While Shevchenko is largely recognized for her striking thanks to a background in muay Thai and kickboxing, she showed with her performance against Pena that she is far from a one-dimensional fighter.
“I’m a martial artist. I’m not only a striker like people said. I’m a complete fighter,” she said. “What tactic I use depends on my opponent. On my MMA record I have a few submissions. It wasn’t like I was starting MMA from zero. I was in MMA many years ago. In that time we didn’t have a lot of opponents in MMA, and that’s why I was dedicated more to muay Thai and K-1. In 2010 the world of MMA grew up, we went back to MMA.”
Shevchenko has been on a roll of late, winning seven of her last eight bouts — including three triumphs in the Octagon. Her lone defeat during that time was a decision loss to Nunes at UFC 196, a bout in which the Brazilian started quickly but Shevchenko had the upper hand in the final stanza. Since then, Nunes has established herself as the division’s best with dominant triumphs over Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey. While Nunes has been impressive, Shevchenko expects things to look a little bit different when they square off again.
“I’m very excited for this fight. I know it will be a totally different fight with a different result,” Shevchenko said. “Amanda won not because she was stronger than me. It was because I gave her a reason to take this victory…Every fight makes me much stronger. I know I will do my best to take this belt. I’m ready right now.”
White did not have a clear target date in mind for Nunes vs. Shevchenko, but he did put a halt to any plans Nunes might have of moving up to challenge for 145-pound gold. Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie will meet for the inaugural featherweight belt at UFC 208 on Feb. 11.
“Let her defend her title. She hasn’t defended her title,” White said. “Everybody wants to jump around these days. We’ve got to start pumping the brakes [on that].”