A potentially high octane striking match between two elite female bantamweights opens the night's festivities this March 5, 2016 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Match Up
Women's bantamweight Amanda Nunes -130 vs. Valentina Shevchenko +110
3 Things You Should Know
1. Nunes' win over Sara McMann was incredible, but always beware the quick finish.
Not because they have no value, but because they typically represent one of many possible worlds. Quick finishes display a psychological trick on our brains, whispering to us that the quicker the finish, the wider the gap between two talents.
I don't think Nunes was that much better than McMann. But being able to discard such a still talented (in my opinion) fighter represents her capacity to finish. And that's a fine trait in and of itself. She's in a fairly touch matchup, stylistically, so casual fans: don't let the obscure Russian name fool you.
2. Shevchenko is polished, and dangerous; two things that were enough for Sarah Kaufman.
Shevchenko has a boxing resume as well as a Muay Thai and Kickboxing pedigree. Needless to say, she's more than equipped to deal with Nunes' high wire act on the feet. However, she's much more versatile than she looks on paper. Her grappling is stout, as she swivels her hips like most good Russians who grew up with the soup next to their Sambo.
3. As dynamic as this matchup is, don't expect Lineker vs. Rivera or anything.
In the Kaufman fight, Shevchenko was more than willing to avoid prolonged exchanges by engaging in the clinch. While she wasn't dominant by any stretch, she did enough to convince the judges. Making your UFC debut against such an established fighter is no easy task to state the painfully obvious.
On the feet, she owns some very useful strikes. Her outside kick to the thigh, and that counter right from the southpaw position stand out the most. Her ranges from underwhelming to piercing. The latter comes from the speed with which she chambers her punches. I don't know that she can fight Nunes successfully at range, but I do know that she can successfully weather the storm if her takedowns remain a constant.
Nunes has sharpened her game a lot since she's been with ATT. She doesn't wade in as aggressively as she used to. However, her ability to close the distance with precision and brutal power are still evident in the way she commits to a pressure game. She's not lost on the ground either. Nunes is better able to take advantage of a ground scramble thanks to her ground and pound. It's the reason to favor her more than her punching power only because Shevchenko is so intelligent with her movement that looks stiff, but is just subtle.
Nunes with good coaching and a mind for actually processing that coaching is a scary, scary prospect. Cardio is still an issue, but she's come a long way since getting TKO'ed by Alexis Davis. Shevchenko should be able to back Amanda up with front kicks, leg kicks, and some Judo, but I don't see her stopping the rush, or the accumulation of that rush. Amanda Nunes by Decision.