The UFC on FOX 23 main event at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado was a women’s bantamweight #1 contender matchup between Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena. At stake was a title shot against reigning champion Amanda Nunes, and in a surprise outcome, the striking specialist Shevchenko pulled off the submission win against “The Venezuelan Vixen.”
Pena immediately ducked under and worked for the clinch, where Shevchenko worked some punches to the body, while Pena threw knees to Valentina’s midsection. Shevchenko swept Pena under and took her down right into side control. Pena made her way back to the feet. After more knees to the body, Shevchenko again timed a takedown into side control. Shevchenko ate some short hammerfists. Pena was able to at least get to closed guard late in the round. She attacked Shevchenko with an armbar but was unsuccessful, and the horn sounded.
FOX commentator Jon Anik relayed to the audience prior to the start of round 2 that Pena told her corner that she injured her right shoulder. Pena once again surged forward for a takedown but Shevchenko defended brilliantly. They traded knees to the body against the fence. Pena dropped down for a double-leg takedown but didn’t quiet complete it. She did get a powerful trip-takedown to put Shevchenko on her back. Pena threw some shots to the body inside Shevchenko’s guard. Shevchenko turned the tables on Pena and went for her own armbar. She went belly down, Pena tried to step over, but Shevchenko rolled over and kept extending the arm, and Pena tapped out.
Official result: Valentina Shevchenko def. Julianna Pena via submission (armbar) at 4:29 of round 2
Post-fight, Shevchenko had an in-cage staredown with Amanda Nunes, so all signs point to Shevchenko getting a second crack against the only fighter to defeat her inside the Octagon. For Pena, this is her first UFC loss, and just the third of her career, and first by submission.