Valentina Shevchenko is confident Amanda Nunes defeats Julianna Peña and reclaims the UFC bantamweight championship.
The UFC flyweight champion saw what happened the first time Nunes and Peña fought at UFC 269, where the ‘Venezuelan Vixen’ stunned the world with a second-round rear-naked choke of the ‘Lioness’ this past December. Given her experience with the former two-division champion (Shevchenko lost to Nunes via decision at UFC 196 and UFC 215, respectively), ‘Bullet’ thought Nunes was ‘off’ that night because she was not the same woman she shared the Octagon with twice. Nunes has since confirmed that she entered the fight with Peña injured, as both of her knees were compromised in training.
Injuries aside, Shevchenko expects Nunes to right her wrong and return to form in the much-anticipated rematch against Peña at UFC 277 on Saturday.
“I think Amanda [wins],” Shevchenko told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “Because I felt in her last fight against Julianna, she kind of didn’t look like herself. I don’t know [what] so many factors affected that — family, training camp, friends at the gym or whatever — but she didn’t look the same way when we fought together. She was completely different. Body type, mental type, focus type, completely different. So my thoughts, if she will be the same Amanda who I know, she will win the fight.”
Though she has predicted a win for Nunes, Shevchenko lauded Peña and explained why she should not be written off. Shevchenko also fought Peña, submitting her by second-round armbar at UFC on FOX 23 over five years ago.
The Tiger Muay Thai staple noted how tough Peña was and why that could serve her well now that she is sitting atop the division.
“It’s a fight,” said Shevchenko. “You never know what’s going to happen. Julianna, she’s a strong opponent, she’s a furious opponent and she knows how much pressure is on her now to prove that she’s a real champion. And she will get ready for the fight like crazy, just get rid of everything going on outside the fight and just focus on that. To beat Amanda and get her confirmation that she’s a real champion. So it’s a very hard opponent, but I still think [Amanda wins]. But here it’s a lot of ‘if’. If that happens, it will be this result. If this happens, it’s going to be like…it’s a lot of ‘if’.
“So let’s see,” continued Shevchenko. “We can say whatever we can say, but the fight is real and it will show who’s the best.”
Following her most recent defense against Taila Santos at UFC 275 in June, Shevchenko hinted at returning to 135 pounds for a shot at the winner of Peña and Nunes. She revealed that option is still being considered, but it is on the back burner for now as she intends to stay at 125 pounds for her next appearance.
UFC 277 goes down on Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.