We are days away from UFC 215, where Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson will (editor's note: NOT) look to set the record for successful title defenses and set him apart from every champion in the promotion’s history. But despite this incredible accolade, it could be the women’s fight that may steal the show on Saturday night.
Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes is set to defend her title in a rematch with who is now her arch-nemesis: Valentina Shevchenko. The two will collide in the evening’s co-main event and for anyone in the know, you can pretty much bet anything you like, that this one will have fireworks.
These two ladies have tangled before, in March of 2016, in a title eliminator bout at UFC 196. That evening, Nunes emerged victorious via a unanimous judges decision, with the official scorecards reading 29-28, 29-27, 29-27. Yes, you read those correctly.
Amanda earned a title shot that evening and would eventually take on Miesha Tate, who won the title that same evening at UFC 196, by defeating Holly Holm in an epic battle. When Nunes took on Tate though, it was a one sided affair at UFC 200. She won the title in devastating fashion with laser like precision striking ending it all with a rear naked choke just 3:16 into the first round.
But then Amanda was tasked to defend her title against Ronda Rousey, a job she tackled with even more ruthlessness, needing just forty-eight seconds to silence the screaming hype train that was the UFC-Rousey PR Machine. Her devastating right hand not only finished off Ronda, but just about (figuratively) silenced the crowd, as the Brazilian paraded around the octagon with one finger over her lips, telling everyone to shush, as “The Lioness” was officially the Queen of the MMA jungle.
One month later, Shevchenko earned her own title shot (and rematch) vs Nunes, by surprising many pundits with her second round armbar submission of Julianna Pena. The stage was set for Nunes / Shevchenko II, and they were scheduled to fight at UFC 213 in July, but the morning of the fight, the champ was hospitalized with chronic sinusitis.
This set up a firestorm between both fighters, some on social media, others through various interviews, culminating with a segment of the MMA populus stating Nunes was afraid to fight her adversary.
The bad blood between the two has continued to boil and will finally spill over on Saturday night. One look at their first fight and it’s easy to ascertain that Nunes will start off strong but potentially fade quicker than Shevchenko will, with every passing minute that ticks by. Their first tilt was three round affair. This one is scheduled for five rounds, so will this play into Valentina’s favour and will she use this as part of her strategy?
Of Amanda’s four losses, one was late in round two (Alexis Davis), one via decision (Sarah D'Alelio) and one early in round three (Cat Zingano). To defeat “The Lioness”, chances are Valentina may have to wait until she begins fading. Let her burn her energy early, and catch her later on, perhaps in the third round or sometime in the championship rounds.
But the risk here is that Amanda’s power cannot be underrated. When she hits people, it’s unlike nearly anyone else in the division. It’s precise and powerful. It will change anyone’s game plan very quickly.
But alas, Shevchenko has a very impressive professional boxing and muay thai record … in fact, it’s something that Amanda does not have on her resume. Case and point: her five round unanimous decision victory over Holly Holm in July of 2016. The official scorecards read 49-46, 49-46, 49-46. Four rounds to One for “The Bullet”.
Nunes / Shevchenko II is an intriguing fight to say the least, with so many variables and intangibles that will keep all MMA pundits on the edge of their seats. While “Mighty Mouse” will try and etch his name in the UFC history / record books, on Saturday night, the show more than likely be stolen by the evening’s co-main event. And I for one cannot wait to see what will happen the moment the referee steps out of the way.