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UFC on FOX 20: Holly Holm, 'Fighter to Watch' tonight in Chicago

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women's Bantamweight champion Holly Holm steps inside of the Octagon tonight (Sat., July 23, 2016) at UFC on FOX 20 from the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, she will be faced with the difficult task of beating the potent Valentina Shevchenko.

While Shevchenko isn't quite in the same group as Holm, Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg, she has the potential to one day fight for the 135-pound title. Heck, Shevchenko already holds a professional kickboxing victory over UFC women's Strawweight champion and undefeated Polish sensation Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

Needless to say, Holm has her work cut out for her. After rising to mixed martial arts (MMA) prominence back at UFC 193 by shocking the world and knocking Ronda Rousey out cold, Holm has been unable to hold onto her divisional title. In a meeting with Miesha Tate at UFC 196 this past March, "The Preacher's Daughter" was put to sleep in the fifth and final round after controlling much of the fight. While she didn't tap, Holm did suffer her first professional loss and relinquished the belt as quickly as she won it.

As shes enters the Octagon later tonight at UFC on FOX 20, all eyes will be on the 34-year-old former boxing champion. Considering Holm is coming off her first defeat of her MMA career, it will be interesting to see how she responds against a talented offensive weapon like Shevchenko. After all, back-to-back loses atop the women's Bantamweight division isn't going to bode well for Holm's chances of meeting Rousey in a rematch when the former queen of mean decides to return to the cage. That is a huge fight and one that may slip through Holm's fingertips if she's unable to right the ship in Chicago.

You also have to consider that Shevchenko is arguably the best striker Holm has ever faced inside of the cage. In the past, Holm has been able to utilize her distance control, striking precision and boxing skills to thwart some of the best names in the division. But against someone like "Pistol," who sports a 56-2 professional kickboxing record, Holm will need to be more crafty than ever before. It will officially mark her first contest inside of the Octagon in which her storied boxing background will truly be put to the test.

If Holm is able to utilize her powerful combinations, forward control and slight reach advantage, she should be able to outpoint the rising contender and reclaim divisional prominence. But if her standup skills fail under the quick offensive output and overall toughness of Shevchenko, Holm may find herself on the wrong end of the top 5 entering 2017.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 20 fight card TONIGHT (click here), starting with the UFC Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX at 6 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.

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