In the main event of UFC on FOX 23, decorated kickboxer Valentina Shevchenko faced rising prospect and ferocious grappler Julianna Pena in what is likely a women’s Bantamweight title eliminator at UFC on FOX 23 (Jan. 28, 2017) from inside Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. Shevchenko was coming off a signature win over Holly Holm, and Pena had won four straight.
Pena opened with pressure, immediately diving into the clinch. She pressed Shevchenko against the cage, landing hard knees to the body. Shevchenko timed one of them and landed a sweep, dropping into side control. Pena scrambled back to her feet, again pressing Valentina against the cage. She resumed those gut-munching knees. Shevchenko ate a number of them, but then landed the same effortless sweep once again. Shevchenko landed some hard hammerfists from the top before ending up in Pena’s guard. Her careful approach was a clear contrast to the frenetic pace Pena wanted to set, as “Venezuelan Vixen” kept trying to land slapping shots from the bottom. Pena spun her hips for an armbar, inverting for greater leverage. Shevchenko locked her arms until the buzzer sounded.
Shevchenko landed a body kick as the second round opened, then Pena dove into the clinch once more. Shevchenko fought off her takedown attempts, but couldn’t seem to create distance. Halfway through the round, Pena took advantage of Shevchenko creating distance from the cage to hit a lateral drop. In top position, she postured up in guard, attempting to land meaningful ground-and-pound. Shevchenko attempted to minimize damage and then spun for an armbar. She went belly-down and locked it out. Pena, who rolled to her back but couldn’t get loose, tapped! It was an incredible and unexpected method of victory for the kickboxing great.
In the post-fight interview, Shevchenko affirmed that she regards herself as not just a kickboxer, but a complete MMA fighter. The champion, Amanda Nunes, then entered the Octagon and they faced off. Shevchenko shook hands with Nunes, then they had a fun back-and-forth. Nunes said she would show new ways to beat Valentina, and Shevchenko warned her to be careful because whatever she said would come back to her.
She very likely will receive a rematch with Nunes, who last defeated her at UFC 196. Their first fight was competitive, with Shevchenko taking over in the third round from an exhausted Nunes, and over five rounds, all bets are off that Nunes will be able to repeat her win.
Official result: Shevchenko def. Pena by submission (armbar) at 4:29 of round two
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