Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight athletes Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena clashed last night (Jan. 28, 2017) at UFC on FOX 23 inside Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
In her three UFC fights leading up to this match, Shevchenko scored a pair of wins over former champions and a close loss to the current queen. The Muay Thai champion was clearly one of the best around, and she was in hot pursuit of a rematch with Amanda Nunes.
“Venezuelan Vixen” stood in her way.
Pena has been perfect inside the Octagon, winning her first four match ups against increasingly tough competition. Like her former Ultimate Fighter (TUF) coach Miesha Tate, Pena thrives with pressure wrestling and wild punches, and she was hoping to overwhelm her veteran foe last night.
Pena worked her way into the clinch pretty methodically to begin the bout. As she looked to control against the fence and land knees, Shevchenko hit a very smooth reversal to put Pena on her back.
However, Pena scrambled very well back to her feet and drove into the clinch again. For a second time, Shevchenko quickly tripped Pena back to the mat. This time, Shevchenko stayed very tight, landing shots when given the opportunity but largely focusing on controlling her larger foe.
Pena attempted an armbar at the end of the round, but it wasn’t enough to win the round.
Once again, Pena was able to jam her opponent into the fence before long. She was a bit more patient with her knee strikes, allowing her to control Shevchenko and land decent strikes.
After three minutes of hard work in the clinch, Pena was able to finally score a takedown. From her back, Shevchenko did a very nice job of controlling posture and maintaining guard. Without much time remaining in the round, Shevchenko timed her foe’s ground strike to roll up on an armbar of her own. She was able to secure the hold before Pena got a particularly strong grip, so Shevchenko went belly down to apply pressure and fully break the grip.
Pena attempted to step over the head and scramble out, but she was soon forced to submit.
Once again, Shevchenko has proven that she’s far more than just a nasty striker. She was very difficult to take down in the clinch, as she actually landed more takedowns from that position than her opponent.
However, Shevchenko’s bottom game has never appeared all that good prior to this bout. She’s clearly been improving in that area, however, as Shevchenko did a very nice job of retaining guard and preventing Pena from doing damage. Above all else, that’s Pena’s specialty, so on its own defending from guard was an accomplishment for Shevchenko.
The armbar was the cherry on top.
Moving forward, there’s no doubt that Shevchenko will face off with Amanda Nunes in her next bout. The two squared off inside the cage in a hilariously smiley confrontation that was more genuine than most of MMA’s trash talk. As for Pena, she was unable to ever get much going. To her credit, she did improve on a couple aspects, as she was able to get into the clinch without eating a ton of shots and did not rush her throws from there.
Nevertheless, Shevchenko was more than a match for her even at Pena’s preferred range. Despite that, Pena’s aggression and will finally caused a slight turn in momentum for her in the form of the takedown, but even then she was not able to overcome Shevchenko’s superior technical skill.
Pena will need to improve before she faces one of the division’s absolute best again.
Last night at UFC on FOX 23, Valentina Shevchenko landed a slick arm bar in the second round. Can Shevchenko defeat Nunes in a rematch of their 2016 battle?
For complete UFC on FOX 23: “Shevchenko vs. Pena” results and play-by-play, click HERE!