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UFC 215 fight card: Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko preview

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Shevchenko vs Pena Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight rivals Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko will rematch TONIGHT (Sat., Sept. 9, 2017) at UFC 215 from inside Rogers Arena in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Just two months ago, this fight was slated as the main event of UFC 213. Everything appeared to be going well-enough, at least until Nunes pulled out citing illness just a few hours before the event. Ultimately, there were few consequences though, as the fight was remade for just two months later.

Regardless of the timing, the story here is still the same. Nunes is attempting to solidify her grip on the divisional crown, while Shevchenko is looking to avenge her only UFC loss and capture a title in the process.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each woman.

Amanda Nunes

Record: 14-4

Key Wins: Ronda Rousey (UFC 207), Miesha Tate (UFC 200), Valentina Shevchenko (UFC 196), Sara McMann (UFC Fight Night 73)

Key Losses: Cat Zingano (UFC 178), Sarah D'Alelio (Invicta FC 4), Alexis Davis (Strikeforce: Barnett vs Kharitonov)

Keys to Victory: Nunes’ biggest weapon at 135 lbs. is her physicality. Of course, it definitely helps that she’s a skilled grappler with a thudding 1-2, but Nunes tends to dominate opponents with her strength.

That’s how the first two rounds of their initial fight went down, and Nunes is surely looking to recreate that success.

In this bout, the pressure is on for Nunes to secure a finish, or at least do major damage early on. Unless something has changed dramatically in the previous six months, Nunes cannot compete with Shevchenko in the later rounds of the fight.

Against the champion Muay Thai fighter, it’s pretty clear that Nunes’ best chance of doing something significant is on the mat. For Nunes, the priority has to be to secure takedowns at the start of rounds, gain a dominant position, and batter or submit her opponent from there.

Valentina Shevchenko

Record: 14-2

Key Wins: Holly Holm (UFC on FOX 20), Julianna Pena (UFC on FOX 23), Sarah Kaufman (UFC on FOX 17)

Key Losses: Amanda Nunes (UFC 196)

Keys to Victory: Shevchenko is among my favorite female fighters to watch for a pretty simple reason. She’s a smooth technician; a tactical fighter who executes all of her technique with great confidence. Not matter where the fight takes her, Shevchenko remains poised and ready to capitalize.

Being a K-1 kickboxer/Muay Thai champion with something like 50 fights under her belt certainly helps with that composure.

Just as Nunes has to capitalize on the first 10 minutes of this contest, Shevchenko must survive it. “Bullet” is a natural Flyweight, meaning there’s a significant size disadvantage. For all her skill, that matters, and it means Nunes is more dangerous while fresh.

For Shevchenko, her strategy early should revolve around movement. Shevchenko generally holds her ground and waits for her opponent to attack — opening up her counter shots — but that makes it easier for Nunes to engage. Early on, Shevchenko should be trying to make Nunes miss as often as possible.

As the fight wears on, Shevchenko can slowly increase her own output, though she must always be careful about throwing low kicks. If she isn’t terribly far behind (or finished) by the third round, she’s in a great position to capture the belt.

Bottom Line: Delay or no, it’s the best women’s Bantamweight title fight yet.

Nunes is a beast. Her conditioning issues and simple strategies aren’t an issue when she’s blowing her opponents out of the water in less than a round. Shevchenko will be a difficult opponent to finish, but if Nunes can do it, it will be hugely impressive. If not, winning a decision across five rounds might even be a bigger sign of improvement.

If Nunes comes up short, her position at 135 lbs. is an interesting one. With Flyweight opening up, Shevchenko is likely not long for the weight class, so she’d be right back in the mix almost immediately. Plus, a move up to Featherweight is always an option for her as well.

Shevchenko has already had an incredible career in combat sports, and she’s looking to add a UFC title to her lengthy list of accomplishments. Still just 29 years old, Shevchenko sets herself up very well to capture two titles if she can win on Saturday night.

Win or lose, women competing at 125 lbs. should be wary of Shevchenko. If she does lose, they should be wary right away.

At UFC 215, Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko will collide with a belt on the line. Which woman will win the rematch?

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