Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Flyweight strikers Valentina Shevchenko and Priscila Cachoeira this Saturday (Feb. 3, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 125 inside Arena Guilherme Paraense in Belem, Brazil.
Shevchenko very easily could be the Bantamweight champion of the world right now, but the split-decision opposite Amanda Nunes did not go her way. On the bright side, the Russian athlete has long stated that she is better suited for 125 pounds, and this will be her chance to make the drop in UFC for the first time. Meanwhile, Cachoeira is a complete unknown to just about everyone, but she does have an inspiring back story to accompany her undefeated record. It’s hard to get a true read on her level of competition, but “Pedrita” has a chance to earn the biggest win of her career.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each woman:
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 215, UFC 196)
Keys to Victory: Shevchenko is quite possibly the most technical fighter in all of women’s MMA. A very sharp counter striker with decades of Muay Thai experience, Shevchenko is also a surprisingly strong clinch wrestler with sneaky submissions.
Her opponent is young, physical and aggressive. That combination has led Cachoeira to a great deal of success on the regional scene, but it’s one that Shevchenko has dealt with repeatedly in both the ring and cage. Opposite a fighter pushing forward, Shevchenko’s check hook and left kick will find their targets often. That’s her bread-and-butter, and if Shevchenko is landing with her core techniques, her hand is generally raised at the end of the night.
If at any point Shevchenko is struggling a bit on the feet, Cachoeira is thoroughly unproven on the mat. Shevchenko has shown excellent clinch takedowns in the past — particularly when countering forward movement — which are an excellent tool for slowing a wild opponent.
Key Wins: Record-wise, the best wins on Cachoeira’s resume are Amanda Torres (7-4) and Karoline Martins (4-1), but I’m not going to pretend that I previously heard of any of Cachoeira’s opponents in Brazil.
Key Losses: None
Keys to victory: Cachoeira fights very much like you’d expect of a prospect with half of her victories via knockout. The Brazilian is not the most technical striker in the world — and frankly, even that may be a polite understatement — but she definitely has pop in her shots.
Since I described Shevchenko as the most technical fighter around and Cachoeira is decidedly less skilled, there’s no real “on paper” strategy. Cachoeira cannot hope to out-point Shevchenko in a kickboxing match, but perhaps she can do enough to sway the judges.
Realistically, Cachoeira is probably not going to knock Shevchenko out if Amanda Nunes failed to twice, but the potential for her to win a couple rounds does exist. Shevchenko is something of a slow starter, so if Cachoeira is able to storm out of the gate and score early, perhaps she can steal some rounds.
Bottom Line: Until she loses, Shevchenko is the heir apparent to the Flyweight title.
Shevchenko should be fighting to earn a title shot here. Frankly, it’s debatable that she should even require a win at all — what does beating a UFC newcomer really prove? — but at least it establishes her in the Flyweight division. With a strong performance, Shevchenko should land herself a slot opposite Nicco Montano, and she would be a significant favorite.
A loss would be insanely shocking and drop her from the immediate title mix.
As for Cachoeira, UFC clearly expects big things from her. First, she was matched up with Lauren Murphy (Flyweight’s No. 2) and will instead face Bantamweight’s No. 1-ranked contender. Win or lose, the organization must see potential in the Brazilian, so it’s likely she’ll continue to receive high-level fights moving forward. That said, a win very possibly earns her a title shot, or at least puts her in strong position for a No. 1 contender eliminator match.
At UFC Fight Night 125, Valentina Shevchenko and Priscila Cachoeira will duel. Which woman will have her hand raised?