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UFC 231 card: Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs Valentina Shevchenko full fight preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Women’s Flyweight elites Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Valentina Shevchenko will collide this Saturday (Dec. 8, 2018) at UFC 231 inside Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

A pair of legends in women’s combat sports will go to war once more. If you’ve read much about this fight previously, you’re likely aware that Jedrzejczyk is technically winless in three tries opposite “Bullet” — a stat that is far less relevant than one would initially suspect. In fact, all three of those bouts occurred when both women were between the ages of 15 and 18. Shevchenko has been a martial artist since she could walk, whereas Jedrzejczyk only started kickboxing in her teens. The point is things are different. We’re in a different country with a new rule set and most importantly, two very different athletes from their collisions a decade ago.

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

Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Record: 15-2
Key Wins: Jessica Andrade (UFC 211), Claudia Gadelha (TUF 23 Finale, UFC on FOX 13), Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UFC 203), Carla Esparza (UFC 185), Tecia Torres (UFC on FOX 30)
Key Losses: Rose Namajunas (UFC 223, UFC 217)
Keys to Victory: A Muay Thai striker who redefines the term “high-volume,” Jedrzejczyk breaks opponents into pieces with a nonstop attack of kicks and punches. Additionally, Jedrzejczyk has some of the best takedown defense in the sport.

The former Strawweight queen remains a special athlete.

Growth and change aside, Shevchenko is still a difficult foe for Jedrzejczyk. In the pocket, Jedrzejczyk’s general strategy is to throw a half-dozen strikes each and every time — it’s what makes her great. At the same time, for a counter striker like Shevchenko, that also means she leaves a ton of openings.

As an adjustment, I’d like to see Jedrzejczyk focus on moving into the pocket and making this more akin to a boxing match than Muay Thai. At distance, Shevchenko routinely hits her check hook, maybe a low kick, and then disappears. If the exchanges begins from a closer range, it will be more difficult for Shevchenko to get away with single strike counters against combinations, and she’ll also have less of a chance to escape without eating a couple shots on the way out.

Valentina Shevchenko
Record: 15-3
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: Like her opponent, Shevchenko is a very decorated Muay Thai champion, but also holds a black belt in Judo. Inside the Octagon, Shevchenko focuses tightly on counter punching, but she’s skilled in all areas of combat.

A training partner of Rose Namajunas, it’s very clear that Shevchenko’s past knowledge of Jedrzejczyk helped the Strawweight champ defeat her Polish foe. Picking and choosing when to exchange with Jedrzejczyk is the key: fighters cannot hope to simply out-pace here, but they can leave her missing and focus on landing the harder blows.

It’s Shevchenko’s own strategy, so of course she has all the necessary tools to employ it. Expect Shevchenko to keep her feet moving, denying Jedrzejczyk an easy target and scoring low kicks when she can. Any time Shevchenko can interrupt a combo with a right hook, she will. Occasionally, she’ll bounce forward with a short combination to pick up points as well, and if Jedrzejczyk gets too aggressive, expect some clinch work.

Bottom Line: Alongside the upcoming Amanda Nunes vs. Cris Cyborg match up, it’s the most high-level match up in women’s mixed martial arts (MMA) today.

As such, it’s obviously a huge fight for both women. In Jedrzejczyk’s case, she’ll always be a threat to the Strawweight title, but she’s not going to get a third shot against Namajunas. As such, fighting there gains little for her — she can fight at 125 pounds until Namajunas is dethroned, at which point she could drop back at any time. In that situation though, it would be much better to do so as the champion, rather than be an elite contender unable to earn a title shot in two separate weight classes.

Shevchenko does have some great wins inside the Octagon and a claim to beating Nunes, but she has yet to strap a title around her waist in mixed martial arts. Given her remarkable success and background, it still does feel like a matter of time — especially now that she’s at her ideal weight class. However, there’s always the risk that her hype will evaporate with another loss even given the competition level, and she’ll only get so many chances. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 231 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

At UFC 231, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Valentina Shevchenko will square off in the co-main event. Which woman will see her hand raised?

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