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UFC 255 card: Valentina Shevchenko vs Jennifer Maia full fight preview

UFC 247: Shevchenko v Chookagian Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Flyweight talents Valentina Shevchenko and Jennifer Maia will collide this weekend (Sat., Nov. 21, 2020) at UFC 255 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Shevchenko appears as unstoppable as any champion on the roster. She’s been utterly dominant since moving down to her appropriate weight class of 125 pounds, picking apart and out-wrestling all of her opposition with apparent ease. There’s no reason to believe Maia will be able to do anything different, but then, that’s precisely the circumstance necessary for a truly shocking upset. For her part, Maia has won three of her last four bouts on the strength of her boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

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

Valentina Shevchenko

Record: 18-3
Key Wins: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC 231), Holly Holm (UFC on FOX 20), Katlyn Chookagian (UFC 247), Liz Carmouche (UFC Fight Night 157), 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 a surgeon. There is no fighter who comes to mind as more efficient, as Shevchenko makes her opponent miss with small movements then quickly lands counter punches. Oh, and she’s largely proven herself capable of tossing her opponent from the clinch whenever she’d like.

As mentioned, it’s hard to see what exactly Maia brings to the table in terms of a new challenge for “Bullet.” Most likely, Shevchenko can back off from her opponent’s punches and fire that left kick largely at will. If Maia tries to kick herself, Shevchenko is quite good at checking and firing back.

If Shevchenko wants the takedown, it’s probably there. She’s more physical and manages range too well. Really, Shevchenko just has to be wary on the mat not to get caught in an armbar like Joanne Calderwood.

There’s a reason the champion is a 16-1 favorite.

Jennifer Maia

Record: 18-6
Key Wins: Joanne Calderwood (UFC Vegas 5), Roxanne Modafferi (UFC on ESPN 4, Invicta FC 19), Alexis Davis (UFC Fight Night 148), Vanessa Porta (Invicta FC 16)
Key Losses: Katlyn Chookagian (UFC 244), Liz Carmouche (UFC Fight Night 133)
Keys To Victory: A product of the Chute Boxe Academy, Maia is an aggressive puncher who works well in combination. She’s got solid physicality, and the Brazilian has finished half of her professional victories.

Despite all that’s written so far, Shevchenko is not a perfect athlete. She is quite good at her style of combat, but all styles have a weakness of some kind. Whether Maia is capable of exploiting those flaws remains to be seen, but she gives herself a chance if she at least tries.

First and foremost, Maia has to feint actively. Shevchenko is a sharp counter puncher, but that timing can be dulled with believable feints. If Maia is mixing up her timing and giving Shevchenko lots of different looks, she stands a much better chance at actually landing without paying the price.

Another key here could be body punching. Not only is the mid-section an easier target — helpful against a hard-to-hit foe — but Shevchenko’s clinch takedowns are a major problem for Maia. Body shots provide a solid deterrent to clinch entries, or at the very least, put Maia in good position to grab an underhook and defend.

Bottom Line

No one really expects Maia to win.

Shevchenko is perhaps the most dominant champion on the roster now that Khabib is (semi) retired. She barely loses exchanges, let alone rounds. Her peers at 125 pounds have thus far offered her little actual challenge, and those are the same women that Maia is competing closely against. Shevchenko is expected to pick up another title defense cleanly, setting herself up for bigger fights with Jessica Andrade or perhaps a jump in weight.

A loss surely sets up an instant rematch.

Maia does have a chance here, as evidenced by past massive upsets in combat sports. If she can pull off the unlikely win, she certainly carves out a place in history for herself, both for dethroning Shevchenko and as one of the largest underdog wins in UFC history period. It doesn’t get much more spectacular than that!

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 255 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 255: “Figueiredo vs. Perez” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

At UFC 255, Valentina Shevchenko and Jennifer Maia will battle with the Flyweight title on the line. Can Maia pull off the upset?

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