PREVIEW & PREDICTIONS
Written by @NickRiznerMMA
Holly Holm vs. Valentina Shevchenko
Tired of fights yet? Good, me neither. In the hierarchy of UFC events, the “Big FOX” cards are ranked #2, nestled just below the pay-per-views, with a significant lead over cards on Fox Sports 1. As far as FOX cards go, this one is somewhere in the middle. But following a week that contained four events and some of the biggest stars on the roster, it’s hard for to fault the UFC for taking a small step backward from the expected intrigue of network television.
The main event features former Women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm who is looking to rebound from her loss to Miesha Tate. Tate, who has since lost the belt as well, managed to secure a last-minute rear-naked choke to defeat the otherwise-leading Holm, proving that one mistake could lead to catastrophe in MMA. The only thing you can do is prepare in such a way that minimizes said mistakes, and I expect a workhorse like Holly Holm to do just that against the Russian kickboxer.
Valentina Shevchenko entered the UFC with an 11-1 record just over seven months ago, with her one loss coming to former title challenger, Liz Carmouche. Her kickboxing background made her one-to-watch, especially after seeing the success Holly Holm had against her MMA opponents. Naturally, making a successful debut just one month after the famed Holm-Rousey knockout only helped to sell this story line to fans; even if the win did come by split decision. For her encore performance, Valentina faced Amanda Nunes, who handed the Russian her second loss. Nunes, of course, went on to win the belt by defeating Tate in the main event of UFC 200.
Clearly, there are a lot of parallels to be drawn in this one. Both fighters are coming off a high-profile losses. Both fighters have a technical striking style, with an impressive kickboxing resume to match. I fully expect this one to go the distance. Expect a Rory MacDonald-esque jab-fest with the obligatory oblique kicks thrown into the equation by Holm. Given the importance of this fight, I expect to see a relatively reserved Valentina, which won’t lend a lot of opportunities to an ever-defensive Holm to finish the fight. I do expect her to win, however, given her ability to counter-strike. There’s always the chance that judges give the nod to Valentina for pushing the pace and advancing, but I believe Holm has the credentials to sway the judges in a close fight.
Nick’s Pick: Holly Holm (-325 via 5Dimes)