Top-ranked UFC women’s bantamweight contender Valentina Shevchenko scored by far her biggest UFC win when she submitted Julianna Pena on a grand stage in the main event of last weekend’s (Sat., January 28, 2017) UFC on FOX 23 from the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
The victory put her line for a potential title fight rematch with current champion Amanda Nunes, who narrowly outlasted her at last March’s UFC 196 despite fading late. The fight should be announced in the coming months, but in the days after her coming-out party on FOX, Shevchenko deserves a bit of time to soak in her victory.
Shevchenko appeared on this week’s edition of The MMA Hour to discuss the impressive finish, which came as a surprise to many considering she was regarded as mainly a striker. But “Bullet” clearly has a well-rounded game, and it allowed her to surprise the brash Pena with a hold that nearly caused serious damage to her arm:
“When I was on the ground and she started to throw punches, they weren’t hard, they weren’t effective because I was covering everything, and she didn’t hit one strong punch or anything like that. But when I tried to go for the submission, got her arm and put my belly down, in that moment, I felt like two or three times a click in her arm, like, ‘crack, crack, crack,’ and then I felt, ‘this is it, I have this armbar. It’s only a matter of time before she taps.’ But then, she started to protect it, so I just put a little bit of pressure and she tapped at that moment.”
As for her perceived upcoming rematch with Nunes, Shevchenko said she feels much better than the first time she fought Nunes, and it’s hard to argue with that based on her recent wins over Pena and former champion Holly Holm:
“I’m feeling a much better fighter than last time, and of course all this training and fights that I’ve had after [the first fight with Nunes] will help me to have a great fight,” Shevchenko said, “and I’m very excited, and can’t wait ’til it happens.”
Most fans of women’s MMA would agree with that stance, and even though there’s clearly a massive void in the female 135-pound landscape after Nunes’ brutal 48-second finish of Ronda Rousey at December’s UFC 207, it’s also clear the division has evolved to a new point of prosperity thanks to “Bullet” and “The Lioness.”