By: Jesse Donathan
Valentina Shevchenko (17-3, 5 KOs) is one of the most decorated fighters in women’s mixed martial arts history. According to an August 8, 2019 msn.com article titled, “UFC Uruguay: Valentina Shevchenko focused on improvement, not being best in the world,” Valentina is a, “A 17-time Muay Thai and K1 world champion. Combined with her MMA record, Shevchenko is a staggering 71-5,” in her professional fighting career. The UFC flyweight champion, Shevchenko faces challenger Liz Carmouche (13-6, 6 KOs) in the main event at UFC Fight Night 156 this Saturday live on ESPN+.
Known as a counter striker, Shevchenko exercises a great deal of patience in the ring or cage and forces her opponents to come to her. This can at times work against the Kyrgyzstan fighter who fights by way of Lima, Peru, resulting in boring fights without a lot of action. There is no question Shevchenko is comfortable, fluid and at home in the striking department but her style alone can lead to opponents outworking and outpointing her in the cage.
Young fighters could stand to learn a lot from watching Shevchenko fight, her poise and patience in the cage denote the experience and comfort level of a seasoned professional. Generally speaking, the techniques she throws are simple: Leg kicks and basic one, two combinations from the southpaw position. Shevchenko will use the front kick, teep/push kick to maintain distance and is not afraid to use various spinning techniques with great efficiency when necessary.
Carmouche would be wise to work on recognizing and defending the “Superman punch,” a sneaky, unorthodox technique Shevchenko uses with relative frequency to disguise a zinger of a left hand behind it. Valentina Shevchenko is a master counter striker who possesses beautiful technique, rarely finding herself overextended as she touches opponents up with relative ease. Her ability to maintain distance, next to her poise and patience in the Octagon may be one of her strongest and least appreciated skillsets in the cage.
Today, women’s two-division champion Amanda Nunes is regarded as the best fighter in the sport, but back at UFC 215 in 2017 Shevchenko lost a razor thin decision to Nunes in a chess match many thought could have went the other way. It was a close fight, which may have come down to Nunes securing a takedown late in the fifth and final round to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The second time the two had fought, Nunes ended taking home a split-decision victory to take a 2-0 lead in their rivalry but not before Valentina Shevchenko had put her name on the map.
Shevchenko’s opponent, Liz Carmouche, is a veteran mixed martial artist on a two-fight winning streak having decisioned opponents Jennifer Maia in July of 2018 and Lucie Pudilova back in February of this year. A former United States Marine, Carmouche fought bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey in the UFC’s first ever inaugural women’s MMA fight at UFC 157 in 2013, losing via submission (armbar) to the WMMA icon at just 4:49 into the first round.
As good as a fighter as Shevchenko is, having fought and lost to Amanda Nunes twice there remains one other blemish on her mixed martial arts record. A September 2010 TKO (retirement) loss to none other than her opponent this coming weekend, Liz Carmouche. Saturday nights main event will be a rematch for all the marbles as the UFC flyweight champion “Bullet” Shevchenko looks to avenge one of three losses on her professional MMA record and “Girl-Rilla” Carmouche looks to make it 2-0 against perhaps the best female mixed martial artist on the planet.