It’s the big finish to the annual International Fight Week held every 4th of July weekend by the UFC, and it’s a really good card from top to bottom. Yes, the loss of Lawler/Cerrone dampens it a bit, but they will return on the next PPV alongside with Jones/DC II. Not a bad consolation prize! The main event pits the 135 lb champion Amanda “Lioness” Nunes in a rematch against surging Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko, where Nunes will be looking to avenge her loss against Shevchenko before she eventually became the champion. Both women have grown since the fight, with Nunes really coming into her own as a brawling but patient striker and Shevchenko really showing off her entire arsenal instead of just being a pure counter-striker. It’s a top notch battle that should continue to increase exposure for the women’s divisions and get the attention that it deserves. There’s also a trilogy fight between Fabricio Werdum and Alistair Overeem, the #1 and #3 heavyweight respectively. They both lost to the current champion Stipe Miocic, but the winner of the fight likely gets a rematch against him.
There’s a couple fights that may not immediately catch the eye of the casual fan, but there’s two fights I’m definitely looking forward to. The battles between Thiago “Marreta” Santos and Gerald Meerschaert along with Belal Muhammad vs Jordan Mein should produce some fireworks for our enjoyment. Of course, how could I forget old man Yoel Romero (40 years old!) finally battling for a share of the middleweight title? Yes, his opponent is 15 years younger than the elder, but a fight’s a fight, isn’t it? Romero has now won 8 straight fights to boast an impressive 8-0 record since signing with the UFC. Whittaker has also ripped off an equally impressive 7 fight win streak, bringing his UFC record to 9-2. They’ve both earned their weight in gold for the UFC with impressive and astonishing finishes, and it’s been a long time coming for both at receiving a title shot (even if it is for an interim title) in a division that’s still in flux with Bisping’s “injuries” and GSP doing whatever he’s doing. It’s now time to pay attention and choose wisely while making your lineups before falling asleep from the leftovers of that wild BBQ partay you just had for 4th of July. I’m a cheeseburger guy myself, in case you were wondering. And I know you were.
Trevin Giles vs James Bochnovic
I’ll say this right off the bat. Bochnovic BARELY has anything watchable right now (or least that I could find), so my opinion of him is very limited at this point. Giles has more tape on him and actually seemed decent enough compared to whatever you can call Bochnovic’s Bellator fight. Giles has a laid back at-range striking base, preferring to be a patient but powerful counter-striker as he mixes in some quick one-hit attacks to entice his opponents at engaging with him. Giles then flips on the switch and strikes while the iron is hot with several flurries that usually hurt his opponents. He’ll mix in some level changes and has some good reactive take-downs that help him avoid pressure and being cornered. Giles is what he is, a power punching counter-striker with decent wrestling and a good GnP game. Nothing more, nothing less. He’s a little sloppy when he tries to go for the home-run, which has led to Giles getting rocked or dropped off a counter, but generally has been able to bounce right back up to get a “comeback” victory. I wish there were more tape on Bochnovic so I could gauge whether or not he could hurt Giles in that way, but right now Bochnovic just seems like a poor man’s version of Chris Camozzi. Awkward, lanky, inefficient striking but really good on the ground. Does he have the offensive wrestling to get to the ground against a likely bigger, stronger Giles? I don’t know. Not to mention both guys are actually middleweights fighting at light-heavyweight. Snore. Dealer’s choice here, but I’ll stick to what I can actually see from Giles.
Giles via 3rd round TKO
Cody Stamann vs Terrion Ware
Stamann reminds me so much of Bellator’s Michael Chandler (that’s a good thing) just from the way he fight with a wide base and his movement. Stamann has some really good footwork and movement similar to Chandler, even willing to switch stances as a mix-up. He’s also a very strong wrestler, but prefers to sit back and bang whenever possible. Stamann mixes up his level changes well enough to force his opponents to always respect it, affording Stamann more freedom to experiment with striking angles. The one thing that caught my eye with Stamann is how often he sat down on his punches, allowing him to fully unleash the potential of his counters and big right handers. I’m definitely intrigued by Stamann as an up and coming prospect for the UFC, but let’s focus on the match-up against Terrion Ware. While Ware has an impressive 17-5 record with bouts against actual competition such as Luke Sanders, Joe Soto, and Leandro Higo. Unfortunately for Ware, he lost to all of the aforementioned fighters. Not good! I’m a little surprised at Ware’s 17-5 record after watching several of his wins. Why is that? One word – BORING. Ware may have some good speed in his hands and shows a knack at timing on his counter-attacks, but man….he can be REALLY inactive at times. Like, borderline unwatchable to the point where the ref will have to warn him for timidity. Yes, that’s a real thing. Ware doesn’t get the juices flowing from my point of view, while Stamann gets me excited and anxious to see his growth. Can you see where I’m going with this? Stamann is much more versatile as a fighter than Ware, capable of taking the fight to the ground or staying busy on the feet with big right hands and quick rising head-kicks as he gently moves around the cage. With how inactive Ware can be and Stamann possibly choosing the safe route of taking it to the ground, I’m leaning towards a decision which makes Stamann’s DK price a hard one to swallow when you consider the guys near his price being better options.
Stamann via unanimous decision
Rob Font vs Douglas Silva de Andrade
Ugh, why did they match up Font against DSA? Nothing against DSA, but his fights are just really not fun to watch. His last win against Briones was the most active he’s been so far in the UFC, and it still wasn’t a thrilling match. And he got a spinning backfist KO! Rob Font is an exciting knockout artist who’s willing to get into a brawl and push the pace whenever possible. He now owns 8 total finishes out of his 12 wins, with all 3 of his UFC wins coming way of KO/TKO. It’s safe to say Font brings the fireworks every time he fights. Font’s a relatively tall bantamweight at 5’8” with a 71 inch reach, which gives him a 3 inch reach advantage on Silva de Andrade. He’s an excellent boxer with intuitive counter-punches and probably has top 5 power in the division, which has aided his long range striking game tremendously. But just having good boxing skills isn’t enough when you’re in a division full of speed demons, so Font has helped translate his boxing skills throughout his fights with exemplary footwork, cutting off his opponents’ exit angles and being able to circle out of danger. The only person who was able to really frustrate Font was a 5 foot 3” John Lineker, a possessed demon with no care for anyone’s power but his own and even better at trapping his opponents than Font. Now, here’s my problem with DSA. Before his UFC debut against Zubaira Tukhugov, DSA actually had 18 career KO/TKO wins and was an impressive prospect from Jungle Fight. He wasn’t nearly the painfully awful to watch inactive fighter that he is today, but maybe that’ll change now after his KO win over Briones. Anyway, DSA elects to sit back and let his opponents come to him, striking back with 2 hit combos and slides out of the way while throwing a leg kick or two for good measure. DSA was actually doubling up on his combinations against Briones and really landing some hard punches, mixing in uppercuts and liver shots which was something we hadn’t seen out of DSA up to that point. With all of that said, Font still has a big reach advantage and won’t have to worry about any sort of pressure versus DSA, allowing him to pick and choose his spots to throttle his opponent with 1-2 combos and keep applying pressure from long range. DSA will have to wade into Font’s space if he wants to discourage Font from just painting DSA’s face with continuous jabs. That’s where Font makes his money though, from smacking his opponents that foolishly choose to wade into his private bubble with jaw-shattering overhands. Do I think DSA will do that? No, he’ll be content to sit back and just bide his time while fruitlessly kicking Font’s legs out of him and losing a boring decision. I’m not going to hold my breath on a Font KO just due to DSA’s inactivity and unwillingness to take risks, but stranger things have happened.
Font via unanimous decision
Jordan Mein vs Belal Muhammad
Jordan Mein returned from a temporary retirement, if you can even call it that, against Emil Meek back in December of 2016. He lost that one to an unanimous decision where he just once again depleted his gas tank and seemed too focused on getting the take-down instead of battling on the feet. It was a frustrating fight to watch for those who backed Mein, who is still only 28 years old despite his tumultuous UFC career. He’ll be facing a tough out in Belal “Remember The Name” Muhammad, coming off an upset victory over Randy Brown. It’s gonna be a fight between two guys who have chinny chin chins and are willing to brawl. Muhammad is the quicker, more efficient boxer who tries to double up on his jab/straight combinations but will mix in some quick kicks to try and keep his range. Mein has the power to blow away anyone in the division and the height/length to really extend himself in awkward angles. The problem with Mein is his fight IQ is severely lacking, often trying to muscle his way into a take-down even if he’s either at a disadvantage or clearly gassing out. Yeah, Mein’s got some highlight reel knockouts and will have a size advantage against Muhammad, but what he showed against Meek has me worried. Muhammad has a tendency to come forward no matter what even if he starts getting blasted by right hands, which just so happens to be Mein’s specialty. Despite that kamikaze-style fighting style, Muhammad still can protect himself with flurries of quick 1-2 combinations and moving his feet more (which he did against Randy Brown). His biggest issue has been his utter lack of head movement, which coupled with his push-forward pace has resulted in several knock-downs or a flat out KO as was the case against Vicente Luque. That’s Mein’s biggest edge against Muhammad, but will he be able to find that chinny chin chin of Muhammad before the big bad Lactic Acid monster catches up with him? Or will he continue to have endless brain farts and try his hand at becoming a Greco-Roman Olympian wrestler for no reason? I don’t know, but damn it I’ll take a chance on him just because of that massive power of his. I’ll hedge this fight as Muhammad can put together a flurry in a hurry (hey, that rhymed!) and rack up the sig strike points.
Mein via 1st round KO
Thiago Santos vs Gerald Meerschaert
Whew, boy! That Santos guy sure can throw down! Marreta is coming off a thrilling KO victory over solid prospect Jack Marshman, recovering quickly from a 1st round knock-down to win the battle in ferocious fashion in the 2nd round. That marked Marreta’s 5th KO/TKO victory in the UFC, with his one other win a split decision victory over Elias Theodorou. Meerschaert had a great win his last time out, notching a 1st round armbar submission from his back over Ryan Janes. That was his 2nd time submitting his opponent in the 1st round in the UFC, increasing his career submission wins to 19! It’s a very intriguing match-up against a dynamic striker and a southpaw with decent striking but very good grappling/submission skills. Marreta struggled mightily against guys who can pressure him into a take-down and take advantage of his very, very mediocre ground defense. Gegard Mousasi completely ran him over with easy peasy take-downs and shattered his skull on the ground. Spicely was able to somehow contort himself into a rear naked choke against Marreta despite the laughingly large gap in striking ability between the two. So it’s safe to say if Meers can get the fight to the ground, it’s probably over. The biggest worry for me with Meers is his lack of offensive wrestling, preferring to slowly but surely stalking his way to the fence and try to do something in the clinch if his left straight/left body kick starts failing him. For all the flaws Marreta has against wrestlers, he’s actually very solid in the clinch and can fight his way out of it. It’s different defending in the clinch versus defending a take-down attempt, so that’s a good fight for Marreta. Meers lacks the athletic ability and could be overwhelmed by the speed of Santos and his intense kicks, which is why I’m leaning towards a Marreta KO victory if Meers is unable to switch up his usual stalking fighting style to a more frenetic wrestling attack that can win the fight instantly for him. Wherever the fight goes, it’s a high chance for a finish for either fighter so be sure to hedge the fight!
Santos via 2nd round KO
Chad Laprise vs Brian Camozzi
Laprise will be stepping in on short notice for the injured Alan Jouban, which doesn’t even change much for Camozzi from an odds standpoint. Camozzi likely would have been an even bigger underdog against Jouban. Brian Camozzi is the younger brother of UFC veteran Chris Camozzi, and quite honestly, he really is the baby Camozzi. He’s the right-handed version of Chris Camozzi, an unathletic lanky guy who tries to win by sheer volume and twisting himself into odd shapes for a submission victory. That won’t work against a much more technical and faster Chad Laprise, coming off a knockout victory over Thibault Gouti. Laprise is similar to Camozzi as he also employs a high volume striking output as well, except instead of floundering along the cage with big swing and misses, Laprise actually can consistently land the jab/straight combination with low kicks mixed in. Laprise lacks the power to really hurt his opponents despite his high volume output, which is why the KO win was a surprising result. It indeed was the perfect counter and landed right on the button, but that’s just not Laprise’s game. He thrives off being the athletically superior fighter with accurate and technical striking, keeping himself spry with continuous movement around the octagon. He’s also a very solid wrestler, but generally chooses to stick to the vaunted TriStar jab jab jab and more jabs gameplan. While Camozzi will have a massive 4 inch height advantage along with an even more absurd 7 inch reach advantage, he’s woefully far away from the speed/athletic department against Laprise. Camozzi just doesn’t have any threatening skills that could topple Laprise despite the short-notice sub for Laprise. The only people Laprise had struggled against were those who could take his volume and out-last him through cardio, or pummel him with powerful counters (Trinaldo). Camozzi is neither one of those things, which explains why he’s such a big dog coming into the fight. I mean, when Randy Brown looks like a master tactician against you, it’s probably best to stay on the regional circuit. Laprise’s lack of finishing power and reluctance at landing big shots will keep me from rostering him too heavily, but there is a chance he mixes in some take-downs here and there which should help his floor for DK scoring purposes. Viable cash option to build around.
Laprise via unanimous decision
Travis Browne vs Aleksei Oleinik
Well, that was a strange fight for Browne against the Black Beast, Derrick Lewis. Browne had Lewis seemingly hurt with his body kicks and just didn’t capitalize on it, eventually slowing down and succumbing to the flurries of the Black Beast. That 1st round version of Browne is what we’ve been waiting for since his 1st loss against Fabricio Werdum. Long, lanky, unorthodox but effective long range striking and actually using his movement and speed edge to win against even the most formidable opponents. That version of Browne has been on a milk carton for the last 3 years, until it finally surfaced against Lewis. Unfortunately, that turned out to be a mirage, but that hasn’t stopped the sharps from betting up his line against Oleinik. The match-up itself is quite straight-forward, as Oleinik has one way of fighting and one way only. Bumrush his way into the clinch or a take-down and squeeze the bejesus out of his opponents. He’s not the Boa Constrictor for nothing! Oleinik truly lived up to his nickname with a ridiculously difficult to pull off Ezekiel choke against Viktor Pesta from bottom. It was the 1st time such a feat was pulled off in the history of the UFC, which just added to the legend of the Boa Constrictor with 42 submission victories out of 51 career wins. Oleinik simply just runs with reckless abandon, throwing out wild overhands and hoping he’s able to feel his way into the ground. If that doesn’t happen, then his severe lack of striking defense and limited arsenal generally finds himself getting battered left and right with black eyes in the end. For Browne to win the fight against Oleinik, he’ll have to return to the 2014 version where he was able to stay lanky and hit from long distance with accuracy and enough precision to knock out anyone within range of his 10 feet long legs. If he’s unable to slow down the freight train of the BOA, then well…it’s probably time to retire. Browne has the ability and the creative striking to play cat-and-mouse against the snake, but just hasn’t been consistent enough to really give me faith in picking him. I mean, when you have a large man unable to move due to getting hit in the belly and you end up getting knocked out? That’s not a good look, and it’s not the first time he’s been in a situation where Browne had his opponent either stunned or knocked down and ended up being knocked out for the loss. Sorry Ronda, but your husband just isn’t very good at this point in his career.
Oleinik via 1st round BOA CHOKE
Anthony Pettis vs Jim Miller
Pettis finally has returned to lightweight after a very rough ending against the NEW FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPION Max Holloway, getting knocked out in the 3rd round of an interim fight. No one really knows what’s going on with the former lightweight champion, as he’s traded wins with losses and keeps switching his weight class. One thing is for sure – he’s still a very dangerous Taekwondo striker and cannot be overlooked despite his current struggles. His submission victory over Charles Oliveira was a reminder that his guillotine choke is still one of the best in the biz. However, he’ll be facing a gritty veteran on the upswing of his long career in Jim Miller, coming off an absolute barn-burner of a fight against Dustin Poirier. Miller may have lost that fight by majority decision, but by god did he show massive heart and resilience against a heavy-handed Poirier blinded by his hunger for violence as necessary fuel. That loss snapped a 3 fight win streak for Miller, but in my opinion that loss was a major win for Miller’s confidence as he was able to find another gear in a hotly contested battle against a much better fighter. Now, can Miller continue to gather his renewed confidence and energy against Pettis despite being a +200 something underdog? I think he can but it’s all entirely dependent on which version of Pettis we get. Will we see the stupendous Taekwondo striker Pettis who was able to shy away against pressure and utilize the crazy angles and shenanigans he pulls off to the fullest? Or will he wilt and falter against corner pressure if Miller chooses to take away Pettis’ spacing and continually shoots in for take-downs/keeps Pettis occupied up the fence and in the clinch? The latter has been the main reason why Pettis is in a sort of a slump, struggling to separate himself out of the clinch and getting enveloped by pressure striking/offensive wrestling. If Pettis is able to move around freely and doesn’t have to tiptoe around pressure, he should be able to put together effective combinations and thump Miller’s legs and body with his patented thunderous leg kicks. If Miller chooses to make it a dirty and gritty fight, he could force Pettis to fight a defensive battle in the clinch and defend all kinds of take-down attempts. The problem here is Miller tends to leave his neck out on his shoot ins, which just spells doom against Pettis’ guillotine choke. It’s not a favorable match-up if Miller keeps it standing and does his usual sit-back and react to incoming strikes, as that’s playing right into Pettis’ hands, literally and figuratively. I’m hesitant to pick Pettis just due to how inconsistent he’s been and that Miller’s take-down heavy gameplan against Thiago Alves could also be used against Pettis. Miller has generally struggled against anyone who beats him in the speed department and can attack from long range, something Pettis excels at. It really comes down to what type of gameplan Miller chooses to employ. Ehhhh, I’m going to trust the process and go with Pettis having a strong 2 round then giving up his back in the 3rd but survives long enough to win a 29-28 decision.
Pettis via unanimous decision
Fabricio Werdum vs Alistair Overeem
It’s the trilogy fight no one wanted, but we must suffer through it. Though, let’s be honest here about both men since the last time they faced each other. Werdum went from a butt-scooting BJJ beast who was unwilling to brawl on the feet to a surprisingly decent Muay Thai striker who pushes the pace and was able to submit Cain Velasquez. Overeem went from The Reem to….well, I guess he stayed the same. Just a little more cautious these days. It’s a fight I’m interested in watching just because The Reem has been really good as of late and probably should have been the HW champion had he not gone for the guillotine choke on a rocked Miocic. Alas, Overeem has to pay the iron price for his mistakes, and now he gets a chance to redeem himself against the #1 HW contender. A dominant win surely should give another title shot for the Grim Reemer! Now, let’s talk about the difference between their last fight and now. Werdum will be bringing a faster pace and a much diverse array of attacks against Overeem, which is unlike their last fight when Werdum quite literally kept falling on his butt in a futile attempt at enticing Reem to jump into his guard on the ground. Silly Werdum! Overeem has turned into a complete counter-striker with the patience of a brain surgeon as he prances around the octagon with his prying fists, dissecting his opponents’ defenses while searching for that elusive window of opportunity to feast upon. It’s made Overeem a deadly assassin in the cage, as his combination of speed and power allows him to take advantage of each and every mistake his opponents make. Werdum still doesn’t really have much technique to his striking, instead opting at quantity over quality of his strikes. He was able to overwhelm Velasquez with endless barrages of 1-2 combinations and landing head-kicks and low kicks. Unfortunately, that bombarding style got him knocked the flat out against an equally good counter-striker in Miocic to lose the title. That’s what I think happens again against Overeem, an even better and deadlier counter-striker than Miocic. I mean, Overeem even out-countered Miocic! I simply cannot see Werdum even coming close to taking Overeem down, where he has a massive edge with his superior BJJ skills. Overeem is just too crafty of a tactician and controls the space between him and his opponent much like a bullfighter controls the bull. That’s right, I just used a bullfighting analogy in a MMA article. KABOOM! Overeem should be able to pick apart Werdum on the feet and dictate where the fight goes at all times, possibly finishing Werdum in the process as he has done in his last 4 of 5 wins.
Overeem via 3rd round TKO
Daniel Omielanczuk vs Curtis Blaydes
Why is this on the main card? Blaydes is currently a -800 favorite and I have no problem with it. Omielanczuk has historically struggled against power wrestlers with a heavy top game. Even Struve was able to get Omielanczuk to the ground several times and submitted him. That’s a 7 foot giant who isn’t known for his wrestling! Blaydes is a behemoth of a heavyweight with a legitimate offensive wrestling that could soon one day rival that of Velasquez’s as the best in the division. It’s that good. Sure, his striking is barely functional at best, but good god are his power bombs legit! Not only does Blaydes have some of the best offensive wrestling in the division, he’s starting to put together a complete ground and pound game, utilizing elbows and posturing himself for big glancing blows while mentally preparing himself to quickly leverage his way into another take-down if his opponent gets up. Blaydes is the safest play on the card just because of his ability to completely dominate Omielanczuk with his wrestling and great timing on level changes. If Omielanczuk has some semblance of any take-down defense, the line might be closer. But history tells us that isn’t the case. Invest with confidence! His floor is the highest out of anyone on the card, and with the DK scoring heavily favoring strong wrestlers, Blaydes has 120+ points upside as well.
Blaydes via 3rd round TKO
Yoel Romero vs Robert Whittaker
Yoel Romero is just an absolute freak of an athlete. The guy is 40 years old and has the physique of a 21 year old bodybuilder. Not only that, he’s also just as explosive and insanely strong for an old man (in UFC years anyway). He’s been a dog in almost every single UFC fight, yet he continues to shut up his critics (myself included) with thunderous victories such as a flying knee KO over former champ Chris Weidman in front of Weidman’s hometown fans. Romero and Whittaker will have combined for 15 straight UFC victories coming into the fight, which undoubtedly would be an UFC record for most combined consecutive UFC wins. It’s no wonder these men finally earned the title shot they deserved, even if it is for an interim belt due to Bisping’s shenanigans. It’s a fight of epic proportions for the middleweight division that’s begging for some semblance of normalcy after Bisping became the champion.
Romero is the scariest man in the division with his explosive power and unpredictable one hit striking. He stalks his prey like a cheetah walking up to an antelope, then when the time is right Romero will expend all of his energy into one swift motion that could be described as a 3.0 earthquake. Much like the cheetah only has about 4 seconds of being able to run at max speed before completely gassing out, Romero conserves his energy for that very reason as once he loses that tank then it’s dire straits for the 40 year old phenom. That will likely be what Whittaker will want in his gameplan, forcing Romero to engage with him and continually create exchanges that eventually sap Romero’s energy. The problem with that is Romero is just so damn unpredictable with his weapons of choice, whether it be a flying knee, a spinning back fist, or a damning left straight from hell. Whittaker employed a beautiful strategy against Jacare Souza, staying back and forcing Souza to come to him, attacking Jacare’s attempts at take-downs and countering any entry strikes effectively. He was eventually able to overwhelm Souza with crisp combinations and deft head-kicks that knocked out Souza. Romero is more accomplished of a striker than Souza, but they do have some similarities when it comes to chasing down their opponents. Whittaker has shown to be one of the better counter-strikers in the division with the hand/eye coordination to be able to correctly space himself for a head-kick without being in danger.
There is one question that looms large for Whittaker, and that’s the question of whether or not Romero decides to wrestle Whittaker. To date, Romero has only really actually wrestled Brad Tavares in any of his UFC fights, and he completely rag-dolled Tavares (who is a decent wrestler in his own right) up and down in the octagon. It honestly just was one of the most unfair wrestling matches I have ever seen. Some may point out his quick take-down against Machida in the 3rd round where he went full-on Hulk Mode on Machida’s face immediately after the take-down, but that was more of an outlier than any sort of indication at a pattern. So with that said, I am still not convinced Romero will try to wrestle Whittaker unless he’s going Desperado mode as Joe Rogan likes to say. What this fight should come down is how effective Whittaker can be as a counter-striker against Romero’s stalking fighting style with an emphasis on not throwing out anything that puts Romero in danger and slowly lulling his opponents to sleep before pouncing on the poor antelope. This is a 5 round fight, so ideally Romero will have to finish it within the first 3 rounds before Father Time taps him on his massive pecs. I really think this is going to be a finish within the first couple rounds either way, and I’m leaning towards Whittaker after his excellent job against Souza at controlling the pace of the fight. Romero’s low sig output and reliance on one hit knockouts lessens his ceiling for DK scoring, but he’s still at a tasty price point at 7900, so you definitely need some shares.
Whittaker via 2nd round TKO
Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko
It’s the rematch that’s long been on Shevchenko’s mind during her stretch of looking like the best bantamweight. Her dominant submission win over Julianna Pena was a giant wake-up call to the division and especially to the champion, as no one thought Shevchenko could even pull off a submission over a very good grappler in Pena. Now, that’s not a shot at Nunes at all as the Lioness has been very dominant in her own right, blowing away Rousey within a matter of minutes much to the crowd’s dismay. Nunes has by far the most power out of anyone not named Cyborg in the women’s divisions. Nunes isn’t just all about power though, as she’s an excellent grappler (BJJ black belt and brown belt judoka) and was able to showcase that against Shevchenko for two strong rounds showing before gassing out and almost giving away the fight. Since that loss, Shevchenko has really came into her own as a fighter, looking much more confident in her combinations and how she attacks from range. When she first debuted, it seemed as if she was too hesitant to pull the trigger on her combinations, which caused bouts of inactivity for Shevchenko. As she’s gotten used to the bright lights of the UFC she now pushes the pace a little more and has more pop on her strikes, living up to her Bullet nickname. Nunes has also worked hard on her conditioning so she can become a more complete fighter and actually be able to compete past the 2nd round of her fights. It’s a story of two ever-improving bantamweights that are likely entrenched as the #1 and #2 for the upcoming years.
What separates Nunes from other typical power punchers is how she sets up her bombs. Instead of being a one hit wonder, Nunes is willing to land quick 1-2 combinations and soften up her opponents before landing the big glancing blows that eventually drop them. Nunes has been able to stay at range and pick apart those who choose to stand in front of her without pressuring, which allows Nunes to effectively treat them as a punching bag. That is something Shevchenko has to avoid, moving constantly and circling around Nunes to find those pesky striking angles. Not only will that help Shevchenko be a moving target, it forces Nunes to follow her lead and expend energy by defending Shevchenko’s entry attacks and counter back. Shevchenko’s been an excellent counter-striker so far in her UFC career, ripping apart Holly Holm’s calculated striking by simply beating Holm to the punch and predicting every single one of Holm’s counter-measures to Shevchenko’s counters. It was almost as if Shevchenko was in Holm’s head the way she knew where Holm would lead into and how Holm would try to attack a certain combination.
Nunes was able to overpower Shevchenko in their 1st fight with her strength and clinch work, but I’m doubting Nunes tries that same gameplan again considering Nunes’ past cardio issues. It’ll likely be a stand-up battle between two very capable and efficient strikers, with the edge going to Shevchenko just based on cardio alone. The improvement by Shevchenko has been very apparent that I have trouble seeing Nunes being able to mix up her strikes enough not to fall into the Holly Holm trap of constantly second-guessing herself. Granted, Nunes has the kind of power that can make Shevchenko reconsider some of her combination choices. Nunes could also theoretically just take Shevchenko down and lean on her ground’n’ pound with a heavy top control game regardless of her cardio troubles. I’m confident in Shevchenko’s improvement plus her ability at changing the angle of her attacks and learning her opponents’ striking patterns. She won’t allow Nunes to be comfortable by just standing in front of Nunes, and hopefully Shevchenko can stay away from the clinch against Nunes long enough to win the cardio battle. Bite the Bullet, baby!