Valentina Shevchenko elevated herself to contender status and sent former champ Holly Holm back to the drawing board with a unanimous-decision victory in the UFC on FOX 20 main event on Saturday night at the United Center in Chicago.
Holm and Shevchenko both entered the bout looking to get back on track. Holm was coming off of losing her bantamweight championship to Miesha Tate at UFC 196 in March. Shevchenko lost to current champion Amanda Nunes on that same fight card.
Shevchenko started strong, landing a stiff jab and solid inside leg kicks, but Holm was the first to make an impact, dropping Shevchenko with a straight right hand about two minutes into the opening round.
Shevchenko immediately recovered, but she spent much of the rest of the round in the clinch with Holm, her back to the fence, eating knees to the midsection and thigh.
Round two swung much more into Shevchenko’s favor. While she didn’t dominate, she edged ahead of Holm in the striking game, landing several low kicks, and getting her jab going. Late in the round, Shevchenko countered a Holm low kick with a spinning backfist, which was quickly followed by a couple leg kicks.
Shevchenko kept building momentum in the third frame. Holm tried to start opening her up with multiple leg kicks, but Shevchenko landed several of her own, and continued to counter well with her jab and lead right hook.
Shevchenko caught a Holm kick and drove her to the canvas, but Holm again was quick to regain her feet, clinching as she did. This time, however, Shevchenko caught Holm off balance and drove her backwards, onto her back, landing in half guard. She maintained control, if doing little damage, for the final couple minutes of round three.
Holm looked desperate in the fourth frame. She kept pressing forward, taking a lot of chances with her kicking combinations, but few of them landed, while Shevchenko did a great job timing her jab, and frequently countered with the jab and low kicks.
The fifth round put a stamp on the fight for Shevchenko, as she opened with several stinging jabs. Holm never backed down, but the harder she pressed forward, the more chances she took trying to find a way to get to Shevchenko, the more Shevchenko made her pay with counter jabs and the counter lead right hook.
Only gaining momentum as the final round wound down, midway through the frame, Shevchenko landed a spinning hook kick, then continued to pick Holm apart with her jab and lead right hook.
Shevchenko put on a masterful striking performance, and the judges rewarded her for it with a unanimous-decision victory.
With her record now standing at 12-2 with her only loss in the Octagon being to the current champion, Shevchenko, of course, wants a rematch, this time with the belt on the line.
“Amanda, she is a good fighter. She has good standing, good ground game,” said Shevchenko, before adding, “and of course, I want rematch for Nunes, Amanda, for the title belt.”
(Photo courtesy of UFC)