By: Logan Helfferich
Holm is fighting for the first time since losing the UFC women’s bantamweight championship to Miesha Tate at UFC 196. A win for Holm puts her right back into title shot discussions. Shevchenko is coming off of a loss to the current champion, Amanda Nunes. Some believe Shevchenko had that fight in her grasp, but didn’t start showing urgency until it was too late. She’ll likely be more aggressive in this fight.
Keys for Holm:
Holm needs to very patient in this fight. Shevchenko likes to counter-strike, so Holm should use feints to try to get Shevchenko to act first. Holm should also use her reach advantage to keep Shevchenko out of striking range. Holm should be able to take full advantage of her kicks since Shevchenko is also a striker and likely won’t be looking for takedowns. However, if Shevchenko does decide to take the fight to the ground, Holm should look to get back to her feet as soon as possible. The only reason for Shevchenko to be looking for takedowns is to avoid Holm’s strikes and possibly grind out a victory with top position.
Keys for Shevchenko:
Shevchenko should look to counter-strike whenever she can. Holm’s kicks can be devastating, but if Shevchenko can catch a kick and counter with a straight punch, or even take the fight to the ground, she’ll be in a much better position than she would be if she’s simply standing and striking with Holm. Shevchenko should try to close the distance and get inside of Holm’s reach advantage, but she’ll need to be aware of Holm’s clinch. On top of her kicks, Holm is known for her elbows and knees that she likes to throw from the clinch position. Shevchenko will need to utilize some good head-movement and look to continuously change angles, so that Holm won’t be able to stalk her against the cage and throw strikes. Shevchenko will need to channel some moves from fighters like TJ Dillishaw and Dominick Cruz, who are experts at changing angles and using head-movement to confuse their opponent.
Holm will likely throw a lot of kicks in this fight. How Shevchenko reacts to Holm’s kicks may be the main focus of this fight. If Holm is able to repeatedly land leg-kicks and body-kicks, look for the eventual level-change leading to a head-kick. However, if Shevchenko can successfully defend the kicks by either catching them or countering, it could lead to her controlling the pace and controlling the fight. Expect the first round to be a “feeling out” round since both fighters are experienced and skilled strikers. Both fighters are also coming off of losses, so they likely won’t be taking too many chances early on in the fight. Look for the action to pick up in the second and third rounds once both fighters have found their range. Unless someone gets caught by a head-kick or a well-placed punch, look for this fight to go to a decision. Both women are extremely talented strikers and likely have no intentions at all of taking the fight to the ground. Essentially, this fight will be a kickboxing match.
Holly Holm defeats Valentina Shevchenko via Unanimous Decision