The co-main event of UFC 275 will see the flyweight queen, Valentina Shevchenko, face off against arguably her toughest task in Taila Santos. The champion is riding an impressive eight-fight winning run, she’s undefeated at flyweight and has finished five of these wins. Santos on the other hand is 4-0 in her last four, with three decision victories and one rear-naked choke finish. She’s only lost once in her career thus far, a split decision in 2019 to Mara Romero Borella.
We look at three keys to victories for the champion, Valentina Shevchenko.
— MMASucka (@MMASucka) June 6, 2022
What Does Valentina Shevchenko do to win at UFC 275?
1 – Land the Leg Kick
We know that leg kicking takes the power out of shots and Santos, a woman who has 10 knockouts in 20 victories, needs the power taking out of her shots if you’re Shevchenko. Against Joanne Wood, the Scot was able to land 16 leg kicks on Santos. Interestingly, the fight only lasted 4:49, of which 1:17 was grappling exchanges. Wood and Shevchenko have a similar Muay Thai style, which would suggest that Shevchenko could also land with ease on Santos. The longer the fight goes, the more the leg kicks are going to pay dividends, therefore it would be beneficial for Shevchenko to invest early.
Last time out when facing Lauren Murphy, Shevchenko landed 17 leg kicks in a little under four full rounds. Murphy is one inch smaller than Santos and has a smaller reach by one inch also. We can assume then that Shevchenko will be able to land on Santos too.
2 – Utilise the Clinch
This is certainly something that Shevchenko can utilise against Santos. In her lone loss against Borella, Santos was largely controlled up against the fence when in the clinch. Shevchenko is an inch smaller than Santos so will be able to pummel under Santos, driving her head under the chin of her Brazillian opponent.
We saw when Shevchenko faced Joanna Jedrzejczyk that she was able to utilise the clinch to land a trip takedown. The way in which Shevchenko manipulates her opponent’s weight when in the clinch is unrivalled in the flyweight division. Also, against Jedrzejczyk, whenever Shevchenko failed on a takedown attempt, she made the Polish star pay by landing elbows and knees.
Last time out against Murphy, Shevchenko was able to duck under the attack of her opponent to latch on a bodylock and muscle her opponent to the ground. This occurred in the second round after making the adjustment from attempts in the first round.
3 – Mix it up
After just five UFC fights, Taila Santos has faced a reasonable level of competition. There is no doubt that Shevchenko has been in there with far higher opposition. She’s defeated four former champions as well as the current bantamweight champion, Juliana Pena.
For Santos, with just five UFC fights, she is yet to face an opponent who can really mix all the martial arts together. Molly McCann is a boxer with decent wrestling and reasonable BJJ. Gillian Robertson will relentlessly look to take her opponent down in order to work her strong ground game. Roxanne Modafferi has a very limited stand-up game but will look to grind her opponents in the clinch and work the ground game. Most recently, Joanne Wood is a muay Thai fighter who has always struggled to fight off her back.
Shevchenko has to mix it up between striking and wrestling. She lands 3.21 strikes per minute, with an average of 2.62 takedowns per 15 minutes. We know her striking is elite, Murphy and Jessica Eye were both finished on the feet having been dominated on the ground beforehand. She has landed 15 takedowns in her last three fights, including seven against Jessica Andrade (which is even more impressive because the fight finished in the second round).
The champion also has to mix up the pacing of the fight. Santos is yet to go five rounds in her career, whereas Shevchenko has gone the 25-minute distance five times. If Shevchenko can put it on Santos, keep the pace high and look to fatigue Santos when entering the championship rounds, we could see a finish for ‘The Bullet’ late on.
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