Valentina Shevchenko’s Worst Nightmare Returns in February

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Tatiana Suarez is set to return to UFC action after a three-and-a-half-year hiatus. The Ultimate Fighter series 23 winner hasn’t competed since July 2019 when she dominated Nina Nunes at UFC 238. For context, Jon Jones was still the 205lbs champion, Max Holloway held the featherweight strap and Israel Adesanya was yet to realise a title shot.

Suarez – The Backstory

Tatiana Suarez sits dominantly at 9-0. Often referred to as ‘The Female Khabib’, Suarez is a relentless wrestler, with a brutal ground-and-pound game and slick submissions. She holds wins over former strawweight champion, Carla Esparza as well as top contender at flyweight, Alexa Grasso.

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Her back story is also what makes her compelling. She was an Olympic hopeful in 2012, however, suffered a neck injury. An MRI scan discovered not only her neck injury but a cancerous growth on her thyroid. Luckily, she was able to overcome her illness and discovered MMA.

She got her big break on TUF 23, where she submitted two of three opponents on the show and went on to submit Amanda Cooper in the final.

Having had four fights spanning three years, Suarez has been sat on the treatment table since 2019. She was scheduled to clash with Roxanne Modafferi in her flyweight debut back in September 2021, however, a knee injury kept her out of this one.

Luckily for fans of Suarez’s, her 125lbs debut is now set for February 25th. Her opponent comes in the form of submission specialist, Montana de la Rosa.

Shevchenko’s Worst Nightmare

Flyweight queen, Valentina Shevchenko won’t like the news that she’s heard, that Suarez, a woman who is a terrible match-up for her is making a run at flyweight. We saw her biggest test of Shevchenko’s flyweight strap when she was largely controlled on the ground by Talia Santos last time out.

Suarez is another tough match-up for The Bullet. Suarez has relentless takedowns, she’s always in search of her opponent’s legs. The champion’s takedown defence sits at an impressive 70%, however, she was taken down three times against Santos and controlled for 8:49. Suarez lands an average of 6.47 takedowns per 15 minutes at an accuracy of 62%. She took Esparza down nine times and controlled her for 12:57 of their bout. Shocking stats when you consider how good a wrestler Esparza is.

Let’s not forget, however, that Shevchenko is an elite mixed martial artist. Yes, Santos got the better of her on the ground in their fight but despite this, she’s looked elite on the ground and in the wrestling realm. In her defence against Jessica Andrade, Shevchenko landed seven takedowns in a little over a round and a half and consequently went on to submit her. Likewise, she showed a strong ground game against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, taking her down five times and cruised to a unanimous decision victory.

Offensively, Shevchenko has landed at least two takedowns in every fight. Liz Carmouche is the only woman that Shevchenko couldn’t land two takedowns against, however, she was taken down once. We know what Shevchenko is like, she will look to go out there and beat Suarez at her own game. She did so against Andrade, she did so against Jedrzejczyk and she does this just to prove that she’s the elite at the weight. 

Defensively, Suarez has shown a phenomenal ability to stay on her feet. She’s got a 100% takedown defence. Esparza, a woman who averages 3.22 takedowns per 15 minutes was unsuccessful on four attempts when looking to take Suarez down.

How much will the extra 10lbs make a difference to Suarez’s game? We’ll have to wait until February 25th to find out, however, she’ll have to get through a tough test in de la Rosa before considering a push for the title.

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Frazer is a 26 year old MMA and boxing enthusiast from Coventry, England.

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