SPORTS

Valentina Shevchenko trades barbs with Amanda Nunes after victory

DENVER — It appears UFC female bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes’ next title defense will come against a familiar foe.

The defending champ was cageside at UFC Fight Night on Saturday inside the Pepsi Center to witness Peruvian bantamweight Valentina Shevchenko’s second-round submission victory over Julianna Pena. The finish came via armbar at 4:29 of the round.

Shevchenko (14-2) suffered a decision loss to Nunes last March but has since rebounded with wins over former champion Holly Holm and Pena. Following Saturday’s fight, Nunes entered the Octagon and briefly went back and forth with Shevchenko, who has promised a rematch will look very different than their first meeting.

“I’m sure this next will fight will be a title shot,” Shevchenko said. “I’m very excited to take this rematch and take this belt.”
A former professional kickboxer, Shevchenko matched up surprisingly well with Pena (8-3) on the floor. She scored several takedowns in the opening round, although Pena did threaten with an armbar at one point. Fighting out of Peru, Shevchenko entered the contest with five career wins by submission, but she is far more known for her technical striking.

Pena didn’t give Shevchenko much of a chance to showcase that striking, as she consistently bullied her way into the clinch throughout the fight. She used the position to rack up a striking advantage of 78 to 46, but she struggled in her ultimate goal of taking Shevchenko to the mat.

“Many people before the fight said, ‘You are a striker and Julianna is a wrestler — how are you doing to deal with this?'” Shevchenko said. “Every time, I said, ‘Yes, I am a striker but I am an MMA fighter. I am a complete fighter.'”

Pena stole back some momentum in the second round when she converted her first takedown. The 27-year-old got into top position with two minutes left in the round and looked to score points with punches and elbows. She was on her way to winning the round before Shevchenko attacked the arm and rolled Pena over for the finish.

Shevchenko’s only loss in the UFC is the three-round decision to Nunes, who took her down and beat her on the floor before fading late. Like Shevchenko, she also has promised a different result in the rematch.

“We will do it again, and I will finish you this time,” Nunes said.