Julianna Pena vs Valentina Shevchenko fight video
Let’s start with the fact that Shevchenko is a Peruvian-Russian-Kyrgyzstani, born in the then funct USSR – I don’t know, that’s a whole Vale Tudo tournament right there. She possesses killer Muay Thai, built on a southpaw counter-puncher double jeopardy style – you really don’t know where you’re going to get it from with Shevchenko.
The American-Venezuelan Pena, at the last point seen, is an aggressive brawler-wrestler, stress the aggressive. She’s not really a pressure fighter, hers is almost always a straight-on bullish forward charge, and she really won’t stalk her opponents down – but I admit that’s almost semantics when actually getting punched in the face. So on the surface, this match-up sends me back to Machida intercepting cruder forces like Thiago Silva, or Bader.
So they start standing afar, as these fights usually do. In her recent win against Cat Zingano, Pena has shown some susceptibility to the southpaw middle kick, but she also only allows her opponents fractions of seconds to stay in kicking range and fire a kick – and then she’ll try to grab it rushing forward and take them down. Another thing going for her is that with that Zingano fight in July being her last thus far, Pena has now been training specifically for southpaws basically since March. I don’t absolutely reject rushing on Shevchenko. She’s quick on her feet and is tricky to connect on – and especially difficult to outkick - but she also tends to defend going backwards in a straight line, which can work for an aggressive distance cutter like Pena; chasing is faster than retreating, and at a certain point you run out of room to back off to. Only Shevchenko plants herself so swiftly and nicely for counters that rushing in is really a double edged sword here, one that I think would work for Shevchenko in the long run.
This is an asymmetric fight. In pure Kickboxing, Shevchenko probably doesn’t have a use for Pena as a sparring partner, but add wrestling, and Pena looks able to grind Shevchenko to a halt. In the fight I made up in my mind, eventually the advancing Pena and the shot-picking Shevchenko crash into a clinch. Shevchenko’s clinch work to the body is nothing to mess with, but we also saw her tripped down to the mat from there by Amanda Nunes, to whom Shevchenko lost a very competitive UFC debut. Pena does a lot of her take down work from the clinch herself. It’s very hard to shoot on a superior and confident striker with good footwork – but from the clinch, Pena should be able to do it, without being worse for wear from the experience. This is where the asymmetry flips and Pena should carpet bomb – only I think the asymmetry in her favour is smaller than on stand up. Shevchenko holds a solid and improving bottom game that should keep her afloat under Pena’s top pressure.
Alright, I confused the hell out of myself. So, we’re back down to principle: given enough time, the technician should beat the brawler each time. Both fighters also showed faultless cardio for their styles – Pena’s style is the more taxing and she never took it through full five rounds like Shevchenko did against Holm – and we’re a far way from men’s heavyweight where time just ends like this.