Holly Holm vs. Valentina Shevchenko Pre-Fight Analysis - UFC on Fox 20

This Saturday afternoon, UFC on Fox 20 will be taking place at the beautiful United Center in Chicago, Illinois. To be completely honest, I'm not super interested in the card. Outside of a couple matchups, the event is looking rather pale in comparison to the stacked Fight Week and some of the incredible upcoming shows. Regardless, there is enough interesting content for me to tune in. Today, I'll briefly analyse and predict the main event of the evening. If you want more, here's the already published Barboza vs. Melendez breakdown. Enough babbling;let's get to it:

Holly Holm vs. Valentina Shevchenko

Over the past couple of months, the female Bantamweight division has suddenly become ultra competitive and exciting. You have to remember it was once known solely as the Rousey empire. However, fresh faces slowly started to appear;before we knew it, we had a real group of talented women. After Holly knocked out Ronda back in November, she was subsequently submitted by Miesha Tate, who was recently dominated (and TKO'd) by current champion Amanda Nunes. With three belt changes in less than a year, chaos reigns. There are a number of potential contenders for the next title shot, and that's exactly why these two warriors desperately need the victory.

Unquestionably, Holly Holm is one of the most technical boxers in MMA. A former 18-time world boxing champion, she became an international sensation after defeating Ronda Rousey in shocking fashion. What I truly appreciate about Holm is her fighting IQ. She's an experienced athlete who understands how the game works. She masterfully utilizes her footwork and range to pop in, dish a couple of strikes, and slide out before you can react. Her counter abilities also shine. She's not a particularly flashy attacker;usually, she sticks with basic boxing combinations and fundamentals. While she's an elite striker, she has shown certain holes in her ground game. Miesha Tate was able to get her back on multiple occasions, ultimately finishing her. With that being said, she's been working very hard to ameliorate. This Saturday, she'll be able to fully test her improvements when she faces off against the Kyrgyzstani Bullet.

Valentina Shevchenko is the most versatile and well-rounded competitor in the division. She simply hasn't been able to display her skills in front of the UFC audience. A decorated kickboxer, she's a 17-time Muay Thai world champion. Shevchenko is one of those fighter who believes that regardless of where the bout goes, she can get the best position. She's extremely tactical on the feet, unpredictable when clinching, and surprisingly skilled on the ground. If she convincingly defeats Holly Holm, she'll solidify her status as a contender, therefore getting her a step close to the final goal: a shot at UFC gold.

Now, Holm is the strong favorite in this one (-300), but I believe it'll be a highly contested bout. The first thing you need to know is that the chances of viewing another jaw-dropping finish from Holly are very slim. When you look back at her UFC 193 title fight against Rousey, you'll notice Ronda was literally running after her, making it much easier to land heavy strikes. Valentina will not make that mistake. This will be a technical and strategic clinic. It's important to mention that Shevchenko has typically been a slow starter. It takes her a couple of rounds to acclimate and open up. If this was a three rounder, I'd blindly go with Holm. Still, even if we'll witness 25-minutes of action, I'm sticking with the Preacher's Daughter.

When looking at the large picture, this is clearly a 'Specialist vs. Generalist' style clash. While Shevchenko will doubtlessly have an advantage in the clinch and ground domains, I like Holly's chances in the striking department. The key to both ladies will be the distance. Holm prefers to fight at long-range;using kicks and basic combinations until she blitzes or trades in the pocket before quickly stepping back. Valentina can do both ranges, although not as cleanly as the former champ.

Holm will have to stay busy, gaining points and stay moving as a way to avoid the clinch and/or lengthy pocket exchanges. On the other side, Shevchenko will probably utilize kicks to slow her opponent down, before attempting to close distance in order to throw combinations, indulge in the clinch, or take matters to the ground. Having said that, I believe the Preacher's Daughter will be able to impose her gameplan and preferred range, which will end up giving her a decision victory.

Prediction: Holly Holm via Unanimous Decision

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