The future of the women’s bantamweight division hangs in the balance when Holly Holm and Valentina Shevchenko clash at UFC on Fox 20. The United Center in Chicago, Illinois will also play host to an impressive lightweight clash between Edson Barboza and Gilbert Melendez.
Holly Holm vs Valentina Shevchenko
The most impressive aspect of Holly Holm’s game is her ability to dictate the pace and distance of the fight. Holm has translated her years of world-class boxing into a style that makes it extremely difficult to get inside her reach and do damage. On the rare occasion that an opponent has been able to breach her reach, she has great foot speed and head movement to get out of the danger zone.
More often than not, Holm will have a size and strength advantage when in the Octagon. She has married this physical advantage with improving wrestling techniques to keep the fight standing.
As we’ve seen in her bout with Miesha Tate, Holm still has plenty of room to grow on the ground. She tried to struggle free but didn’t show much technique in terms of getting out from under Tate and back to her feet.
Valentina Shevchenko is a Muay Thai expert who is above average in pretty much every aspect of the game. ‘Bullet’ will generally want to keep a fight standing, but can perform at a distance or in the clinch. She will generally be able to outmuscle her opponents against the cage, but this may not be the case against Holm.
Shevchenko holds a distinct advantage if this fight goes to the mat, as she has vicious ground and pound to pair with an underrated submission game. We saw what Shevchenko can do from top control in the third round of her last bout with Amanda Nunes when she laid heavy punches and rocked the now-champion several times.
One of Shevchenko’s biggest weaknesses is her tendency to start slow. We’ve seen it in both her bouts in the UFC. However, this may be easier to hide in a five round fight as opposed to the three rounds she was previously fighting.
The betting line doesn’t necessarily predict how close this fight could possibly be. Though Holm has the notoriety, Shevchenko is only slightly behind her in most aspects of the fight game – and even has the advantage in some areas. If Holm can keep to her stellar movement she should be able to pick apart Shevchenko, but this is the first time that Holm has faced a striker of Shevchenko’s caliber.
Edson Barboza vs Gilbert Melendez
Edson Barboza is a knockout artist with world class Muay Thai skills. Though he packs power in his hands, it’s his kicks you really need to watch out for. Barboza has some of the best leg kicks in MMA and a head kick that can render any opponent unconscious. Not only does he have ridiculous power in his feet, Barboza’s kicks are also some of the fastest in the UFC.
Barboza’s game is largely built around keeping his space. Space allows him to properly utilize his deadly kicks, but he can get flustered if opponents manage to get in tight. The logical gameplan for any opponent of Barboza is to bring him down, but the Brazilian has fantastic defensive wrestling skills.
Gilbert Melendez is much more of a grinder compared to Barboza. Melendez would rather pressure his opponent against the cage to set up takedowns where he can continue to grind out his opponent. ‘El Nino’ has dropped his past two fights largely because he was not able to set the pace that he needed to in order to win.
Melendez is predominantly a boxer on his feet – something that is to be expected considering he trains with the Diaz brothers. Melendez could do a better job at protecting himself from strikes, as he has proven to be quite hittable during his UFC career. However, he is incredibly durable, as he has never been knocked out once in his 11-year MMA career.
Barboza is a sizable favorite – which makes plenty of sense considering he is the hotter fighter – but Melendez certainly has a path to victory in this one. If this fight stays on the feet, I can’t imagine a way in which Barboza loses. He would likely work over Melendez from a distance like he did to Anthony Pettis. However, if Melendez can get Barboza’s back on the cage he could grind out a victory.
UFC on Fox 20: Holm vs Shevchenko Betting Odds
Odds as of July 20 at Bodog
- Holly Holm -285
- Valentina Shevchenko +225
- Edson Barboza -205
- Gilbert Melendez +165
- Francis Ngannou -650
- Bojan Mihajlovic +425
- Felice Herrig -105
- Kailin Curran -125
- Frankie Saenz -165
- Eddie Wineland +135
- Darren Elkins -200
- Godofredo Pepey +160
- Kamaru Usman -210
- Alexander Yakovlev +170
- Michel Prazeres -230
- J.C. Cottrell +180
- Alex Oliveira -225
- James Moontasri +175
- George Sullivan -200
- Hector Urbina +160
- Jim Alers -225
- Jason Knight +175
- Dmitry Smolyakov -170
- Luis Henrique