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UFC on FOX 23: Valentina Shevchenko submits Julianna Pena, earns title shot

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Shevchenko vs Pena Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Going into their UFC on FOX 23 main event, Julianna Pena derided Valentina Shevchenko as a point fighter, a transplanted kickboxer who wasn’t a complete all-around mixed martial artist.

That turned out to be a fatal miscalculation. Pena got sloppy in top position late in the second round Saturday night at Denver’s Pepsi Center, and, in a flash, Shevchenko caught her in an armbar.

Pena tapped, and with that, not only does Shevchenko, the Kyrgyzstan fighter by way of Peru, have her first UFC finish, but she’s likely to get the next crack at UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. The time of the stoppage was 4:29.

Shevchenko got the better of things in the opening round, but Pena managed to catch Shevchenko in an armbar in the round’s closing seconds.

In the second, Pena built on her momentum, smartly clinching to stymie Shevchenko’s kickboxing game. Pena scored a takedown and worked her opponent over, but in the blink of an eye, Shevchenko saw an opening and transitioned into the nasty armbar, giving Pena no choice but to tap.

“Many people asked me about the fight and they said you’re a striker and she’s a grappler, and I told them every time, I am a complete fighter,” Shevchenko said.

The victory also means Shevchenko will likely have an opportunity to avenge her only UFC loss. Nunes defeated Shevchenko via decision at UFC 196 to earn the UFC 200 shot in which Nunes finished Miesha Tate to claim the belt.

Pena, the TUF 18 winner, dropped to 8-3 and lost for the first time in five UFC fights.

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