Shevchenko and Peña met in the main event of last Saturday’s event in Denver in what was believed to be a women’s bantamweight title eliminator. This was a matchup pitting the two top contenders in the division, both with very different styles, as Shevchenko was considered the superior striker and Peña the superior grappler.
“The Bullet” locked up an armbar in the second round that forced the talented grappler Peña to tap out. Shevchenko remembers knowing she had the victory in her pocket before the tap came, and it was several sounds in Peña’s arm that signaled it.
“When I was on the ground and she started to throw punches, they weren’t hard, they weren’t effective because I was covering everything, and she didn’t hit one strong punch or anything like that,” Shevchenko told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “But when I tried to go for the submission, got her arm and put my belly down, in that moment, I felt like two or three times a click in her arm, like, ‘crack, crack, crack,’ and then I felt, ‘this is it, I have this armbar. It’s only a matter of time before she taps.’ But then, she started to protect it, so I just put a little bit of pressure and she tapped at that moment.”
This moment came by surprise to many, as Shevchenko has been considered to be a striker in the UFC, and her last submission win came almost 11 years ago. But to Shevchenko, this was no surprise, as she fancies herself a complete fighter, and trained for every possible situation for this pivotal bout.
“For every fight, I’m not only thinking about one strategy, my coach Pavel [Fedotov] is always thinking about every possible situation that I will possibly be in during the fight,” Shevchenko explained. “That’s why we’re training standing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, everything, but I was pretty sure I would take this fight, I would win this, and I was prepared for striking, submissions, everything. Before the fight, everyone asked me, ‘Valentina, you’re a striker, how do you feel about your wrestler opponent?,’ and every time I would say, ‘I’m a martial artist, I’m a complete fighter.’”
Although it hasn’t been officially announced by the UFC, Shevchenko expects to be challenging for the title in her next bout, and says that the UFC bringing Amanda Nunes inside the octagon after her win last Saturday was a confirmation of that. If this fight comes to fruition, as many expect, this will be a rematch as Nunes and Shevchenko fought in the past at UFC 196 in 2016.
Their bout was a close contest that had Nunes winning the first two rounds and Shevchenko the final round. The Kyrgyzstan native is confident that with the two extra rounds a title fight offers, her fight with Nunes will be completely different.
“I’m feeling a much better fighter than last time, and of course all this training and fights that I’ve had after [the first fight with Nunes] will help me to have a great fight,” Shevchenko said, “and I’m very excited, and can’t wait ’til it happens.”