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Valentina Shevchenko: Cris Cyborg will finish Amanda Nunes in third or fourth round

Valentina Shevchenko doesn’t think Amanda Nunes will pull off the upset at UFC 232.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LOS ANGELES — The UFC’s last two champion vs. champion fights have been bad news for the titleholder from the higher weight class.

First, then-featherweight champion Conor McGregor scored a second-round TKO of Eddie Alvarez to claim the lightweight belt at UFC 205 back in 2016. Then, light heavyweight kingpin Daniel Cormier did McGregor one better by going up to heavyweight and defeating champion Stipe Miocic in the opening stanza at UFC 226 in July.

But as far as Valentina Shevchenko is concerned, the streak of fighters going up and claiming new belts will end at UFC 232.

That’s where women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes will meet featherweight titleholder Cris Cyborg in a bout on Dec. 29 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

“I would say that the result, Amanda and Cris, Cris will win this fight earlier than a decision,” Shevchenko told reporters recently. “She will finish it maybe third, maybe fourth round.”

Shevchenko, who defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the vacant flyweight title at UFC 231 on Dec. 8 in Toronto, has strong knowledge of both competitors.

The standout kickboxer went at it with Nunes for five rounds last year at UFC 215, only to come up just short in a razor-thin split decision, a verdict Shevchenko vigorously disputes to this day. And she’s been training with Cyborg in the lead-up to this fight, which has put first-hand knowledge behind her belief that Cyborg will win.

“I realize this kind of training, because Cris, she’s not a fighter who is just starting her fight career, she was fighting a long time ago,” Shevchenko said. “Same with me. I was fighting, had my first MMA fight in 2002, and so we are in active sport for a long time and the same spirit of martial arts is common.”

Nunes, who was the larger competitor in last year’s matchup with Shevchenko, used a point-fighting style to eke out the decision. But Cyborg, who was Strikeforce and Invicta featherweight champ before claiming the title in the UFC, is known for her relentless pressure and has proven an ability to keep it up as the bout goes along. So Shevchenko says Nunes won’t be able to play the same game with much success.

“[Nunes] will start good, I think she will give the same tactics she was doing on my fight, trying to avoid the clear fight, trying to move around out of the way, trying to gain points,” Shevchenko said.

“Not too much damage, but more points. For some situations, it’s fine. Never know what can happen. Try some takedowns or something like this. .... With the pressure of Cris, [Nunes] won’t be able to do this so much.”

Maybe Nunes was able to go the distance against a smaller foe, but someone who combines Cyborg’s tenacity and experience with her ability to wear foes down will simply be too much for the bantamweight champ, Shevchenko believes.

“She will get tired and tired and tired and at that point, Cris will be going more and more and harder and harder and I see the finish third or fourth round,” Shevchenko predicted.

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