Juliana Velasquez puts her Bellator flyweight belt on the line for the first time at Friday’s Bellator 262 in Uncasville, Conn., opposite “Miss Dynamite” Denise Kielholtz, a bout that Velasquez feels could cement her position as the world’s best 125-pounder.
Velasquez is a decorate judoka who made the transition to MMA and won 10 straight before dethroning Ilima-Lei Macfarlane via decision this past December, and believes she has what it takes to defeat anyone in the world in her weight class.
That includes UFC star Valentina Shevchenko.
“Wow, I’ve asked myself that question countless times,” Velasquez told MMA Fighting when asked about a potential clash with the UFC queen. “I really believe I would win. I won’t say, ‘Oh, I’d knock her out, I’d submit her,’ any of that. But I believe I would win. I believe my arm would be raised by the end of the fight.”
Velasquez, 11-0 as a professional, holds a perfect 6-0 record under the Bellator banner with a trio of stoppages. Shevchenko (21-3) is on a seven-fight winning streak since cutting down to flyweight, defeating the likes of Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Jessica Andrade, Jennifer Maia, Katlyn Chookagian and Liz Carmouche.
“We’re both southpaws, she’s also a judoka who likes to strike,” Velasquez said. “Her muay Thai is a level above mine, of course, but I believe my boxing is better than hers. And she likes to grapple a lot, right? I believe we would do an interesting fight, but I believe in my game.
“I don’t believe in invincibility, I don’t believe in iron lady. She’s a good athlete, I admire her a lot, but I don’t see [defeating her] as rocket science.”
Velasquez remains focused on the task in front of her, and won’t let the fact she’s champion get over her head.
“It won’t change, it doesn’t change much,” she said. “I’m going there with the same mindset I had before my other fights, you know? It doesn’t matter if I’m fighting Liz Carmouche, Ronda Rousey or Denise, I’m going there to give my best.
“I’m not putting any pressure [over myself] because it’s my first title defense. I’m going after a world title, a belt. I took my belt and the first thing I did was to leave it aside. I don’t even look at it. I’m going after a belt.”
Kielholtz is a decorated striker who has earned a shot at the 125-pound gold after four straight stoppages in Bellator, including a pair of submissions, and Velasquez sees a lot of similarities between their fighting styles.
“She comes from kickboxing, I like to strike and feel very comfortable on the feet nowadays, and she’s a black belt in judo just like myself,” Velasquez said. “If you think about it, we’re very similar. We’ll stand and trade, but I don’t know if her ground game is that good. I don’t know if she made it as a judoka in a competitive level.”
“I think she believes she’ll be better than me on the feet, but I believe in my punching power,” she added. “I’ll never say I’m going into a fight to win by knockout or submission, it all depends on how the fight goes. My strategy against Kristina Williams was to go for takedowns and I ended up knocking her out without taking her down once.”