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Erin Blanchfield criticizes Valentina Shevchenko for becoming too predictable: ‘She’s very much a creature of habit’

UFC 288 Ceremonial Weigh-in
Erin Blanchfield
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Valentina Shevchenko was arguably the most dominant champion in the UFC through seven title defenses, but has the flyweight division finally caught up to her?

That’s a question Erin Blanchfield wants answered as she hopes for a title shot against the winner of the upcoming rematch between Shevchenko and Alexa Grasso at Noche UFC on Saturday. The first fight ended after Shevchenko threw a spinning back kick that Grasso countered with a takedown followed by a rear-naked choke submission.

It was a shocking result at the time, but Blanchfield admits it wasn’t totally unexpected because she’s begun noticing a pattern where Shevchenko is concerned.

“I feel like she’s very much a creature of habit,” Blanchfield told MMA Fighting. “She seems to do the exact same things and she’s getting a little older, so obviously it’s a little harder to adjust and change her game. But I feel like her game has kind of been the same her past couple fights.”

Shevchenko earned an early reputation in the UFC as a blistering striker, which stands to reason given her background as a multi-time Muay Thai and kickboxing champion.

Over the years, Shevchenko began to add more and more weapons to her arsenal, including a slick submission game that helped her earn wins over fighters like Julianna Peña in the past. Shevchenko’s wrestling combined with a vicious ground-and-pound attack then added another wrinkle to her skill set.

As dangerous as she’s been during her UFC run, Blanchfield feels that Shevchenko hasn’t been able to make necessary adjustments in her fights to throw off opponents any longer.

To add to that, the talent at flyweight has developed at a rapid pace over the past few years, with fighters like Blanchfield banging the drum for a chance to prove Shevchenko is no longer invincible.

“I feel like the division is catching up to Valentina,” Blanchfield said. “I feel like she does a lot of the same things in fights, pretty repetitive, that’s why Alexa’s game plan worked perfectly. [Valentina] doesn’t make many adjustments. She’s a great fighter, but at a certain level, you have to have the respect for the fighters that you’re fighting as well and make those adjustments.

“I feel like MMA in general is getting better with people starting to train MMA from a younger age or people getting into multiple martial arts their entire life instead of just one. The whole game is growing, and I think that’s what you’re starting to see in the flyweight division as well.”

While Grasso’s first win over Shevchenko came in a back-and-forth bout, Blanchfield knows there’s an easier path to victory for the Mexican-born flyweight.

Blanchfield can’t map that out for Grasso, but she knows the blueprint is out there to beat Shevchenko. It’s just up to the champ to execute that strategy on Saturday night.

“I feel like she definitely could [win],” Blanchfield said of Grasso. “I think she’s a great game-planner, and how she game-planned for her last fight, obviously it didn’t go exactly how she wanted or she would have ended up winning rounds, but with that experience fighting Valentina [previously], I feel like she’ll make some adjustments and maybe be able to win those four rounds.

“I haven’t broken down the fight enough in my own head to know what she should do to switch that around herself, but I know her camp has. I could definitely see her coming in with some new adjustments and stealing some rounds from Valentina.”

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