Kicking off the UFC pay-per-view schedule of 2020 is UFC 247 in Houston, Texas. The main event will see one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time in Jon Jones’ attempt to defend his light-heavyweight belt against a dangerous, rising contender in Dominick Reyes. You can find our preview for that fight here.
However, in this article, I will be taking a look at the co-main. Where a similarly dominant champion and possibly the pound-for-pound best female in MMA, Valentina Shevchenko, will have the task of defending her flyweight title for a third time. This will be against Katlyn Chookagian, the rightful number one contender in the women’s flyweight division. She will be looking to cause a huge upset just like the challenger in the main event. Both are coming in as huge underdogs, at 5/1 (Reyes) and 7/1 (Chookagian).
With an outstanding background in kickboxing and Muay Thai, as well as an extremely strong ground game, Valentina Shevchenko, in my opinion, is the most technically sound fighter in female MMA today. She has only three losses on her record. One being an untraceable doctor stoppage loss due to a cut against Liz Carmouche in 2010 (which she has recently avenged) and two close decision losses to the consensus Women’s “GOAT”, Amanda Nunes. One of them being a split decision many thought she won.
After dropping down from bantamweight where she was cutting no weight and giving up size to every opponent, she has truly looked untouchable; submitting Priscila Cachoeira, beating former strawweight champ and now challenger Joanna Jędrzejczyk dominantly, finishing Jessica Eye with a knockout of the year candidate and outclassing Liz Carmouche in August of last year.
With a solid professional record of 13-2 in MMA, Katlyn Chookagian poses a respectable threat to the champion in Saturday’s fight. She has a very fluent style, utilising a lot of lateral movement and high output with combinations usually ending in kicks. She is very good off her back as a Renzo Gracie brown belt. That is something Shevchenko will have to be very mindful of. Despite having no submission wins and no finishes altogether in the UFC, Katlyn is very active off her back. I believe her style and pacing suits a five-round fight, which she hasn’t gotten the chance to show until now.
Chookagian’s two losses have came to the women that Valentina Shevchenko last defeated in Liz Carmouche and Jessica Eye. They were both very close fights and split decisions that easily could have gone either way. She has notable wins over Jennifer Maia and Joanne Calderwood, which were her two most recent fights where she looked very impressive. Chookagian has a solid skillset and has to be respected as a contender.
How They Match Up
Despite her great skill set, I find this match up to be particularly awkward for Chookagian as the odds reflect. She is a very high-output offensive fighter. Against a precision counter striker like Shevchenko, I don’t think the combinations she can get off on other girls will be there.
As for how Shevchenko will like the matchup, I feel chances are she will thrive inside the octagon because of the style Chookagian brings. We saw that in the Jessica Eye fight when Eye come forward and looked to put her hands on Valentina. Shevchenko simply just lead her on and found the big shots easily as opposed to the Liz Carmouche fight, where Carmouche didn’t rush forward and was very tentative throughout the fight which caused a much less exciting fight. However, whenever Liz did rush in, Valentina made her pay.
Ultimately, as the challenger, what Chookagian can learn from Valentina’s last two fights is that she has to play with the range more so and more carefully than ever before. She cannot rush forward using the same offensive patterns otherwise she will end up as Jessica Eye did. However, she can not lose all aggression in fear of the counterstrikes. She simply has to pick when she closes the distance and what shots she throws very carefully. A few level changes wouldn’t hurt just to mix things up.
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