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Holly Holm vs. Valentina Shevchenko – A Career Defining Moment Set to Fade

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On Saturday night at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, Holly Holm and Valentina Shevchenko headline the latest UFC on FOX card. It is the first time women have closed the show on FOX, and only the second time in UFC history that a non-title women’s bout has been given main event honours.

The fight also carries major title implications. We know that Ronda Rousey will get a shot at the UFC title any time she opts to return and claim one, but we still have no idea when that might be. An impressive win for Holm would likely see her status as a former champion in a still young division propel her to the next shot against newly crowned bantamweight Queen Amanda Nunes.

Nunes’ dismantling of Miesha Tate at UFC 200 was vicious and it was brutal. Winning the title in what had been billed as the largest show in UFC history was the defining moment of Nunes’ career. Holm and Shevchenko are both one fight removed from their own.

Bringing an 11-1 professional MMA record with her to the cage for her UFC debut against Sarah Kaufman in December 2015, Shevchenko had been on the prospect radar for a while. The big question mark was her level of competition.

Her most notable win came against Jan Finney, a fighter known only for serving as Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos’ victim in Sherdog’s beatdown of the year for 2010. On top of that, while Shevchenko’s fight with Finney was one-sided, it was anything but thrilling.

The other recognised name on Shevchenko’s record was Liz Carmouche. Shevchenko had returned to the sport in 2010, and was beaten by the future UFC title challenger. While many will tell you otherwise in hindsight, the truth is that none of us really knew quite how good Valentina Shevchenko was. Yet.

That changed when Shevchenko stepped up to make her UFC debut against Kaufman on short notice. The first ever Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion, Kaufman held wins over Miesha Tate, Alexis Davis, Valerie Letourneau and Liz Carmouche. The step up to the big league to fight one of the top fighters in the world bought out the best in Shevchenko, as she matched her more experienced opponent over three tough rounds to win the fight by split decision.

The magnitude of the win cannot be understated. At the time, Kaufman was an obvious top ten fighter on the all-time women’s pound for pound list. Shevchenko was stepping in on only one week’s notice to fight by far the greatest fighter she had ever faced in her career.

To suggest it ranks alongside Holly Holm’s biggest win would be disingenuous. Nothing matches up to Holm’s knockout of Ronda Rousey in Melbourne at UFC 193. It is one of the most emotive moments in UFC history, and however the rest of her career plays out Holm will always be remembered as the fighter who ended Rousey’s reign of terror over the bantamweight division.

Yet while the stunning image of that knockout is one that will be forever etched into the memory banks of MMA fans across the world, even the most visceral images can fade over time. Holm’s performance that night as a massive underdog was sensational. It was the stuff of legend. It was James “Buster” Douglas over Mike Tyson.

Douglas had utilised a precise jab to pick Tyson apart in Tokyo in 1990, before knocking him out in the 10th round. Just like Holm against Rousey, few had given Douglas a chance of even making the fight competitive, such had been Tyson’s dominance over the heavyweight division to that point. Just like Holm, who did so against Miesha Tate, Douglas would drop the title in his first defence against Evander Holyfield. Douglas never made it back to the top, or anywhere near it, again.

When Holm and Shevchenko meet on Saturday, they do so with the biggest wins of their career in danger of fading. Both approach the fight off the back of a loss, Holm losing her title to Miesha Tate, and Shevchenko dropping a decision to Amanda Nunes.

Should Holm be defeated, naysayers will talk of how that special night in Melbourne was merely an outlier on a resume that doesn’t stack up well against the division’s other top fighters. After all, beyond Rousey, Holm’s most impressive victory came against Marion Reneau, a good rather than great fighter who currently sits outside the top 15 in the division.

Defeat for Shevchenko and she is miles away from entering the discussion when future title shots are being handed out. The win over Kaufman diminished, chalked down to late replacement awkwardness, with Kaufman perhaps not being quite the fighter she once was.

For the winner, the integrity of their career defining moment remains intact. If that is Shevchenko, she might even be creating a new one. Whoever loses on Saturday night only moves one step further away from greatness.

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Fight Announcements

Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou Official for UFC 220

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UFC 220 in Boston, Massachusetts has its main event. Stipe Miocic (17-2) will put his belt on the line for the third time against rising heavyweight star, Francis Ngannou (11-1)

Rumors surrounded the match-up for UFC 220 after Ngannou’s first round knockout over Alistair Overeem, at UFC 218. The Cameroonian heavyweight called for the fight himself. In his octagon interview proceeding his most recent victory, Ngannou stated:

“I’m feeling good… I’m on my way to a title shot”.

The heavy handed Ngannou has finished all of his opponents in all of his six UFC bouts. A streak which includes a kimura submission over Anthony Hamilton and a TKO victory against former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski. Overall, he holds a ten fight win streak. His only defeat came by way of unanimous decision to Zoumana Cisse, in his second professional MMA fight.

If victorious, Ngannou would become the first African-born champion in UFC history.

Not to be diminished, Stipe Miocic rides his a streak of his own into the beantown match-up. Five consecutive wins, five knockouts and the past four of which, ended in the first round. A victory in Boston for the champ would make him the longest reigning heavyweight champion in UFC history. Currently, Miocic is one of three heavyweights, in the promotions entirety, whom has successfully defended the belt twice.

UFC 220 will be held at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on January 20th, 2018. The pay-per-view (PPV) card will also feature light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, as he faces challenger Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir.

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Events

Ladies Fight Night 7: “Double Trouble” Preview

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Polish women’s federation Ladies Fight Night is going to celebrate their second birthday this year on the 15th to 17th of December. Two days, two events with a lot of great bouts.

LFN in Poland is being titled the new Invicta FC. The Polish owners created this federation to give European women a chance to fight on a big platform.

Hosting their first ever event in December 2015, LFN will hold two great cards next week, that will feature women who have fought under many prestigious promotions, such as the UFC, Invicta, Bellator, Glory, and Kunlun.

Two days of fantastic fights, intensified by a double dose of sports impressions. The name is not accidental, LFN 7 / LFN 8 combines two events, during which the best Polish fighters will be shown, as well as the best fighters from Europe (including France, Sweden, Italy, the Czech Republic and Romania)

The stakes are high, and we are electrified by the clashes between warriors such as Żaneta Cieśla vs Silvia La Notte and Patricia Axling vs. Cindy Silvestri. Mainly due to their vastness of their experience in the cage.

In the fight of the evening, the talented Romanian Cristina Stanciu will face Magdaléna Šormovádo. Stanciu fought twice in the UFC, but she was unfortunately cut from the promotion after suffering consecutive losses to Cortney Casey and Maryna Moroz.

Judyta Rymarzak vs Marta Waliczek is an amazing fight between two experienced kickboxers. Both making their pro MMA debuts on the night, we will witness a one-of-a-kind duel between two kickboxing perfectionists, as they look to transcend their skills into the MMA world.

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Invicta

Mackenzie Dern victorious in Invicta debut 

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Late Friday night, Mackenzie Dern (5-0, 1-0 Invicta FC) won her co-main event booking, defeating Kaline Medieros (8-6, 2-2 Invicta FC), at Invicta FC 26: Maia vs. Niedzwiedz, via submission (armbar) with only fifteen seconds remaining in the fight.

Much of the fight was controlled by Dern. The heralded prospect displayed her power, visibly damaging her opponent with multiple overhand rights. Striking is an under-developed aspect of her attack, only when compared to the twenty-four-year-olds black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Above all, she showed a progression of her striking skills. Dern looked to be bigger and physically stronger than her veteran opponent. She utilized forward pressure and found the proper timing for her overhand right throughout.

The veteran Medeiros showed her toughness throughout the fight. She defended and scrambled out of some bad positions during the grappling exchanges. Ultimately, she tapped when caught in a deeply planted armbar.  While Medeiros did earn a few hard trip takedowns, it factored minimally in the result as she refused to follow Dern to the mat. The Boston native suffered her second straight loss, Friday night. Her first was to, former Invicta strawweight champion, Angela Hill.

Dern made her professional debut in July of 2016 with Legacy Fighting Alliance (previously: Legacy Fighting Championship). In her debut, she defeated Kenia Rosas by unanimous decision. The Phoenix-born fighter won her next three bouts. Before her MMA career began, Dern won the ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) championship at 60 kg. She was the first American born female to become champion at the weight. Her grappling resume boasts many more incredible accomplishments. Justifiably, a growing spotlight now hangs over her, her skills, and potential in the sport of MMA.

Elsewhere on the Invicta 26 card, Jennifer Maia defeated Agnieszka Niedzweidz by unanimous decision. Maia retained her Invicta flyweight belt, defending it for the second time. Invicta FC 26: Maia vs. Niedzweidz, took place at the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri.

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