The UFC returns on Saturday with a main event featuring a pair of women's bantamweight contenders.
While both fighters transitioned to MMA after experiencing success in the boxing and kickboxing ring, there are key differences in their games that could make the difference in the Octagon at UFC Fight Night on Saturday.
While she's best known for her thunderous knockout of Ronda Rousey, Holm's usual output is as a volume striker. Coming from a boxing background, she uses a lot of jabs and straights to close the distance and then work on the inside. She also has incorporated a diverse array of kicks to the legs, body and head since making her MMA debut in 2011. For her career, Holm averages 10 significant strike attempts per minute. In her last fight against Miesha Tate, that rate fell to six attempts per minute due to the long stretches of the fight spent on the ground. To be successful, Holm needs to get back to her volume-based approach. Shevchenko likes to counter and has let her opponents dictate the pace of the contest in the UFC. She has averaged only 3.7 significant strike attempts per minute in the promotion. Holm should look to get out to an early lead by controlling distance and pace by throwing a high quantity of strikes.
Significant strikes landed per minute
Despite not being the most accurate striker, Holm still lands a respectable 3.46 significant strikes per minute. Her volume approach allows her to land consistently despite missing the majority of her attempts. Shevchenko lands 54 percent of her significant strike attempts, but since she mostly waits and counters, she lands only two significant strikes per minute. To be successful with this style, "Bullet" will need to load up on power strikes and hope she can hurt the former champion.
Another result of Holm's volume approach is successful defense. Holm constantly gets off first, which leaves her opponents stuck playing defense. During her UFC career, she has avoided 67 percent of her opponent's significant strike attempts, which is third best among ranked UFC bantamweights. On the other hand, Shevchenko has avoided only 47 percent of opponents' attempts, which is well below the average of ranked bantamweights (56 percent). If Shevchenko tries to sit back and counter against Holm, she might find it extremely difficult to land punches.
Average fight time
As the main event, this fight is scheduled for five five-minute rounds. Neither fighter has fought the full 25 minutes in the UFC. However, both fighters often find themselves in long fights. Holm has fought 74 percent of her possible fight time, while Shevchenko has fought to the final bell in both of her three-round fights in the Octagon. Holm has been scheduled for 25 minutes twice in the UFC, so she might have an advantage in terms of preparation. Shevchenko comes from a traditional muay Thai background, where fighters are notorious for starting slowly. Against Amanda Nunes, Shevchenko had her best round by far in the final frame. She landed 17 significant strikes in the third round after landing only 11 in the first two rounds combined. Shevchenko can't afford to give away the first two rounds and will have to keep it close early and try to seal a late win over Holm just like Tate did in March.