In the co-main event of UFC 215, women's bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes puts her title on the line against Valentina Shevchenko. The two first fought on the main card of UFC 196, where Nunes left the cage with a decision victory. Since that fight, Nunes has won the title over Miesha Tate and defended it against Ronda Rousey.
Shevchenko has also won back-to-back fights over former champion Holly Holm and TUF winner Julianna Pena. The following is a statistical breakdown of the important factors that could turn out to be the difference on Saturday night.
Editor's note: this guide was written in advance of Nunes and Shevchenko's originally scheduled fight at UFC 213.
Nunes has a sizable advantage in terms of striking differential (significant strikes landed per minute minus significant strikes absorbed per minute). In the UFC and Strikeforce, Nunes' striking differential is 1.79 compared to only 0.20 for Shevchenko. Among ranked bantamweights, Nunes has the division's best striking differential. Nunes, at 2.9, absorbs slightly more significant strikes on a per-minute basis than Shevchenko (2.28).
However, it is on the offensive end that sets Nunes apart from Shevchenko and the rest of the women's bantamweight division. Her 4.69 strikes landed per minute is the best among ranked 135-pound fighters. Shevchenko would be better served to force a defensive striking contest. If she can drive down Nunes' striking aggression, she will probably have the advantage.
The champion is much more of a finisher than the challenger. During her 10-fight combined UFC and Strikeforce career, Nunes has gone to decision only one time, her first fight with Shevchenko. On the other hand, Shevchenko's first three fights in the Octagon were decided via the judges' scorecards before she defeated Julianna Pena with a submission in January.
Nunes' average fight time is 5:09 compared to 16:07 for Shevchenko. If Shevchenko can make it a longer fight, the balance might swing in her favor. In their first fight, Shevchenko had her best round in the third. She scored a takedown and landed 17 significant strikes while absorbing only three. Nunes had outlanded her 36-11 in significant strikes to that point.
Striking power is an essential element to Nunes' finishing ability. In the UFC and Strikeforce, she has scored knockout stoppages in half of her fights, including her 48-second finish of former champion Ronda Rousey in her last fight. For her career, she has landed 0.88 knockdowns per 15 minutes of fight time. On the other hand, Shevchenko has not landed a single knockdown in the Octagon. Nunes will likely come out of the gate looking to finish the fight with strikes. If Shevchenko wants to score the upset, she will need to survive an early barrage.
Neither fighter is very easy to take down. They both have stopped 73 percent of their opponents' takedown attempts. On the ground, Nunes has tried 1.2 submission attempts per 15 minutes of fight time and finished two fights via submission in the UFC. In their first fight, Nunes registered two submission attempts against Shevchenko, but she could not finish either hold.
Prior to her last fight, the challenger had never attempted a submission in the UFC, but she did finish Pena with a second-round armbar. The submission game might end up being a big factor in this fight considering both fighters were at their best from the top position in their first encounter.