By Kyle Ganapathy
Featured photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
First, Junior Dos Santos was pulled from his bout with Francis Ngannou due to a potential substance violation. Then, pound for pound king Demetrious Johnson lost Ray Borg as his opponent in what could have been his record breaking eleventh defense.
Not all is lost though, UFC 215 now rests on the capable shoulders of two remarkable women; UFC Women’s Bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes and her Challenger, Valentina Shevchenko.
The Main Event: Nunes vs Shevchenko
When Nunes and Shevchenko first met in the octagon, they were both working their way toward the top of the division.
“The Lioness” was breezing toward a comfortable victory as she controlled Shevchenko on the ground. In the third round, however, Nunes seemed to slow down and Shevchenko kicked it into high gear, peppering the Brazilian with precision strikes and even taking her down twice. What started as a one sided fight ended in a fiery contest that showcased both women’s tenacity and skill.
Now the pair are meeting again at the top of the division and it has the potential to be one of the greatest fights in women’s MMA history.
It is an incredibly close matchup and both women are as versatile as they come. As a former Muay Thai world champion, Shevchenko is the most technical striker in her division. Nunes however, is no slouch when it comes to throwing hands. Who could forget the beating she delivered to Miesha Tate and her 48-second stoppage of Ronda Rousey?
Nunes tips Shevchenko in the grappling department. Her black belt in Brazilian JiuJitsu has been evident in many of her fights. Shevchenko, however, possesses a black belt in Judo and showed excellent clinch control against Holly Holm and a proficient submission game in her win against Julianna Peña.
Both women have grown significantly since their last meeting and it will be interesting to see them going five rounds this time. This bout has all the potential to be UFC 215’s fight of the night, putting the pinnacle of women’s MMA on display for the world to see.
The Main Card
Apart from the main event, there are several great fights on the pay per view card to get things rolling.
Gilbert Melendez vs Jeremy Stephens
Fans were pleased to see this match booked as both men are capable of turning a fight into an absolute war. With four Fight of the Night awards between the two, it would be no surprise if this meeting quickly turns into an instant classic.
Coming off a string of losses, both Melendez and Stephens are looking to rejuvenate their careers. It’s always exciting when fighters have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Ilir Latifi vs Tyson Pedro
Sparks will fly when these two heavy hitters meet in the octagon. Latifi is a well-known knockout artist who has won four of his eight UFC fights via vicious knockout. While Pedro is a consummate grappler, he has recently demonstrated his power, knocking out Paul Craig in the very first round of their fight. This will be a fight to watch closely as the two powerhouses could end it in a heartbeat.
Wilson Reis vs Henry Cejudo
If you want to see some world class grappling, tune in to this match. Cejudo is an Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling while Reis is a former world champion in Brazilian JiuJitsu. You’ll scarcely find a fight between such high level grapplers and they are sure to display some of the best groundwork the world has to offer. Both men are coming off losses and will be looking to make a statement to get back into title contention.
Rafael Dos Anjos vs Neil Magny
The former lightweight champion Dos Anjos is on a quest to stake a claim in welterweight territory. Having dispatched Tarec Saffiedine in Singapore, he will be looking to gain another high profile win to solidify his place in the division.
Neil Magny made quite a statement when he burst onto the UFC scene. He put together seven straight wins before dropping a loss to Demian Maia. Despite his two big losses, Magny has remained within the top 10 rankings and a victory over Dos Anjos could put him within reach of the title picture.
While the card has changed drastically, it still packs a punch and could prove to be one heck of a fight night. Several of these fights are sure to be crowd pleasers so the event is definitely worth catching. At the end of the day, UFC 215 will take women’s MMA up a notch as it delivers yet another spectacular show. Catch the undercard from 6.30am and the main card from 10am (GMT +8).
Kyle Ganapathy is two parts writer, one part comic artist, and half part martial artist. Hearing about his grandfather’s glory days as a boxing promoter in Singapore, Kyle fell in love with combat sports and has never looked back. He has seen George Foreman go from Lineal Champ to a peddler of blenders and he has witnessed Mixed Martial Arts go from bloodsport to billion dollar business. As combat sports continue to evolve, Kyle will be at the forefront of its evolution, bringing great coverage to you, whether from the cage or the ring.