UFC 215: Nunes vs. Shevchenko 2 Preview
A preview of Saturday’s UFC 215 card in Edmonton, Canada.
Updated: Sept. 7, 2017 • 11:46 AM ET
Valentina Shevchenko will finally receive her deserved title shot this Saturday.
UFC 215 storms into Edmonton on Saturday, featuring a flyweight title fight between champion Demetrious Johnson and No. 3 ranked Ray Borg. Both fighters will attempt to make history.
Johnson is the only flyweight champion the UFC has ever known, reeling off 10 consecutive title defenses dating back to 2013. A win over Borg would give him the UFC’s all-time record of 11 straight title defenses, passing Hall of Famer Anderson Silva.
Johnson has ruled the flyweight division and at times, he has made his victories look almost too easy. He continues to eliminate any doubt of his greatness with every win, and he’s arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the world. And just when you think there’s finally a fighter who could challenge for his title, Johnson wins in convincing fashion.
His last victory came in April against Wilson Reis, a third-round submission win. He beat up Reis for two rounds with a combination of strikes and ultimately defeated Reis at his own game. No one could have predicted that Johnson, no matter how good he had been up to that point, would have submitted a jiu-jitsu specialist like Reis.
With every new opponent, Johnson shows a new set of skills in his arsenal. Even fighters who’ve been given a second crack at him have failed to make the necessary adjustments to defeat him. Johnson defeated top contender Joseph Benavidez by KO in the first round of their rematch in 2013, and he picked apart John Dodson in their rematch en route to a unanimous decision victory in 2015.
Johnson’s last loss came in 2011 to former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. However, another former bantamweight champion thought he would get the chance of moving down in weight for the next title shot. The UFC offered Johnson a fight with bantamweight TJ Dillashaw, but the flyweight champ promptly turned it down, saying that Borg deserved the next title shot. Johnson’s decision was questionable, but a fight with Borg and a shot at history is reality. Dillashaw will fight for the bantamweight title instead against champion Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217.
Borg is riding a two-fight win streak and is 5-2 in the UFC overall. He has shown excellent submission skills and signs of being explosive in previous fights, but he has also had issues making 125 pounds. Borg could make history by becoming just the second flyweight champion in UFC history, and it’s difficult to imagine him squandering the opportunity by missing weight again. Yet, he has never fought under this amount of pressure, nor this level of competition.
Update: Ray Borg has withdrawn from the fight due to an illness, canceling the main event.
The co-main event of the evening will be the long-awaited rematch between women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes and No. 1 contender Valentina Shevchenko. The two fighters were supposed to fight for the second time at UFC 213, but Nunes withdrew the day of the fight due to an illness. Although she was medically cleared for the fight, Nunes didn’t feel well enough to compete. Many people, including UFC President Dana White, criticized the champion.
“She said ‘I don’t feel right, I don’t feel good’,” White said at the UFC 213 post-fight press conference. “I think that it was 90 percent mental and maybe 10 percent physical, I think a lot of fighters have had times where they don’t feel right.”
Nunes and Shevchenko first fought at UFC 196 with Nunes ultimately winning by unanimous decision. She has since become the champion and is looking to successfully defend the title for the second time.
Shevchenko is coming off two straight wins over Holly Holm and Juliana Pena, respectively. She believes that if their first fight had gone another round, she would have defeated Nunes. Shevchenko is the clear-cut No. 1 contender, and if the rematch finally happens, she should be Nunes’ toughest challenge to date.
Rest of main card
The main card also features a welterweight fight between No. 6 ranked Neil Magny and former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos. Magny, a durable fighter who accepts any challenge, is 4-1 in his last five fights and is 13-4 overall in the UFC. He fought five times in 2015 and three times in 2016, but this will be his first fight since defeating Johny Hendricks last December. Another win will thrust Magny into the top 5 and considerably closer to the title conversation.
Dos Anjos made a successful debut at welterweight in June with a unanimous decision win over Tarec Saffiedine. After losing two straight fights at lightweight, the victory over Saffiedine was his first win since 2015. The former champion still has plenty left to prove, and he’s still considered to be a dangerous fighter no matter what weight class he fights in.
Dos Anjos poses a great threat to stop Magny’s run up the welterweight rankings, and both fighters are good strikers with underrated power. Dos Anjos, however, holds the advantage should the fight go to the ground.
The main card also features a light heavyweight fight between No. 10 ranked Ilir Latifi and No. 13 Tyson Pedro. Latifi is coming off a heartbreaking KO loss to Ryan Bader last September in a fight where he had Bader badly hurt but could not finish him. Latifi is 5-3 in the UFC, and Bader was certainly the marquee name he needed in his victory total. He’s a well-rounded fighter and one of the strongest in the light heavyweight division.
Pedro, a 25-year-old fighter who has shown great potential for representing the next wave of great light heavyweights, is 2-0 in the UFC and 6-0 overall. He won both UFC fights by finish and has great boxing and jiu-jitsu, making him a well-rounded threat to any opponent.
Rounding out the main card are two former lightweight fighters now fighting at featherweight, No. 8 ranked Jeremy Stephens taking on No. 15 Gilbert Melendez. Stephens has had an up-and-down career, but has always shown one-punch knockout power in either division. He’s riding a two-fight losing streak, both by decision. Stephens’ last fight was a split decision loss to Renato Moicano in April, and he lost unanimously at UFC 205 to Frankie Edgar in a good back-and-forth battle. He has key victories over Renan Barao, Darren Elkins and Dennis Bermudez, and a victory over a dangerous veteran such as Melendez would put him back on track in the featherweight rankings.
Melendez is a former lightweight title challenger and former Strikeforce lightweight champion. He’s coming off of three straight losses, all at lightweight, and will make his debut at featherweight on Saturday. Despite being 1-4 in the UFC, he has impressive victories on his resume with wins over Josh Thomson, Jorge Masvidal and a victory in one of the best fights in UFC history over Diego Sanchez. Melendez needs a successful featherweight debut if he wants to stay relevant in a division that is constantly improving.
Women’s bantamweight fight: No. 6 Sara McMann vs. No. 13 Ketlen Vieira
Flyweight fight: No. 2 Henry Cejudo vs. No. 5 Wilson Reis
Women’s bantamweight fight: Sarah Moras vs. No. 15 Ashlee Evans-Smith
Featherweight fight: Gavin Tucker vs. Rick Glenn
UFC Fight Pass early prelims
Lightweight fight: Mitch Clarke vs. Alex White
Heavyweight fight: Luis Henrique vs. Arjan Singh Bhullar
Lightweight fight: Kajan Johnson vs. Adriano Martins