Dominant champion Valentina Shevchenko returns to action this Saturday in Singapore when she defends her title against fast-rising challenger Taila Santos.
Shevchenko has now defended the title six times and improved her current win streak to eight. She’ll be challenged by Santos at UFC 275 who has managed four consecutive wins to earn a shot at the flyweight title.
Shevchenko vs. Santos is a featured bout on the UFC 275 PPV main card. Fight fans can order the event on the ESPN+ website to watch Teixeira vs. Prochazka, Shevchenko vs. Santos, Zhang vs. Jedrzejczyk, and more.
Read on for the latest Shevchenko vs. Santos betting odds and our complete staff picks and predictions for UFC 275.
Taila Santos is the biggest underdog on the UFC 275 fight card with +400 odds at popular bookmaker BetUS.
A successful $100 bet on Taila Santos to win would return a total of $500 at UFC 275. Valentina is listed as a heavy favorite and that means a winning $100 bet would return just $116.
Taila Santos has heavy hands and devastating striking. Fighting from more of a Muay Thai base, she plants in her stance and throws weight behind everything. She does not usually overcommit however and is very good at maintaining her distance so that her attacks land on the end of their range with the most pop. She is also good at keeping the pressure on as instead of risking getting out of position or sliding away from strikes and having to re-enter she typically looks to take particle shots on her guard and fire back. A mentality similar to what you would see in more traditional Thai boxing fights.
Her grappling skills follow a pretty basic course but also a very effective one. She will use her striking to engage in a clinch against the fence and drag her opponent down from various body lock positions. In top control, passing the guard and submitting isn’t the first thing on her mind, and she will happily stay inside the guard with tight pressure so as to avoid submissions and wear out her opponent with peppering shots. If they can explode out or create space, she has cemented positive control time and can go back to striking or she takes advantage in the scramble to then take a better position and continue grinding them out with strikes on the mat.
The biggest problem for her however, is that while Santos is great at what she does it isn’t necessarily something Shevchenko has not seen already. Santos’ power has devastated much of the division, but Shevchenko’s experience against fighters Jessica Andrade and Amanda Nunes should prepare her for such a threat. Shevchenko is one of the most technical fighters in the UFC regardless of division, and she utilizes a number of tools to win her fights.
She is an expert southpaw which already poses problems in itself for most fighters. She is always on the balls of her feet moving, and what she does best is attack targets for the purpose of creating reactions to be exploited later on. Nothing she throws is for the purpose of throwing it and the long game is always in her mind. Most notably she tends to attack the legs and body early so as to bring her opponent’s guard down over time to expose the high kicks late. The low kicks and body kicks tend to come behind her jab, and a slick superman punch which allows her to start her combinations from an extra step away. Santos likes to box long so techniques like this will allow Shevchenko to elongate the range at which she can initiate exchanges first.
In terms of grappling, while Santos tends to prefer to close the gap with the cage and secure the clinch there, Shevchenko usually likes to go for takedowns out in the open. She will shoot for the legs but usually raises to hip lock and trips on the outside to end up in side control. She does a similar takedown from the upper body clinch be it over under, or double under, but regardless the outside trip is the constant. Her goal is to eventually get to the crucifix and pound her way to victory or amount enough pressure that her opponents expose their neck or a limb.
Santos is definitely an interesting contender but the reality is, it’s hard to see what she offers Shevchenko that Shevchenko has not seen already. Vice versa, Santos will really have to rise to the occasion against arguably the pound-for-pound best female fighter in the UFC today.
Pick: Valentina Shevchenko to win
At this point, most everyone involved in MMA knows who Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko is and appreciates not only her domination but also her brilliance inside the octagon. The flyweight champion has defended her title 6 times in only 4 years. Each performance offered a supposed new challenge for the flyweight queen, yet, Shevchenko has continued to dispose of her competitors time and time again. Valentina combines the movement of a ballerina with the striking prowess of a cobra. She is completely well-rounded, both offensively and defensively, leaving no openings for her opponents to attack. Furthermore, Shevchenko can win and has won, in a variety of ways. She secured a second-round choke to earn a title shot back in 2018 and has knocked out 4 opponents and gone to decision with 3 others since. The best way to describe Shevchenko’s fight style is calculated. For the entire 25 minutes of a fight, no matter her opponent’s fight style, Shevchenko is in complete control. Most often, she dictates when the fight is at range, in the pocket, or on the mat. At range, Shevchenko’s footwork is on full display, as is her devastatingly fluid kicking game. In the pocket, Valentina incorporates slicing elbows from an impressively strong Thai clinch. Then, on the mat, Shevchenko has showcased smooth grappling, transitions, “get ups,” and a submission game. As long as the fight goes, Shevchenko is always in control.
When a champion sits atop the division for so long, eventually he or she will run out of worthy challengers and start to fight rematches or lower-ranked fighters. This is often met with criticism from the MMA community, specifically when a title challenger is deemed “unworthy.” Taila Santos is far from unworthy. She boasts a 19-1 professional record, is 4-1 in the UFC with her only loss coming via split decision in her debut, and has showcased an array of skills during her winning streak. Santos is a diverse and powerful striker with a fundamental and athletic wrestling game. Her striking does often come one at a time, rather than in combination, but, she can mix in different angles and entries. Her striking is primarily designed to hurt her opponent or force them backward. Once Santos gets her opponent to move back, she is in her preferred position to shoot a takedown or engage the clinch. Once Santos clasps her hands together, she looks to transition the clinch to the mat. Once down, Santos lays heavy to hold position while she looks to land significant ground and pound. Offensively, Santos is a wrestle boxer with solid power. Defensively, though, is where Santos has struggled. She tends to stay on the center line, rarely circling out of the pocket after an exchange. Further, Santos tends to keep her head still, creating a stationary target for a technical striker to attack. Santos tends to win 50/50 striking exchanges, even though she eats shots, because of her edge in power and threat of the takedown. She’ll need to mix in both on Saturday night.
Unlike many before her, I do expect Santos to have moments, maybe even minutes of success against Shevchenko. Jennifer Maia was able to take and hold Shevchenko down to win a round. Santos has the tools to do the same; she is an equally talented wrestler and notably better striker than Maia. That being said, the only victory I see for Santos is a consolation one. Shevchenko is faster, more fluid, the better striker, has impressive takedown defense, and has defended her belt 6 times, some of which against similar fighters to Santos. While Santos deserves the shot, Shevchenko will once again show that there are levels to this game. Look for a masterclass in kickboxing and takedown defense as Shevchenko volume strikes her way to a decision win.
Pick: Shevchenko to win by decision
Valentina Shevchenko has no flaws. I’ve sparingly used the phrase “no identifiable flaws”, in the past, but when accessing Valentina, who has fought just about every type of fighter of all skill levels, I see no weaknesses.
From a striking department, she uses elite techniques to land with speed and precision, while understanding it far better to let the finish naturally surface contrary to looking end the night with a singular blow. Moreover, her elite technique makes it extremely difficult for her opponent to find much, if any, significant success in landing against her. Lastly, and perhaps the best attribute of her striking, is that she enters the “flow state” extremely quickly. This phrase is used to describe a fighter throwing their attacks with confidence and fluidity, and for Valentina, the fluidity of striking is seen across all forms, as she can throw punches, kicks, knees, and elbows that land with efficiency and effectiveness.
From a grappling department, Valentina is the best wrestler in the division. Her understanding of timing and technique allows her to land takedowns with relative ease. On the mat, Valentina elects to attack whatever her opponent presents; meaning, Valentina will happily inflict damaging ground and pound until an opportunity for a submission arises. In total, I truly see no weakness with her game, and the scary part is Valentina seems to only be getting better as a fighter as she seems to be one of the hungriest champions currently in the UFC.
Taila Santos is a legitimate title contender which may not have been able to be said for a few of the recent challengers to Valentina’s reign over the flyweight division. Santos, similarly to Valentina, has a well-rounded fight game with elite attributes wherever the fight takes place.
The deviance away from Valentina, beyond fight-level alone, begins with the intent behind striking. Whereas Valentina waits for the finish, Santos throws with a tenacious intent that has resulted in her earning a minimum of one knockdown over her last two fights. While the ability to earn a KO/TKO has largely alluded Santos in her UFC career, she does have 10 of her 19 professional victories stemming from a KO/TKO which is quite impressive for a female flyweight. Albeit the ability the finish fights via strikes is indeed a positive trait, the issue for Santos is she can often overextend her power punches which leaves her susceptible to a counter attack by her opponent.
Although Santos is predominately a striker who elects to throw powerful, straight down the barrel punches, she does have a strong grappling game that allowed her to convincingly outwrestle Molly McMann, Roxanne Modafferi, and Gillian Robertson, all of whom are strong wrestlers in their own right. Once on the mat, Santos has a sound submission game that is built on positional knowledge and natural athleticism. Altogether, Santos has the complete package one would need to become champion of the UFC, the issue, for her, is that her opponent is Valentina Shevchenko.
The well-rounded arsenal coupled with the impressive success thus far in the UFC may leave some to believe Santos has the skills necessary to upset Valentina the same way Juliana Pena upset Amanda Nunes. This belief, beyond something fluky happening like an unexpected injury as we saw occurred in the Rakic v Jan fight just a few weeks ago, is incorrect. The reasoning for this is that Valentina has demonstrated time after time that she is just as hungry now as she was far earlier in her fight career to be the champion of the women’s flyweight division, unlike Amanda Nunes who seemed to be either distracted or lost the hunger. So, as religiously stated, I see no flaws in Valentina’s game, and I fully expect her to dominate Santos as Valentina is the faster athlete, more technical striker, better grappler, and has the experience necessary to exploit opportunities that arise in the fight. But, knowing Santos is a legitimate contender with serious skills everywhere, I expect Valentina to win by – a convincing – decision.
Pick: Shevchenko to win by decision
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.