Amanda Nunes, left, fights Valentina Shevchenko during UFC 215

Valentina Shevchenko is a dominant and increasingly impressive champion. She is 21-3 overall and 7-0 since her second loss to Amanda Nunes in 2017. With an exactly even mix of knockouts, submissions, and decisions (seven each) Valentina is able to win in all facets of mixed martial arts. But, her impressive record doesn’t tell the whole story of “The Bullet’s” reign atop the flyweight division.

Shevchenko averages 3.02 significant strikes per minute while only absorbing 1.99. She lands slightly more than half of her strike attempts, 51%, while defending strikes 62% of the time. Beyond striking, Shevchenko averages 2.6 takedowns per fight with a 63% success rate.

Similar to many elite champions, Shevchenko prefers to bide her time, get a read in the cage, and then attack. In her last fight, Shevchenko only threw 16 total strikes in the first round. Then, in round 2, after getting a read, she unloaded 23 strikes, landing 22 of them, before finishing the fight by TKO.

This strategy is typical for the champion – read, react, and win.

Valentina Shevchenko speaks after defeating Jessica Eye at UFC 238
Valentina Shevchenko speaks after defeating Jessica Eye at UFC 238 (Getty Images)

Murphy, who has eight knockouts and six decision wins, has a much different approach.

Murphy comes out hard and aggressive. In her last 3 fights, she unleased 48, 48, and 57 total strikes in the first round of each fight, respectively.

Overall, Murphy lands, on average, 3.9 significant strikes per minute with a 40% accuracy. Her aggressive approach, however, tests her chin. While Murphy has never been finished, she absorbs 4.2 significant strikes per minute, putting her strike differential in the negative. Murphy prefers a striking matchup but is competent in the clinch and on the ground. She averages 1.16 takedowns per fight and stuffs her opponent’s takedowns with a 70% success rate.

Shevchenko vs. Murphy analysis

The straightforward analysis of the stats is: Murphy will likely come out aggressive against Shevchenko, looking to clip and hurt her early. Meanwhile, Shevchenko will either look to shoot a takedown; or, more likely, stick and move on the outside as she reads Murphy’s tendencies. If the fight makes it to round two or three, Shevchenko will have an even larger advantage as she’ll have the reads she needs to land with precision and the cardio experience of several five-round fights to continue the pressure against Murphy. After round one, Murphy has shown the ability to keep moving forward; but, as Shevchenko returns fire, Murphy’s tendency to get hit more than she lands opens the door for Shevchenko to find the chin.

How to watch Shevchenko vs. Murphy

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Lauren Murphy is this Saturday’s UFC 266 co-main event. The only way to watch UFC 266 live in the United States is by ordering on ESPN+ here.

Existing ESPN+ subscribers can purchase the UFC 266 PPV for $69.99.

New ESPN+ subscribers can purchase the UFC 266 & ESPN+ Bundle for $89.99.

The UFC 266 & ESPN+ Bundle includes one-year access to ESPN+ hosts all UFC Fight Night events, Dana White’s Contender Series, Top Rank Boxing, and a wide range of other sports and original shows.

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