Holm, Shevchenko square off tonight
CHICAGO — Holly Holm was the unforgettable champ for four months.
Her shocking knock out of Ronda Rousey in Melbourne at UFC 193 instantly changed the dynamics of women's mixed martial arts.
The 34-year old from Albuquerque, New Mexico, put the face of the UFC into hiding, but Holm's reign as champ was short-lived when she was put to sleep by Miesha Tate's rear naked choke at UFC 196.
Just over eight months after shocking the MMA world, Holm (10-1) is attempting to make another run for the women's bantamweight belt as she headlines UFC Chicago in a five-round fight against Valentina Shevchenko (12-2) on Saturday night.
Holm, a former welterweight boxing champ, can possibly put herself in contention to fight now champ Amanda Nunes, who dismantled Tate earlier in the month at UFC 200.
But Holm knows how easily she can be pushed back from the spotlight with a poor showing against Shevchenko.
"If I don't win here, then what opportunities are going to be there, I don't know. So I need to make sure I get through this weekend and do a good showing this weekend first," said Hohm.
Of course, a shot at the belt will most likely depend on when or if Rousey will fight again.
Even with a potential rematch with Rousey and a chance at Nunes for the belt, Holm is not distracted. Her focus is on Shevchenko.
"She's got a ton of Muay Thai background," Holm said. "I'm telling you those Muay Thai fighters are as tough as nails. She's been through battles before, she's been through hard fights. She is very mentally strong, very physically strong so I feel that makes a very tough opponent."
Less than two months ago, Shevchenko was at a chicken restaurant in Lima, Peru, when it was raided by armed robbers. Her trainer Pavel Fedotov was shot during the robbery. Shevchenko was not harmed in the raid, but Fedotov was shot in the abdomen. He has recovered from the gun shot and is expected to be in the corner of Shevchenko on Saturday.
However, the traumatic night didn't put Shevchenko's training on hold as she will get a chance to move up the women's bantamweight by beating the former champ.
"Those days it was impossible to do nothing. It was really, really hard because I could not think about nothing, I could not do nothing, I could not train, I just spent the whole time with Pavel in the hospital, but I knew I had to prepare for this and I knew I had to go forward. First week or 10 days was very difficult, but when I did my training I started to focus on the training and the preparation and it helped me," said Shevchenko, from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. "I tried to close everything around me, all feelings, and I put my mind on the training."
The co-main event features a fight between Edson Barboza (17-4) and Gilbert Melendez (22-5) at the 155-pound division. Both fighters are trying to solidify themselves as potential contenders to the belt held by Eddie Alvarez.
Melendez, a former Strikeforce lightweight champion is not ducking Barboza, who beat former lightweight UFC champion Anthony Pettis in April.
"That's why I'm here, I'm here to test myself against great guys like Edson. He is one of those guys that I think a lot of guys don't want to fight, but I'm up for the challenge," Melendez said.
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