As was the case with Miesha Tate, says Lenny Fresquez, Holly Holm will be facing the toughest opponent available when she returns to the octagon.
If Valentina Shevchenko had shown up for the first two rounds of her fight with Amanda Nunes, she might be training for a title shot against Tate on July 9 – or that same night against Holm, had the Albuquerque fighter beaten Tate and retained the title she’d won from Ronda Rousey in November.
Instead, as announced earlier this week, Shevchenko will face Holm on July 23 on “UFC on Fox” in Chicago – two weeks after Nunes faces Tate with the title on the line in Las Vegas, Nev.
Holm (10-1) and Shevchenko (12-2) lost on the same night, March 5, in Las Vegas, Nev. – Holm to Tate, Shevchenko to Nunes.
Other possible opponents for Holm’s return were discussed, said Fresquez, the Albuquerque fighter’s agent. He mentioned Lauren Murphy (9-2, ranked 13th in the UFC bantamweight division) and Ashlee Evans-Smith (4-1, 15th).
But Shevchenko, ranked No. 9, is one of only two top-10 challengers to Tate’s title who didn’t already have a fight scheduled between now and July.
Rousey (No. 2, behind Holm) is one of those. But UFC President Dana White has said Rousey may not return to the cage in 2016. Liz Carmouche (9-5, ranked No. 8) has a 2010 victory over Shevchenko but hasn’t fought since April 2015.
“It was a team choice,” Fresquez said of the decision to take the Shevchenko fight. “… She’s a pretty tough girl, solid. … We didn’t want to fight (an opponent outside the top 10) and get criticized. But any way we do it, we’ll get criticized.”
Like Holm, Shevchenko is left-handed and is primarily a striker. She does have five wins by submission, however. Holm’s loss to Tate came via fifth-round rear naked choke.
On March 5, in her fight with Nunes, Shevchenko was listless in the first round and nearly submitted in the second. Shevchenko came alive in the third, dominating the round, but lost by unanimous decision.
Shevchenko is a native of Kyrgyzstan but lives in Lima, Peru.
BRANDAO: In a video obtained by TMZ of a police interview with Diego Brandao, the former UFC fighter admits to having possessed a gun at a Downtown Albuquerque strip club but says a club employee had a gun, as well.
Brandao, who trains at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA, was arrested April 15 after an altercation at Knockouts during which he was accused of pointing a gun at patrons and club employees and striking a club employee in the face with the butt of the gun.
Brandao was arrested on charges of aggravated battery and three counts of aggravated assault. He was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center and released on $15,000 bond.
After the incident, the UFC released Brandao from its roster.
In the video, Brandao at first denies having had a gun at the club but later admits to having had it. He tells police he later destroyed the weapon and says a club employee choked him.
According to online court records, the District Attorney’s Office has not filed formal charges against the 28-year-old Brazilian fighter.
UFC 199: Two-time UFC champion BJ Penn, who trains at Jackson-Wink MMA, is now scheduled to face Cole Miller (21-9) June 4 in Los Angeles on UFC 199. Miller replaces Dennis Siver (22-11), who withdrew with an injury.
Penn (16-10), a Hawaii native, will fight Miller at the 145-pound featherweight limit. Penn has won UFC titles at 155 and 170 pounds.
UPCOMING: King of the Cage will return to the Embassy Suites in Albuquerque with a card June 10. … Jackson’s Series XIX is scheduled for Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino in Pojoaque on June 25.