April 18, 2019

UFC on ESPN+ 7: Antonina Shevchenko Faces A Staunch Test In Roxanne Modafferi

By Raphael Garcia

The UFC is in a perpetual state of searching for new stars, with a roster full of athletes dying to become one. Each event features fighters who are all trying to capture a valuable win, with some looking for staple victories to help them build the narrative that they are prospects to watch. This Saturday at UFC on ESPN+ 7, Antonina Shevchenko is one such fighter, as she looks to build up her name and her unbeaten record. Unfortunately, she’s looking to get that win over a staple of women’s mixed martial arts, one that is widely considered an inspiration to all those who’ve persisted in the sport: Roxanne Modafferi.

“The Happy Warrior” is on the short list of trailblazers on the women's side of the sport. Modafferi has nearly 16 years of professional experience, including competition in the biggest grappling tournament there is, ADCC. She’s fought all over the world, and she’s achieved close to all there is to achieve in the sport. In many ways, her career is a testament to pushing forward in the face of adversity, as her resume, personality, and cult following could make her an interesting figure for the UFC to promote.

Instead, Shevchenko is the individual with the company behind her. Shevchenko is currently Top 15 in the promotional rankings for the division that her sister, Valentina rules. At 7-0 she’s already received prime card placement. Modafferi’s road to this bout has been quite different, and their paths will cross on Saturday.

At 36 and 34 years of age respectively, Modafferi and Shevchenko are both considered beyond their athletic prime and entering the phase that usually coincides with decline. Shevchenko has a wealth of kickboxing experience in her back pocket, but Modafferi is one of the most experienced competitors on the roster. If anyone has the capacity to play "spoiler" and quell some of the hype that surrounds Shevchenko, that would be Modafferi.

Modafferi has been in this situation before. During season 27 of The Ultimate Fighter, Barb Honchak was expected to be the fighter to watch from the cast of that season. However, Modafferi derailed that hype train when she finished Honchak via TKO from elbows in the second round of their bout.

On the feet, Modafferi has never been a knockout artist in any sense of the word, but she has abilities as a grappler that Shevchenko and her camp should be concerned about. Across a 15-minute contest it would be interesting to see if Shevchenko can fight out of Modaferri’s attempts to get the fight to the floor where she will hold the advantage.

Antonia Shevchenko is being positioned to be a star in the UFC. It would be a mistake to say that she’s riding her sister’s coattails, but nevertheless, the promotion has provided her with an opportunity to push herself higher up the rankings quickly with a win this weekend at UFC on ESPN+ 7. The question is whether she can get by what is a tough test in Roxanne Modafferi, a test that many seem not to recognize as such.

UFC on ESPN+ 7
Roxanne Modafferi vs. Antonina Shevchenko

UFC on ESPN+ 7: Overeem vs. Oleinik (formerly UFC on ESPN+ 7: Volkov vs. Overeem) takes place April 20, 2019 at Yubileyniy Arena in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Click HERE for more UFC on ESPN+ 7 Pre-Fight Analysis

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