MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the co-main event for UFC 231.

UFC 231 takes place Saturday at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Also see:

Valentina Shevchenko (15-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’5″ Age: 30 Weight: 125 lbs. Reach: 67″
  • Last fight: Submission win over Priscila Cachoeira (Feb. 3, 2018)
  • Camp: Team Lawton (Maine)
  • Stance/striking style: Southpaw/muay Thai
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ 17x muay Thai and K-1 championships
+ 9x IMFA Champ (56-2 as a pro)
+ Black belt in tae kwon do (2nd dan)
+ 2 KO victories
+ 7 submission wins
+ 6 first-round finishes
+ Excellent footwork
^ Rarely out of position
+ Accurate check hook and counter cross
+ Hard knees, elbows and kicks
+ Competent and crafty clinch game
^ Good trips, tosses and positional awareness
+ Underrated takedown defense
^ Deceptively strong hips and base
+Physically and mentally durable

Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 31 Weight: 125 lbs. Reach: 65″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Tecia Torres(July 28, 2018)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/muay Thai
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ Former UFC strawweight champion
+ 5x muay Thai champion
+ 4 KO victories
+ 1 submission wins
+ 1 first-round finishes
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Excellent footwork
^ Shifts, half-steps, pivots
+ Technically sound striker
^ Rarely throws self out of position
+ Accurate jabs and leg kicks
+ Superb defensive and offensive clinch
^ Solid head positioning and forearm framing
+ Underrated grappling IQ
^ Good getup technique/urgency

Point of interest: Volume vs. precision

The co-main event in Toronto features a potential muay Thai maelstrom at flyweight.

Both combatants have faced each other before (albeit under a different rule set), but those encounters happened over a decade ago. Since then, both women have blossomed into elite mixed martial artists, though I still suspect their inherent nature as fighters will come into play.

A pressuring fighter who typically enjoys on-paper edges at multiple ranges, Joanna Jedrzejczyk is right at home when able to work behind her patented jab. Throwing it actively and accurately, the development of the former champion’s jab dates back to the beginning of her career and has been a crucial tool for her success.

Like many muay Thai strikers transitioning into MMA, Jedrzejczyk also feared the takedown, subsequently avoiding throwing kicks comfortably until her very first title defense. Now, showing the competency and confidence in her anti-grappling abilities, the 31-year-old pro will use her jab more for setups rather than safety, confidently attaching well-placed leg kicks to punctuate her presence.

Still, even though Jedrzejczyk’s leg kicks are damaging, she may have to alter her approach when facing a counter-striking southpaw.

Enter Valentina Shevchenko.

Coming from a martial arts family, Shevchenko has been a practitioner of combat since age 4, amassing multiple titles in K-1 and the IFMA (the same organization where she fought and beat Joanna Jedrzejczyk three times).

A counter fighter by nature, Shevchenko wields all the weapons that a southpaw should never leave home without, keeping everything from check-hooks to counter crosses on a hair-trigger. And whenever someone tries to step off to her weak side, she offers answers in the form of spinning assaults and liver kicks that help keep her opposition corralled.

That said, Shevchenko’s willingness to wait for the counter has costed her on the scorecards in certain bouts, which makes me wonder what her temperament will be heading into a matchup with one of the most consistent output machines in any division.

Next point of interest: Clinch time equals crunch time