By: Chris Clark
Amanda Nunes is still the UFC Bantamweight Champion, and once again it was a very close battle with previous foe Valentina Shevchenko. The fight touted as one of the highest level female fights in UFC history lived up to that title, and much like their first fight there really wasn’t a whole lot to separate Nunes and Shevchenko. Nunes walks away with her second victory over Shevchenko, but it’s back to the drawing board for Shevchenko, and it’s hard to see her getting another crack at the title anytime soon for as long as Nunes remains champion.
Round One: The fight began as many thought it would go throughout, extremely even. It appeared Nunes was looking to pace herself early, and avoid getting tired like she did in their March 2016 fight. During the first round it was Nunes who pushed forward with Shevchenko backing up and attempting to counter Nunes. The only real action that stuck out was Shevchenko catching one of Nunes’ kicks and nearly getting a takedown.
Round Two: You could tell there was more of a sense of urgency from Shevchenko, as she began to loosen up more, pushing the pace of the fight, and catching Nunes a few times with a right hand as the two broke from the clinch. The round was very even yet again.
Round Three: Wasn’t a whole lot happening in the third, both fighters were again trading shots between one another. The biggest thing that stood out was Nunes getting warned about sticking her fingers out, and the possibility referee John McCarthy could take a point from her.
Round Four: Another very even round, with Nunes doing most of the pressuring, but Shevchenko landed the heavier strikes, with a nice knee to the body of Nunes. Overall very little action to separate the two.
Round Five: Nunes switched up the game plan in round five, going after the takedown, securing two of her three takedowns on Shevchenko, and all but clinching the round, the only round you could really say decisively went to one of them. At one point Shevchenko even gave up her back, giving Nunes a potential opportunity to finish the fight, but Nunes was unable to. Still, Nunes picks up the victory, in an extremely close affair between the two fighters. Unfortunately, it is very hard to see this fight happening again with Nunes being 2-0 up, despite there being virtually nothing to separate the two fighters. Nunes wins via split decision 48-47 x 2, and 47-48.
What’s next for Amanda Nunes?
For Nunes this is a huge win, effectively closing the chapter between her and Shevchenko. Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot out there for the Bantamweight champion, the only fight I see right now is Holly Holm. The Preacher’s Daughter is ranked number two at Bantamweight, and following her stoppage victory over Bethe Correia, has at least some momentum behind her. Julianna Pena and Cat Zingano would also be fun matchups, but both are coming off losses, while another top Bantamweight fighter, Raquel Pennington, has been out of action since November 2016. We have seen stranger things in the UFC, but I think Holm is really the only matchup for Nunes that makes any sense, and is certainly the biggest name she could fight.
What’s next for Valentina Shevchenko?
If there’s one thing Shevchenko learned from this fight, it’s to not let it go to the judges’ scorecards. Very disappointing for Shevchenko to lose such a close decision, but she showed improvement from their previous fight, meaning the future is still bright. Shevchenko needs to drop to 125 in my opinion, as it seems that is her natural weight class. I really see her being able to establish herself in that division, so I think she should get whoever wins the Flyweight title on TUF 26. There are many fresh matchups for Shevchenko at 125, and the possibility of a big showdown many people would want to see, against former Muay Thai opponent and current UFC Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
The Best of the Rest:
Neil Magny vs Rafael Dos Anjos (3:43 first round arm triangle choke): This fight was basically one way traffic, Dos Anjos dispatching Magny towards the end of the first round with an arm triangle submission. It all started with Dos Anjos hitting Magny with a clean leg kick, causing Magny to fall over, and allowing Dos Anjos to establish top control. This was followed by ground and pound, and a few slick transitions by Dos Anjos, leading to the finish. Dos Anjos proved he was worth the call up for a potential title shot in July if Demian Maia didn’t accept.
Henry Cejudo (0:25 second round TKO) vs Wilson Reis: A surprising fight, as Cejudo went Conor McGregor/Gunnar Nelson on us, coming out in a karate stance. Cejudo’s striking again improved significantly, dropping Reis in the second round with a right hand, and getting a TKO win following a barrage of strikes on the ground. A beautiful stand up display from Cejudo certainly places him back in the title picture, and a possible second shot at Flyweight king Demetrious Johnson.
Ilir Latifi (unanimous decision 30-27, and 29-28 x 2) vs Tyson Pedro: Highly touted prospect Tyson Pedro fell at this hurdle, in a division which certainly needs new blood at the top. Latifi bounced back well following a horrendous knockout loss to Bellator champion Ryan Bader. It was the first time Pedro went past the first round in his MMA career, and it showed as Pedro gassed towards the end of the fight. Latifi’s wrestling was likely another factor for Pedro getting tired, Latifi controlling most of the fight, although Pedro did land some decent strikes.
Jeremy Stephens (unanimous decision 30-25, and 30-26 x 2) vs Gilbert Melendez: A very difficult fight to watch, as Stephens destroyed both of Melendez’s legs with leg kicks, causing Melendez to go down several times. Melendez showed unbelievable toughness, although the fight really could’ve been stopped on many occasions, with the ref actually appearing to be about to step in, and even telling Melendez in between rounds that he may stop the fight.
Sara McMann vs Ketlen Vieira (4:16 second round arm triangle): Vieira yet again shows she is a real threat at 135, passing her most difficult test to date in former title challenger Sara McMann. McMann started the fight in complete control, getting Vieira to the ground and even being in full mount at one point. Vieira reversed into a heel hook which McMann escaped, but continually McMann was going for takedowns. Eventually Vieira was able to land several good strikes, and secured a takedown which led to her getting an arm triangle victory over McMann. Vieira improves to 9-0, while McMann’s three fight win streak comes to an abrupt end.
Sarah Moras (2:51 first round submission via arm bar) vs Ashlee Evans-Smith: Early on it appeared Evans-Smith was headed in a positive direction, scoring a takedown on Moras, something she likely wanted to do given the former All-American is probably the better wrestler on paper. The strategy proved to be Evans-Smith’s demise as Moras locked in an arm bar, which likely broke Evans-Smith’s arm.
Gavin Tucker vs Rick Glenn (unanimous decision 30-24, 30-25, and 29-27): This was the first matchup that was difficult to watch, and really should’ve been stopped in the third round. A one-sided beating suffered by Gavin Tucker, who was obviously buoyed by the Edmonton crowd. Tucker was a little too motivated, as he appeared to gas out in the second half of the fight. Glenn controlled virtually the entire fight, dropping Tucker and completely out grappling him, despite Tucker’s various leg lock attempts. It was a demolition by Glenn, who out struck Tucker 184 to 43.
Mitch Clarke vs Alex White (4:36 TKO round 2): The fight started very even, with Clarke throwing kicks to White’s legs and head. White remained patient, avoiding takedowns from Clarke and landing solid combinations. The fight started to go into White’s direction after he landed several elbows in the clinch, and proceeded to drop Clarke three times. Despite the incredible amount of toughness shown by Clarke, the fight was eventually stopped, with Clarke retiring after a valiant effort.
Luis Enrique vs Arjan Bhullar (unanimous decision 29-28 x 3): A lot of hype surrounded the former Olympian Bhullar, who showed flashes of why the hype was justified. Bhullar pushed forward early with a lot of head movement, while Enrique was very patient to start the fight. Although Bhullar out landed Enrique in total strikes, Enrique did get in some solid uppercuts. The tide changed after Bhullar knocked down Enrique, and was able to control him on the ground after slamming him to the canvas.
Kajan Johnson (0:49 KO round 3) vs Adriano Martins: Martins may have come in as the biggest favorite on the card (-525) but Johnson proved otherwise, stopping the Brazilian at the beginning of round three. The fight was basically all Martins backing up Johnson, attempting to trap him and land a big knockout shot. Johnson attempted many kicks to the legs, body, and head to backup Martins, while Martins welcomed Johnson to the center of the octagon a few times. In the end Johnson nailed Martins with a well-placed right hand after Martins caught one of his kicks, knocking Martins out cold. A huge win for the Canadian, who was out of action for nearly two years.