Valentina Shevchenko was convinced she had done enough to pry the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight title from Amanda Nunes. She was wrong.
Nunes retained the 135-pound championship, improved to 2-0 in her head-to-head series with Shevchenko and took a split decision over the Kyrgyzstani kickboxer in the UFC 215 main event on Saturday at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta. All three judges scored it 48-47: Sal D’Amato and David Therien for Nunes, Tony Weeks for Shevchenko. The gold was going nowhere.
Neither woman managed to distance herself from the other. Nunes landed more significant strikes than Shevchenko in every round but the fifth, according to preliminary FightMetric data. The 29-year-old American Top Team standout also recorded the only two takedowns of the fight, one in the first round and another in the fifth, as she continued to put her stamp on the division once ruled by Ronda Rousey.
In the aftermath of UFC 215 “Nunes vs. Shevchenko 2,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Amanda Nunes vs. Holly Holm: Nunes finds herself on six-fight winning streak after she denied Shevchenko’s bid to unseat her. The performance while far from stellar should quiet some of the concern regarding the Brazilian champion’s stamina, as Nunes kept a deliberate but effective pace and showed no signs of fatigue in the fourth and fifth rounds. Where future opponents go from here remains anyone’s guess. With Shevchenko out of the picture for the time being, Nunes can focus on other worthy challengers inside the division. Holm last competed at UFC Fight Night 111 on June 17, when she knocked out Bethe Correia with a head kick in Kallang, Singapore.
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Robbie Lawler: Stock in dos Anjos soared in the co-main event, as the former lightweight champion submitted Elevation Fight Team export Neil Magny with a first-round arm-triangle choke to improve to 2-0 at 170 pounds. The Brazilian chopped down Magny with a leg kick, settled in top position and ultimately achieved full mount. From there, he applied his ground-and-pound and framed the choke when the opportunity presented itself. Magny had no choice but to tap out. Lawler returned from a yearlong absence at UFC 214 on July 29, when he picked up a three-round unanimous decision over Donald Cerrone in Anaheim, California.
Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis: Cejudo dazzled in his latest outing, as he disposed of onetime EliteXC champion Wilson Reis with second-round punches and made a world-class flyweight look downright pedestrian. The 2008 Olympic gold medalist carved up Reis with multi-punch combinations before sighting in his powerful right hand. Cejudo floored the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt early in the second round, followed him to the canvas and mopped up what was left with unanswered punches. Roufusport’s Pettis has rattled off four straight victories, the latest coming in a five-round unanimous decision over Brandon Moreno in the UFC Fight Night 114 main event on Aug. 5.
Ilir Latifi vs. Abdul Kerim-Edilov: While he may never grow into a title contender, Latifi provides a valuable service to the UFC as a litmus test at 205 pounds. The Allstars Training Center rep handed blue-chip Australian prospect Tyson Pedro his first defeat in their light heavyweight showcase, as he was awarded a unanimous decision after three rounds. Scores were 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27. Latifi has picked up four wins across his last five outings, a knockout loss to Ryan Bader at UFC Fight Night 93 his only hiccup. Kerim-Edilov made a memorable promotional debut at UFC Fight Night 115 on Sept. 2, when he dispatched Bojan Mihajlovic with second-round punches. The 25-year-old Chechen has won 11 fights in a row.
Ketlen Vieira vs. Alexis Davis: The undefeated Vieira made her intentions in the UFC women’s bantamweight division known, as she submitted 2004 Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann with an arm-triangle choke in the second round of their undercard pairing at 135 pounds. The decisive victory pushed the Brazilian to 3-0 in the UFC and infused a top-heavy division with new life. Davis, 32, has not fought since she captured a unanimous decision from the standup-challenged Cindy Dandois at UFC Fight Night 108 on April 22. Wins over the aforementioned Nunes, Tonya Evinger (twice), Liz Carmouche and Sarah Kaufman anchor her resume.