Once one of the top-drawing divisions in the UFC on the back of Ronda Rousey's dominant run, the UFC Women's Bantamweight division headlined the UFC 215 show in Edmonton Saturday night, but not by design.
After the planned Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson Flyweight title defense against Ray Borg was scrapped due to Borg's illness, Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko were tasked with main eventing UFC 215. This just two months after their own fight was pulled due to a Nunes illness and Dana White said that he wouldn't trust her to headline.
The bout started out slow, with Shevchenko clearly looking to test the cardio of Amanda Nunes. It appeared that both women took a round early on, with plenty of energy for the championship rounds. It looked like that's what it'd come down to, as a technical battle left the fight close going into the fifth round.
You can see an excerpt from Fightful.com's lead boxing writer David Tees and his UFC 215 live coverage below.
Round Five: The round begins with Nunes nailing Shevchenko with leg kicks, Shevchenko comes forward and nails Nunes with a punching combination. Shevchenko starts catching Nunes with some leg kicks of her own, Shevchenko continues coming forward and attacking Nunes with lefts. Nunes holds Shevchenko against the cage wall while looking for a takedown, the fighters separate and Shevchenko nails Nunes with a knee strike to the midsection. Shevchenko goes for a takedown and Nunes scrambles at the right time to get back control, Shevchenko scrambles to her feet and Nunes holds her against the cage wall. Nunes scores another takedown on Shevchenko and she gets the half guard, Shevchenko attacks Nunes with strikes while on her back as the round ends.
Fightful scores the round 10-9 for Nunes (Final Score: 48-47 for Shevchenko)
Official Result: Amanda Nunes def. #1 Valentina Shevchenko by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47) to retain the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Title
In the end, Nunes walked away with a split decision victory with two 48-47 scorecards. It will go down as her second successful defense of the title, with her first being against Ronda Rousey last year.
This wasn't the first time the two women had battled one another. Nunes defeated Shevchenko just last year at UFC 196, although that bout was a three-round affair.
Now, Nunes has a 135-pound division without many contenders in line. Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey will likely never fight again, Holly Holm seems poised to compete at 145-pounds, Germaine de Randamie is out of favor with the UFC and coming off hand surgery, and Shevchenko has lost to Nunes twice. Julianna Pena, Cat Zingano and Sara McMann are all coming off of losses, with Raquel Pennington being the only top-10 fighter piecing together three straight wins.