“The Lioness” had to stare down a “Bullet” in the main event of UFC 215 in Edmonton Saturday night.
The main event of UFC 215 on Saturday, originally set to be Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg for the promotion’s flyweight title, wound up featuring Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko with women’s bantamweight gold on the line. The pair had met once before, with “The Lioness” Nunes picking up the unanimous decision win at UFC 196 in March 2016. Months later, the Brazilian would go on to become champion at UFC 200. Shevchenko, a.k.a. Bullet, meanwhile, would look to get back in the title hunt.
To do so, the Kyrgyzstani fighter earned victories over former bantamweight champion Holly Holm and a title eliminator against fellow contender Julianna Peña.
There were a ton of storylines heading into this rematch. Dana White had claimed Nunes would not headline another UFC card after she pulled out of UFC 213 last minute, only to have to eat his words when the original UFC 215 main event fell through. Shevchenko was looking for revenge after her first loss to Nunes, in which she came on strong in the third round. And were she to be successful, would a rubber match become an inevitability?
As the action got underway, the pair exchanged leg kicks early as they felt each other out. Nunes held the center of the cage early, bringing the attack to her opponent, who looked ready to counter. Shevchenko slipped a few leg kicks in as well, while Nunes whiffed on a high kick. The champ, however, was finding a home for her inside leg kick. Later on, the challenger would touch Nunes with a right hand, then catch a kick, only to take a punch from Nunes for her efforts. Another exchange took things to the end of the first round.
In the second, Nunes once again held the center of the cage, and pressed the action. Shevchenko looked to counter, mixing in the odd leg kick. She continued to look tentative with her striking, however. After another minute or so, Shevchenko began mixing in superman punches and appeared to be loosening up just a little. A spinning back fist attempt by Bullet came with under two minutes to go, but didn’t land. An exchange of kicks to the upper leg marked the final minue, and with time running out, it was Shevchenko who was the more aggressive fighter.
Round three saw more of the same early. Nunes kept her distance, Shevchenko patiently waited to counter when the attacks from Nunes did come. A superman punch attack followed by a leg by Shevchenko was effective, and whether it was that kick or earlier, Nunes appeared to be bleeding from the leg. Shevchenko continued to fire off combinations in answer to Nunes’ pressure, while Nunes was effective in cutting off the cage. Towards the end of the third round, ref Big John McCarthy warned Nunes for having her fingers pointed forward at her opponent. Having warned her earlier in the fight, the possibility of him taking a point for a future infraction loomed large.
Round four saw Nunes eat a Shevchenko shot early. While it hit home, she pressed forward. Nunes landed a solid leg kick, and some damage was starting to show on the legs of the challenger. Bullet continued to counter; she went on the offensive around the halfway point of the round and landed a combo followed by a knee to the midsection. They picked up the pace at the end of the round, and the action would go to a fifth and final frame.
Round five had a big question coming in: how would the judges score this? They were much more active to start the round, exchanging early. However, after an initial flurry, they settled back into their earlier back-and-forth routine of Nunes attacking and Shevchenko launching counter-attacks. At the halfway mark, Nunes pressed the action against the fence, but they quickly separated, allowing Bullet to land an inside leg kick. That was followed by a knee, then a superman punch. Shevchenko turned that into an attempted throw by the challenger, which turned out to be a huge mistake. The end result was Shevchenko on the ground, with the champion on her back. However, Nunes could not make anything happen from that position, and Shevchenko worked her way back up. THe champ pressed for a takedown against the fence, however, and scored a double leg! Huge, as with under a minute to go Nunes was on top. They’d end in this position, and the animosity between the two would continue briefly after the bell, and the affair would go to the scorecards.
After a brief pause to ensure all scores were accurate, Bruce Buffer read out the results: Amanda Nunes retained her bantamweight title via a close split decision.
Amanda Nunes def. Valentina Shevchenko via split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47)
For more coverage of UFC 215: Nunes vs. Shevchenko 2, check our UFC Events page!