The Amanda Nunes era of women's bantamweight MMA continued at UFC 215 on Saturday. The Lioness defended her belt against bitter rival Valentina Shevchenko, winning by split decision in the main event at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting tweeted the scores for the champion:
The fight got off to an inauspicious beginning. Nunes—who is known for her fast, furious starts—slow-played the first frame, preferring to pick her battles. Shevchenko wasn't willing to oblige, and a staring contest with light leg kicks ensued for the first few minutes.
Ben Fowlkes of MMAjunkie provided a good summary of the round:
The second frame once again slowed to a snail's pace. Neither fighter was willing to let her hands go, but Shevchenko was able to sneak in shots that made impact. Patrick Wyman of the Washington Post noted that the slow pace favored the challenger:
The third round was difficult to score as both fighters had moments but neither landed anything that significantly changed the bout. Josh Gross of The Guardian gave the round to Nunes:
The fourth round was the best one to that point for Shevchenko. With Nunes' timing and distance figured out, the challenger was able to land clean counters that made the fourth frame hers. The UFC passed along the highlight of the best punch from the round:
In a pivotal fifth round, Nunes looked to score takedowns early. While Bullet fended them off, she made a crucial mistake by going for a head-and-arm throw that allowed Nunes to take Shevchenko's back. Although the challenger eventually worked her way to the feet, Nunes was then able to score the takedown and finish the round on top.
E. Spencer Kyte of The Province expressed the frustration with Shevchenko's ill-fated throw attempt:
The final takedown was likely what convinced two judges to give the fight to the defending champion. After the bout, Shevchenko voiced her displeasure with the close decision, per Helwani:
The win closes the book for now on a rivalry that goes back to when the two combatants first met at UFC 196. Nunes' unanimous-decision victory set her up for a championship win over Miesha Tate, and she hasn't looked back.
Nunes went on to cement her standing as the No. 1 women's bantamweight by demolishing Ronda Rousey in the first round in her title defense.
Still, Shevchenko was the most recent challenger to come close to dethroning the champion. Nunes dominated the first round and won the second before Shevchenko took over the fight in the third.
Things heated up between the two when Nunes pulled out of the first attempt at their rematch at UFC 213. The champion withdrew hours before the fight due to sinusitis.
Shevchenko didn't buy the story and went to Instagram to say she believed it all came down to a bad weight cut for Nunes:
Whatever the reason for the withdrawal, she was ready at UFC 215. The champion silenced the challenger; now the question becomes: How long will she hold on to the belt?
While Rousey was the face of the organization when she was champion, Nunes doesn't expect the same treatment.
"I honestly don't care in this moment," Nunes said, per Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports. "If they want to promote me, make me a focus, cool. That's good for both of us and there would be more money for me, of course. But if no, if they don't want to promote me, that's cool, too. I have money. I made more money than I ever thought."
That money will likely keep rolling in if she continues to win. With Rousey not officially retired yet and names such as Holly Holm and Cris "Cyborg" Justino just one weight class away, there will be plenty of opportunities for the champion to get big fights.