SINGAPORE – Valentina Shevchenko’s seventh women’s flyweight title defense was her most difficult to date as she narrowly defeated Taila Santos in the UFC 275 co-main event.
Shevchenko (23-3 MMA, 12-2 UFC) was forced to fend off grappling attempts from Santos (19-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) and get in damage when she could en route to a split decision victory by scores of 48 -47, 47-48 and 49-46.
The championship bout served as the co-headliner of UFC 275, which took place at Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Shevchenko started the fight with a nicely placed left hand, but then the signs of concern began to appear. Santos found a way to take the back in the first round and threaten with a rear-naked choke, and although she could not get it before the end of the round, she sent a message to the dominant champion that she was not there to roll over.
The second round was closer, with Shevchenko and Santos getting involved in some grappling exchanges. Shevchenko threatened with submissions but did not inflict much damage as Santos went right after her on the mat and showed no fear.
UFC 275 video: Hayisaer Maheshate starches Steve Garcia with perfect right hand while backpedaling:
UFC 275 video: Silvana Gomez Juarez KOs Na Liang with blistering combo in just 82 seconds:
Santos performed above expectations again in the third round, dueling with Shevchenko in the clinch before getting another takedown and getting the back of Shevchenko. She came close to a finish with a rear-naked choke, but Shevchenko stayed composed and rode out the clock and position to avoid getting put away.
As the action spilled into the championship rounds, the pair exchanged punching combinations and kicks. Shevchenko fended off the initial takedown attempts from her opponent, then an accidental clash of heads caused bad swelling around Santos’ eye. She was undeterred, though, and managed to secure a late takedown.
With the fight close going into the final frame, Shevchenko showed some desperation with fierce striking output. She attempted to toss Santos from the clinch but got reversed and had her back taken again. Shevchenko scrambled back up to her feet and finally got a clean downtown at the midway point of the round. She remained there until the end, using control and short strikes to run out the clock.
With the win, Shevchenko moves to a perfect 9-0 since she dropped down to 125 pounds in February. Her seven consecutive title defenses are the most among current UFC champions, and “The Bullet” said pre-fight the focus is now on claiming a second championship against the winner of the UFC 277 women’s bantamweight title headliner between Julianna Peña and Amanda Nunes.
“I did everything. I left my heart in the octagon for this fight, ”Shevchenko told Daniel Cormier in her post-fight interview. “I expected killer opponent.”
Santos, meanwhile, performed beyond expectations and said the result motivated her to go forward:
“It was a tough fight,” Santos said through an interpreter in her post-fight interview. “Tough as expected, but I’m still here for the next one. Unfortunately I could not really see out of my right eye after it closed. I saw two Valentinas. I just tried to hit in the middle. ”
Up-to-the-minute UFC 275 results include:
Valentina Shevchenko def. Taila Santos via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 49-46) – to defend women’s flyweight title:
Zhang Weili def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk via knockout (spinning backfist) – Round 2, 2:28
Jake Matthews def. Andre Fialho via knockout (punches) – Round 2, 2:24:
Jack Della Maddalena def. Ramazan Emeev via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 2:32:
Josh Culibao def. Seungwoo Choi via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Hayisaer Maheshate def. Steve Garcia via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 1:14:
Brendan Allen def. Jacob Malkoun via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Kyung Ho Kang def. Danaa Batgerel via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Silvana Gomez Juarez def. Na Liang via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 1:22:
Joselyne Edwards def. Ramona Pascual via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)