Valentina Shevchenko found herself in a very challenging fight against Taila Santos tonight at UFC 275 and only narrowly edged her way to a split decision win to retain her flyweight title.
Superman attempt from Shevchenko. she goes for a leg kick. Santos with quick punches, but Shevchenko looks to counter.
Inside leg kick from Santos. Not too much action yet as they size each other up from range, then Shevchenko attempts a spinning head kick that doesn’t find the target.
Santos presses forward with a flurry of punches, but Shevchenko opts to clinch up and then presses Santos into the cage.
Knee to the body from Shevchenko. she gets double-underhooks as Santos lands a knee of her own. Knee from Shevchenko and now shoulder shrugs.
Another knee from Shevchenko and then tries for the takedown, but it doesn’t pay off at all and Santos is able to get on top and takes her back.
Santos immediately looking to sink in a rear-naked choke. Rare we see Shevchenko in this kind of danger. Santos gets the body lock in as she continues to work the choke, but isn’t able to get the finish yet. Shevchenko starts to punch behind her as she gets more comfortable in the position, but isn’t able to turn into her as the round is drawing to a close.
Missed kick from Shevchenko. She fires off a one-two. Now a spinning kick that doesn’t land. She lands a leg kick. Now a solid one-two.
They go into the clinch and jockey for position, with Santos emerging with the advantageous position as she presses the champ into the cage and looks to set up a takedown attempt.
Santos looks for a trip takedown and it pays off for her. Good work from the challenger so far. Santos looking to work from inside Shevchenko’s guard here.
Elbow strike from the bottom from Shevchenko. She goes for a submission, but Santos is out of it quickly and settles back into the guard.
Santos not doing too much with the position and the referee soon opts to stand them back up.
Body kick lands for Shevchenko. Now it’s Shevchenko who opts to go for a takedown and lands it nicely. Santos threatening to escape immediately though and a scramble ensues that sees Santos emerge on top in Shevchenko’s guard again. Big moment again for her and she keeps the action there for the remaining seconds of the round.
Good showing from Santos then so far as we head into the third. A few seconds in and Santos realizes she doesn’t have her mouthpiece in and that forces a brief stoppage while it’s retrieved from her cornermen.
Kicks from Santos. She lands a leg kick as Shevchenko tries to come over the top with a punch.
Spinning kick to the body for Shevchenko. Now a one-two gets through. Leg kick for Santos.
Shevchenko drives into a takedown and lands it, but Santos immediately pops right back up to her feet.
Punch for Shevchenko. Inside low kick from Santos. Santos clinches up and moves Shevchenko over to the cage.
A few light knees being exchanged. Santos goes for that trip takedown again and it pays off for her. She takes the back and before long has the body triangle secured as she starts to work for the rear-naked choke.
Shevchenko punching behind her, but she’ll need more than that. Santos with a face crank and Shevchenko responds with more backwards punches as the round ends.
Shevchenko still has a lot to do as we head into the championship rounds if she wants to retain her title. Santos right eye appears to be swelling shut and unfortunately it appears to have been from a head clash that happened in the previous round.
Leg kick from Shevchenko. Now a good punch to the head. Shevchenko with more punches as she looks to get more aggressive.
Front kick to the body from Shevchenko. A kick from her strays to the groin and forces a brief stoppage.
They soon get back to it and Shevchenko lands a punch again. Hard left hand scores for her. Leg kick from Santos. Body kick for Shevchenko.
Another heavy body kick for Shevchenko. Now a superman punch. Leg kick from Santos. Leg kick again as Shevchenko looks for punches to the head. Shevchenko making the most of the fact that Santos vision is compromised from that swollen shut right eye.
Flurry of punches from Shevchenko and then a head kick attempt. Front kick to the body from Santos.
leg kick for Shevchenko. Santos tries for a push kick but Shevchenko counters with punches.
Solid left hand from Shevchenko. Push kick from Santos keeps her at bay. Again the left hand gets through for Shevchenko.
Knee to the body from Shevchenko as they get into close range momentarily. Heavy one-two from Shevchenko,but Santos takes the sting out of it with a push kick.
Shevchenko swings hard, but Santos times that well to land a takedown late in the round and stays on top for the final few seconds of the round.
Leg kick from Santos. Jab from Shevchenko. Short flurry of punches from Shevchenko. Another punch lands. Now a body kick.
Hard right hand from Shevchenko during another flurry. There’s a battle for a takedown now and it’s Shevchenko who gets the head and arm throw, but Santos quickly gets on top. Santos trying to take the back, but is almost slipping off. They do break free and get back to the feet.
Shevchenko lands a good punch. Shevchenko opts to go for another takedown and this time lands it decisively.
Shevchenko in half-guard here. Two minutes to go as Shevchenko tries to figure out how to get a finish on the mat with the time remaining.
The action is stalling here on top with Shevchenko landing some body shots. She tries to get to side control, but Santos keeps her in half-guard.
Final 10 seconds and Shevchenko is trying to pass guard again, but quite able to and so we’re heading for a dramatic decision on the scorecards.
So Santos gave Shevchenko her toughest flyweight title fight to date here, with her strong work in the clinch and on the mat forcing the champion to have to dig deep, which she did do in the championship rounds, starting to gain the upperhand in the striking battle, perhaps aided by the challenger’s swollen shut eye from an earlier clash of heads.
So it goes down to the judges to make the call and they see it as a split-decision win for Shevchenko (48-47, 47-48, 49-46).
Definitely a decision that will be a subject for debate amongst fans in the coming days (especially that 49-46 scorecard), and even in defeat Santos certainly made a name for herself with this impressive showing against the dominant champ.