Amanda Nunes strengthened an already strong hold on the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight division.
The American Top Team star retained her 135-pound title with a split decision over Valentina Shevchenko in the UFC 215 headliner on Saturday at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta. All three judges scored it 48-47: Sal D’Amato and David Therien for Nunes, Tony Weeks for Shevchenko. Nunes now holds a 2-0 edge in the head-to-head series between the two.
All five rounds were closely contested. Nunes (15-4) paced herself in an attempt to curb the cardio issues that have plagued her in the past. Leg and body kicks were her most effective weapons. Meanwhile, Shevchenko frustrated “The Lioness” with crafty footwork and sublime head movement, countering effectively off her misses. With the outcome still up in the air entering the fifth round, Nunes changed course. She freed herself from an ill-conceived head-and-arm throw by Shevchenko (14-3), assumed a dominant position and fished for weaknesses. Later, Nunes powered her way to a takedown and spent the final 50 seconds on top sending a message to the judges.
Now on a six-fight winning streak, Nunes owns an 8-1 record in the UFC.
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Dos Anjos Arm-Triangle Taps Magny
Former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos continued his seamless transition to 170 pounds in the co-main event, as he submitted Neil Magny with an arm-triangle choke in the first round. Magny (19-6) tapped out 3:43 into Round 1, losing for the second time in three outings.
Dos Anjos (27-9) did not afford the Elevation Fight Team any opportunities. He put Magny on the canvas with a leg kick inside the first minute, set up shop in top position and let his skills do the rest. Dos Anjos softened “The Ultimate Fighter 16” semifinalist with ground-and-pound, passed guard to side control and eventually climbed to full mount. When Magny tried to escape, he found himself hopelessly entangled in the choke.
The 32-year-old Dos Anjos has posted back-to-back wins since moving to the welterweight division.
Spectacular Cejudo Stops Reis
Onetime Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo in his most complete performance to date put away former EliteXC champion Wilson Reis with punches in the second round of their featured flyweight clash. Cejudo (11-2) brought it to a close 25 seconds into Round 2.
Reis (22-8) was a non-factor. Cejudo blasted him with two- and three-punch combinations and a steady stream of thudding right hands, all while mixing in kicks at all levels, knees in close quarters and a tactical takedown. Early in the second round, he tagged and dazed Reis with a searing straight right, followed him to the canvas and uncorked a volley of unanswered punches to prompt the stoppage.
The loss halted Cejudo’s two-fight losing streak.
Latifi Subdues Unbeaten Pedro
Repeated takedowns, suffocating top control and effective ground-and-pound carried Allstars Training Center export Ilir Latifi to a unanimous decision over Tyson Pedro in a three-round feature at 205 pounds. Latifi (13-5) swept the scorecards with 29-29, 29-28 and 30-27 marks from the judges.
Pedro (6-1) employed a kick-heavy approach, as he zeroed in on the Swede’s head, body and legs. However, he could not keep Latifi at bay. The 34-year-old powerhouse closed the distance, often punching into the clinch. Latifi delivered takedowns in all three rounds, assumed top position and handled his business with short punches and elbows.
Latifi has won four of his past five bouts.
Leg Kicks Buoy Stephens
Alliance MMA’s Jeremy Stephens snapped a two-fight losing streak with a surprisingly one-sided unanimous decision over two-time Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez in a three-round featherweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it for Stephens (26-14): 30-26, 30-26 and 30-25.
Low leg kicks and Stephens’ unwavering commitment to them told the story. He took out Melendez’s base with the technique, damaging his lead leg to such a degree that the Cesar Gracie protégé could barely stand by the end of the first round. From there, it was only a question of whether or not he would see the final bell. Stephens piled up points with power punches to the head and body, capitalizing on a stationary target. Melendez (22-7) retreated to his back on several occasions, the pain becoming too much for him to bear.
The victory moved Stephens to 13-13 in the UFC. His 26 appearances tie him with Demian Maia, Gleison Tibau and Diego Sanchez for fifth on the organization’s all-time list.
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