This past weekend in the co-main event of UFC 275, the best pound-for-pound female fighter in the world was tested. Valentina Shevchenko (23-3) defended her title against Taila Santos (19-2) in a fight that ended up being much closer than expected.
Heading into UFC 275, basically nobody gave Taila Santos a chance. The UFC talked her up as a challenger, but we’ve heard this before with Shevchenko’s opponents. Every time the promotion talks up a challenger, Shevchenko runs through them.
Taila Santos ended up being different. In the first round, Shevchenko was having her way with the striking and then the two ended up in a clinch. Shevchenko went for a throw, but Santos had a strong base and Shevchenko ended up on the bottom.
Santos was able to get her back and she did that a few times at UFC 275. Throughout the first three rounds, Santos was able to get top position on the ground. While she had some control time, she really wasn’t doing any damage and that would come back to bite her.
The fourth and fifth rounds were all Shevchenko as they took place on the feet. In the end, the judges were split at UFC 275. Two of the judges gave the fight to Shevchenko and she retained her title.
What’s next after UFC 275?
Make no mistake about it, Valentina Shevchenko was tested more than we’ve ever seen her tested at flyweight. While folks would rush to praise Santos, and in part they should, it’s worth noting that the closeness of the fight in my opinion was due to Shevchenko’s stubbornness.
What makes Shevchenko so special is she always tries to beat her opponents at their strength. See her title defense against Jessica Andrade. If you’re known as a striker, she wants to strike. If you’re known as a grappler, she wants to grapple. Shevchenko’s UFC title run has shown her dominating opponents in their arena.
Shevchenko is great in terms of her grappling, but she was outgrappled Saturday night. She kept going to the well with grappling and it didn’t work well. If she would’ve just kept the fight at distance like she did in four and five, she would have won a lopsided decision.
That being said, what’s next after UFC 275? Some have called for an immediate rematch, but I don’t see it. Personally, I think we should look to the Miesha Tate – Lauren Murphy fight. If Miesha Tate wins that one, my guess is that Tate gets the next shot at the title.