Valentina Shevchenko defended her flyweight championship for the seventh time at UFC 275 in Singapore on Saturday, but doing so would have dealt a major blow to her winning streak.
Shevchenko (23–3) defeated Brazilian rival Tela Santos (19–2) in a split in the UFC 275 co-hosts. Two judges fought 125 pounds for Shevchenko with scores of 49-46 and 48-47, while a third scored 48-47 for Santos. This was Shevchenko’s closest defeat since she moved from the 135-pound to 125-pound weight category in 2018.
“Every time you end a fight, you have to improve,” Shevchenko said. “This is the championship mindset. Every time, you go backwards. I did everything. In this octagon I left my heart. I can tell everyone, MMA fans, I left my heart here.”
A big betting favorite, Shevchenko faced adversity from the first round. He made a mistake in the initial clinch, when he dropped his back in an attempt to take down the side of the fence. Santos, 28, capitalized on the error by locking in the body triangle. He threatened Shevchenko with several attempts to choke back-naked, but Shevchenko made a good save.
The competition in the second and third rounds was extremely competitive. Santos made several takedowns and showed good grip in scrambles. During the fight, he increased the control time to 8 minutes, 49 seconds, however, his offense was limited to those positions. Shevchenko clearly attacked more aggressively, but given Shevchenko’s general dominance, Santos’ ability to control the situation was amazing.
“It was exactly what I expected,” Shevchenko said. “I was expecting a big competitor. In MMA, every pound is counted. “
In the fourth round, Santos’ right eye was almost closed due to an accidental head-on collision. The swelling bothered Santos a bit, and later in the round she looked a little tired. Shevchenko began to combine vigorously and scored a crucial takedown in the fifth round to seal the victory.
For Shevchenko of Kyrgyzstan, this is her ninth consecutive victory, the longest active victory of any UFC female fighter. She surpassed former UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rossi’s record of six consecutive titles in the women’s weight class.
Santos saw his four-match winning streak broken.