It wasn’t the most exciting fight, but Valentina Shevchenko once again planted her flag at the top of the women’s flyweight division.
Shevchenko picked up her second title defense and got revenge over an old foe, defeating Liz Carmouche by unanimous decision (50-45, 3x) in the main event of the UFC’s first trip to Uruguay. The champion deployed a patient approach, which she said was part of her gameplan in her post-fight interview with Michael Bisping.
“First of all, my strategy was to use all my skills to defend her,” Shevchenko said. “She has very uncommon technique, style and timing. That’s why I did everything to assure my victory inside the cage.”
Carmouche was the more active fighter as the battle began. She circled on the outside of the Octagon while moving in and out of Shevchenko’s range. Carmouche repeatedly threw her kicks, largely focusing on the lead leg of Shevchenko.
The champion was content to wait for openings as Carmouche bounced forward. She fired her own low leg kicks in response to Carmouche’s movement-heavy gameplan. Neither fighter landed in volume throughout the opening five minutes.
The feeling-out process of the first round bled into the second. Carmouche continued to move at a high rate while Shevchenko stalked. Carmouche shot her first takedown attempt of the fight but was quickly stuffed by Shevchenko.
“Bullet” let her hands go as the round came to a close. She strung together a short combination and landed a spinning backfist in the final minute before the horn sounded.
When the same dance from the first two rounds played on in the third round, the fans in Uruguay grew restless. Shevchenko then answered their pleas for action.
The champion dropped Carmouche with a combination with two minutes to go in the round. Shevchenko opted against engaging Carmouche on the ground in that moment, but would soon return to the mat after she took Carmouche down off of a body lock.
— UFC (@ufc) August 11, 2019
— UFC (@ufc) August 11, 2019
Seemingly unimpressed by the offense of Carmouche, Shevchenko opened up her arsenal once again in the fourth round. She forced Carmouche to shoot for a desperate takedown attempt that the champion then converted into top position against the cage.
Keith Peterson stood the two fighters up with just over a minute and a half to go in the round after the fighters reached a stalemate.
Shevchenko again found success with her strikes. She landed a spinning back elbow that dropped Carmouche to her knees. Shevchenko attempted to capitalize on the position with submission attempts but came up empty.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 11, 2019
Carmouche entered the final round with a sense of urgency. She stayed close within Shevchenko’s striking range in hopes of landing a fight-changing strike of her own, but she was met with kicks and flurries from Shevchenko instead.
Shevchenko remained perfect in her takedown defense and once again found herself on top of the challenger after a failed single-leg attempt. The champion rode out the position until the final seconds ticked off of the clock.
Now that she’s avenged one of her losses, there’s only one other fighter on the planet that has defeated Shevchenko in MMA: the bantamweight and featherweight queen, Amanda Nunes.
Nunes defeated Shevchenko by unanimous decision in their first fight at UFC 196 in 2016. The two again went to the scorecards in the razor-thin rematch that headlined UFC 215 in September of 2017, but Nunes emerged victorious once again.
Of course, Shevchenko also has suitors at flyweight that are waiting for their shots. Second-ranked 125 pounder Katlyn Chookagian leads that pack.
As for the champion’s interests, she mentioned a possible trilogy bout with Nunes, but she will ultimately leave her next opponent up to the UFC.
“I want everyone here inside the Octagon,” Shevchenko said.
For Carmouche, the loss snaps her two-fight winning streak and drops her record to 2-2 since dropping down to 125 pounds in the UFC. She remains winless in title fights in three tries.
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.