MMA Review: #613: UFC 215: Nunes vs. Shevchenko II

-This was another underwhelming PPV on paper as it lost its co-main event (Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg) just before the weigh-ins, and the other main event of Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko was hardly a massive deal even if it was a legit #1 vs. #2 fight. A couple of intriguing main card matches had my interest but yeah, this was hardly a marquee-level show for Western Canada – again!

UFC 215: Nunes vs. Shevchenko II

Edmonton, Alberta

-Your hosts are Jon Anik, Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier.

Featherweight Fight: Gilbert Melendez vs Jeremy Stephens

This was Melendez’s first fight in over a year following his loss to Edson Barboza, and it was his first at 145lbs since his Shooto days in like 2005 as well. Stephens was coming off a disappointing loss to Renato Moicano, and as I’ve always found him a little overrated I was taking Melendez to get his mojo back and pick up the win.

First round begins and they circle with Stephens opening with a strong leg kick. Melendez throws out some punches, but Stephens backs him up a bit and swipes at the body with a right hook. Really good leg kick lands for Stephens. Another one follows as Melendez keeps on firing punches that just about come up short. Stephens keeps on firing the leg kick, and it looks like Gilbert’s having trouble with the lead leg already. Brief trade sees Melendez finally land a couple of shots, but Stephens smartly circles out. Another leg kick hurts Gilbert and he’s got a HUGE knot on his left leg. He comes back with a nice right hand off a combo, but he takes another really bad leg kick and he’s all over the place. Melendez ends up dropping to his back, but he gets up and comes forward into a big combo from Stephens. He’s in trouble here. Somehow he guts it out and walks forward swinging, landing some big shots on the way, but Stephens absorbs them and kicks the leg again. Spinning backfist misses for Stephens. Leg kick drops Melendez again and you could make a case for stopping this. Stephens kicks the leg while he’s down too, and then drops into the guard with a right hand as the round ends. 10-8 Stephens and Melendez’s corner ought to consider throwing in the towel.

Doctor checks the leg between rounds and actually decides Gilbert’s good to go, surprisingly enough! Dude is tough as leather too as he gets right up off the stool like there’s no issue.

Second round and Melendez circles on the outside and fires some punches, backing Stephens up, but Stephens smartly refuses to brawl and looks to stay on the outside. Gilbert keeps on pushing and lands a knee, but he eats a leg kick as Stephens backs out. Chopping leg kick connects to the right leg this time, and Stephens follows that with a combination. Another combo and a leg kick land for Stephens. Decent pair of jabs get through for Melendez and he continues to push forward, landing a few more jabs, but another kick connects to the lead leg. Flurry from Stephens backs Melendez up and they exchange as Gilbert walks him down. Leg kick drops Melendez again but once again he forces himself up. Gilbert’s heart is tremendous. Combo into a head kick connects for Stephens but Melendez takes it well. Another combination follows that. Stephens continues to get the better of the exchanges, probably due to the movement issues Melendez is having. Big uppercut and a leg kick drop Melendez with seconds to go, and Stephens drops down to follow him but can’t land as the round ends. 10-9 Stephens again.

Third round and Melendez pushes forward but takes some early shots again from Stephens. This is about the best I can remember Stephens looking at 145lbs. Beautiful combination lands for Stephens ending in a kick to the body. Melendez has the fucking heart of a lion though as he keeps on walking him down. Brutal leg kick to the right leg lands this time. Melendez now seems to have two wobbly legs. Stephens peppers him with a big combo and lands with a right, but Melendez fires right back again. Stephens still refuses to brawl though and lands with another clean combination on his way out. Pair of leg kicks put Melendez down but he rolls over and back up to his feet, causing Stephens to applaud. Unbelievably brave showing from Gilbert. Stephens continues to pick him apart though, landing combinations basically at will now. Big shots to the body connect for Stephens. Head kick sets up another combo and then the leg kick drops Gil again, and as he comes up he eats a brutal knee. Another low kick puts him right back down and Stephens drops into top position to land some hard shots from there. Stephens looks like he’s content to work from the top, and from there he mauls him until the round ends. 10-8 Stephens, 30-25 for Stephens overall.

Judges call it 30-26, 30-26 and 30-25 all for Jeremy Stephens. This was a tremendous performance from him – maybe the best of his UFC career in fact – as he picked Melendez apart using his leg kicks and combination striking, did tremendous damage to the lead leg, and never got drawn into a brawl despite Gilbert’s best attempts. Melendez for his part showed some tremendous heart, but little else really despite looking in great shape, and with a career of damage behind him it might be time to hang it up I think. Still, great opener thanks to the skills of Stephens.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Ilir Latifi vs Tyson Pedro

Despite only having two UFC wins to his name – over Khalil Rountree and Paul Craig – Pedro had found himself ranked in the top fifteen pretty much due to his potential and 205lbs being a thin division. He was faced with Swedish powerhouse Latifi here, who had been on the shelf for a year following his nasty loss to Ryan Bader.

Round One and Pedro throws a couple of kicks out to feel out the distance. Pedro’s tattoos are about as crazy as it gets. Scramble sees Pedro almost get Latifi down, but he blocks it and lands some shots to the body before they separate. Good low kick from Pedro but Latifi catches it and drives him into the fence. Nice takedown from Latifi into side mount and then he spins into north/south. Pedro looks a bit stuck as they spin around, but he manages to roll and escape up to his feet. Another kick from Pedro is caught and Latifi lands a right hand, but he eats a hard body kick in response and has to back up slightly. Front kick to the body lands for Pedro and then he fakes a low kick and goes high, but Latifi catches the leg and takes him down into guard before passing to side mount. He goes back to north/south, but again Pedro explodes from the bottom and stands. Latifi holds onto him with a front facelock, and drives him into the fence again where Pedro comes back with a couple of elbows. Latifi stays on him and keeps trying for the takedown, but Pedro teases a choke and breaks with a left. Round ends with a big head kick missing for Pedro. Close-ish round; 10-9 Latifi.

Round Two and both men throw out some feints before a Latifi flurry misses and he eats a short left from close range. Front kick to the body lands for Pedro. Beautiful body kick follows but Latifi comes back with a leg kick of his own. Body kick fires back for Pedro as they trade off. Combination connects well for Latifi. Kick lands again for Pedro but Latifi flurries on him to set up a takedown attempt. Pedro defends with a couple of elbows to the head, but Latifi drags him off the fence and SLAMS him down before shrugging off a triangle attempt. Latifi stays on top and lands some decent punches before passing into half-guard. Pedro tries to use the fence to work back up to his feet, but he eats a couple more hard shots. One minute to go and Latifi continues to look for the takedown, but Pedro defends well this time and remains on his feet. Couple more punches land for Latifi from close range, and the round ends there. 10-9 Latifi again.

Round Three and Pedro opens with a stiff jab, backing Latifi up. Low kick follows but Latifi counters with a right hand. Another low kick glances for Pedro and he dodges a counter flurry. Couple of big swings miss for Latifi. Another low kick seems to hurt Latifi and the Aussie quickly follows with another although he eats a counter in the process. Nice right hand lands for Pedro. Good counter right connects for Latifi off a low kick. Combination of an uppercut and a left hand land for Pedro and Latifi looks busted up pretty badly now. Pair of body kicks follow and Latifi looks pretty gassed now too. Pedro’s doing a great job in this round. Latifi decides to switch it up and he goes for the takedown, and once again he gets it with a pretty heavy slam. Action slows down as Latifi seems content with top control alone, but he does land some decent ground-and-pound and ends the fight on top. 30-27 Latifi for me.

Judges call it 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 for Ilir Latifi. Pretty good fight as Pedro looked excellent on the feet, didn’t really gas and showed skills way past his experience level, but he just couldn’t deal with the power takedowns and top control of Latifi who basically won purely on that in the end. If Pedro can close that hole in his game he’s definitely a contender, though, as Latifi is a tough out for anyone due to those takedowns. Weirdly I think Pedro will end up far better off than Latifi in the long haul so this was a good win for the Swede here.

Flyweight Fight: Henry Cejudo vs Wilson Reis

Both of these men had lost out in title fights to Demetrious Johnson, but of course Cejudo appeared to have the brighter future as despite losing to Joseph Benavidez in his first fight post-DJ loss, it was a controversial call and plenty – myself included – thought Cejudo had won. With Reis’s skills being ground-based and Cejudo being the best wrestler in the division, too, I figured the Olympic gold medallist would keep the fight standing and take Reis out on the feet.

First round begins and man does Cejudo look comfortable on his feet these days. He comes out with almost a karate stance in fact. Pair of clean right hands land for Cejudo. Leg kick fires back for Reis but Cejudo is stalking him here. Low kick into a combo from Cejudo. He easily dodges Reis’s strikes too. Beautiful four-shot combination connects for Cejudo. Wow does he look good here. Another combo lands for Cejudo and he follows with a low kick and a step-in knee. Takedown attempt from Reis is met by a big knee from Cejudo, and he calmly stuffs it and gets top position with Reis on his knees. Right uppercut from Cejudo and he switches to a rear waistlock to force him down. Reis tries to roll, but Cejudo’s having none of that and he stands up. More good shots from Cejudo before Reis shoots on a single leg. Cejudo hops around on one leg to defend it and escapes, and then a big head kick into a combo stuns the Brazilian. Right hand drops Reis for a second but he pops up only to eat a leg kick and a couple of heavy knees to the body. Seconds to go and Cejudo gets an ankle pick takedown (!) and dumps Reis to the ground, ending the round on top. Cejudo basically did whatever he wanted in that round, 10-8 for him in my eyes.

Second round and Reis presses forward with a glancing body kick, but Cejudo drops him with a HUGE RIGHT HAND and quickly seals the deal with some punches on the ground.

Cejudo looked awesome and the fight went about as well as it possible could’ve done for him. Amazing striking and when he wanted to take Reis down he made it look as simple as waking up in the morning. I could definitely see him getting another title shot if he picks up a couple more wins and looks as good as this. You can just tell by his sick learning curve that he’s a one-of-a-kind athlete. Could he beat DJ in the future? Shit, maybe in a couple of years if DJ starts to slow down. If Johnson ever leaves the division I see him as the champ for sure.

Welterweight Fight: Rafael Dos Anjos vs Neil Magny

This was elevated to co-main status with the loss of Johnson vs. Borg, and although it wasn’t the biggest name fight, it was definitely relevant as Dos Anjos had looked great in his Welterweight debut against Tarec Saffiedine, while Magny had last been seen beating Johny Hendricks at UFC 207. I thought Dos Anjos would probably win as Magny always tends to struggle against really dangerous offensive fighters due to his jack-of-all-trades, master of none style and the fact that he still hadn’t quite showed he could use his crazy reach to full potential.

Round One begins and Magny pushes forward right away, looking much bigger than RDA, but the Brazilian drops Magny with a vicious leg kick and lands right in side mount. Magny fishes for half-guard and gets it, but Dos Anjos remains on top and drops some harsh elbows to the side of the head. RDA attempts to go for a crucifix, but can’t quite get it and so he looks for a possible choke instead. Magny avoids that, but RDA drops some more elbows and then sets up for an arm triangle choke. Slick pass into side mount follows but he gives up on the head and arm control. Full mount follows after a knee to the body and Magny’s in the shit. Couple of elbows land for RDA and then he snatches up an arm triangle and slides out to the side, and Magny can’t get out and taps instead to a HUGE CROWD POP to boot.

That was scarily one-sided. Dos Anjos basically just crushed Magny, dropping him on the feet with a leg kick and then dummying him on the ground with pretty much no effort. Phenomenal performance from the former Lightweight champ and he’s clearly a contender at 170lbs. If he wins his upcoming fight with Robbie Lawler he likely gets a title shot and shit, that could be fun. RDA is a scary man.

UFC Women’s World Bantamweight Title: Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko

Initially scheduled for UFC 213, this fight was moved here when Nunes became ill on the day of the weigh-ins and it was a rematch from their first fight at UFC 196 – won by Nunes, but only just in the end after she gassed and allowed Shevchenko to really take over the last round. That was of course before Nunes had won the title, but really she hadn’t shown improvement since then, it was just that she’d merked Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey early on, as she’s capable of doing to any opponent really. With that in mind I figured either Nunes would win in a rush, or Shevchenko would survive the early onslaught to take over and win in the later rounds.

Round One begins and the crowd seem to be treating this as a big deal at least. They trade with some low kicks and Nunes looks surprisingly calm and collected for her standards. More low kicks from both before Nunes misses with an overhand right. A second attempt glances though and forces the challenger back a bit. Halfway through the round and the crowd sound bored and begin to boo lightly. This is so weird to see Nunes fighting so passively, although she’s landing a few more low kicks I guess. Shevchenko really hasn’t landed a thing of note yet. Body kick lands pretty cleanly for Amanda. Low kick into a right hand from Shevchenko glances in return. Nice combination lands for Nunes coming off a caught low kick. Round ends on the feet with Nunes tripping the challenger down and landing a right on her way up. 10-9 Nunes but a dull round for the most part.

Round Two and it’s a similar opening; lot of leg kicks and feinting with little else in the way of real action. Decent left hand lands from close range for Shevchenko. Superman punch follows for the challenger and lands probably her best shot thus far. Boos really begin to come as the superman punch and a right hook land for Shevchenko. Clean right catches Nunes as she steps back too. Shevchenko’s timing when she begins to land is really fantastic. Beautiful left hand snaps Nunes’ head back. Low kick from Nunes is countered by a missed spinning backfist. Counter left glances for Shevchenko off a missed knee from Nunes. Both women come up short on punches and a spin kick misses for the challenger. Combo from Nunes is met by a quick counter from Shevchenko, and Nunes ends the round with a body kick. 10-9 Shevchenko for me.

Round Three and they exchange some more, but it’s still largely a staring contest right now. Left hand into a low kick lands for Shevchenko. Nunes keeps on trying to use her jab. They trade with low kicks and both women land punches in a brief exchange. Nice clean jab connects for Nunes. Left hand fires back for Shevchenko. This is such a tricky round to score. Big right hand lands for the champion over the top, best shot of the round. Spin attack misses for Nunes and Shevchenko lands some glancing punches on her. Wild spinning backfist misses for the challenger. Good body kick from Nunes. Crowd now sound mildly bored rather than angry. Shevchenko’s beginning to come up short on her punches now. Big john McCarthy stops it for a second and gives Nunes a warning for reaching with an open hand, and they restart with Nunes landing a low kick and Shevchenko a left hand. Round ends there. 10-9 Nunes but it was a very close round.

Round Four and Nunes presses forward and they trade low kicks again. Good body kick connects for Nunes. Counter right hand also connects for the champion and she seems to have found her range. She also isn’t tired which is good, but then it’d be because the fight’s been so tentative. Big combination lands for Shevchenko though and pegs Nunes back. Nunes pushes forward again though and this is going to be a nightmare fight to score as they continue to pick at one another. And now the crowd are pissed off and start really booing. Big counter left hand from Shevchenko but Nunes comes back with a right and a kick to the body. Left hand into a knee to the body lands for the challenger. Nunes comes back swinging but can’t land much outside of the front kick to the body. Jumping front kick glances for Shevchenko. More of the same continues and it’s definitely Shevchenko landing the better shots in this round. Nice superman punch from Shevchenko as Daniel Cormier compares the fight to De Randamie/Holm which isn’t exactly praising because that was a shit fight. Round ends on the feet after some more decent work from the challenger. 10-9 Shevchenko so it’s down to the fifth round most likely, but who knows.

Round Five and they actually trade in the opening seconds, finally popping the crowd. That stops pretty quickly though and we’re back to the staring contest with the odd low kick and punch. They continue to trade with chipping low kicks as the boos rain down and this just isn’t the main event Edmonton wanted. Cormier and Rogan try to defend the fight on commentary but I mean, it doesn’t make it any more exciting. Takedown attempt from Nunes finally changes things up and she forces Shevchenko into the fence, as the crowd are now chanting for the Edmonton Oilers hockey team. Shevchenko defends the takedown well, and they separate. Inside leg kick from the challenger. Clinch and a knee to the midsection follow. Another takedown attempt from Nunes is reversed by Shevchenko into a headlock takeover, but Nunes shifts her weight and lands on top, taking the back! With 1:30 to go this might win her the fight. She’s got one hook in but can’t get the other, and Shevchenko stands to escape. Nunes drops right back for another takedown, and after a real struggle she dumps the challenger onto her back. Half-guard for Shevchenko and she throws up some upkicks, but Nunes settles into the guard and looks content to hold her down. Fight ends there and I’d give the round to Nunes and the fight to her, 48-47.

Official scores take FOREVER to collate, pissing the crowd off even more. 48-47 Shevchenko, 48-47 Nunes, and in a split decision, Nunes takes the final scorecard 48-47 and retains. Crowd seem pretty torn which is unsurprising given neither fighter really did enough to win and it could’ve gone either way. I get the argument about it being a tactical, high-level fight, I really do, but then Cormier/Jones and Romero/Whittaker were tactical and high-level but at least they were exciting because the fighters showed aggression. Here it was like Nunes decided to come out tentatively due to worries about her gas tank, and Shevchenko is almost a pure counter fighter so she responded in kind.

It wasn’t the worst main event of 2017 but when we’ve seen Holm/de Randamie and Woodley/Thompson this year that’s not really difficult. This brought down the show a LOT unfortunately. No idea what comes next given there’s no real #1 contender right now as Nunes has beaten Shevchenko twice, Tate is retired, Pennington has a broken leg and Pena is pregnant, and who knows about Cat Zingano right now? I dunno, maybe Holly Holm gets another questionable title shot. To be fair it’s not like people will be clamouring to watch Nunes again after this anyway.

-Show ends with a highlight reel and we’re done from Edmonton.

Final Thoughts….

Very similar show to UFC 209 in that the undercard was all pretty good, with some super-impressive performances from Dos Anjos, Cejudo and Stephens, but then the main event was a really dull slog and brought the whole thing crashing down to the point where it left a bad taste. In the end though the fact that the undercard had three one-sided fights rather than really good ones means it’s got to be a thumbs down, even if I’d say check those three wins out on Fight Pass.

Best Fight: Cejudo vs. Reis
Worst Fight: Nunes vs. Shevchenko

Overall Rating: **1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: