Nunes retains UFC crown
Dos Anjos, Stephens also pick up wins on the main card
Brazilian brawler Amanda Nunes played a tactical game Saturday night to defeat challenger Valentina Shevchenko by split decision and retain her bantamweight title, at UFC 215 at Rogers Place.
“I wanted to show the world I’m here to stay,’’ Nunes later told reporters.
The judges scored it 47-48, 48-47, 48-47 to run Nunes’ record to 15-4.
It was a careful fight with many single shots and few extended skirmishes until Nunes took Shevchenko to the canvas in the fifth round.
The fans often booed and chanted “Fight, fight fight!’’
Nunes, nicknamed the Lioness, raised her arms in the air as the decision was announced while many of the fans booed the verdict.
She later told reporters her strategy was to go the full five rounds and wear Shevchenko down and then strike — and prove to detractors who said Nunes was an early-round knockout artist and would fade in the long game.
“I know the crowd wants to see a knockout ... but tonight this fight was for me, to go five rounds and prove I’m the best. I’m here to stay. I’m here for a reason,’’ she said.
Shevchenko, the Kyrgyzstan fighter nicknamed “Bullet,” is now 14-3.
The 29-year-old walked to the side of the octagon, shaking her head in disbelief.
“I don’t agree with the decision at all,’’ Shevchenko said afterward. “I won this fight.
“My punches were more effective than her punches.’’
It was the second time Nunes had beaten Shevchenko in 18 months. Nunes, 29, took a unanimous decision over Shevchenko at UFC 196 in March 2016.
In a bout with a potential title shot on the line, former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos submitted sixthranked Neil Magny with an arm-triangle choke at 3:43 of the first round of their welterweight battle. The 10th-ranked Bra- zilian is now 27-9-0.
Gilbert Melendez, dropping down to make his debut in featherweight, was cheered as he staggered up repeatedly from the canvas while taking a hellacious flurry of kicks and punches from eighth-ranked Jeremy Stephens. Stephens won by unanimous decision.
There were five Canadians on the undercard.
The highlight was Sarah Moras of Kelowna, B.C. Pinned to the canvas by California’s Ashlee Evans-smith in the opening seconds of their bantamweight fight, she worked herself into position to submit Evans-smith with an armbar at 2:51.
The lone heavyweight contest of the night saw Arjan Bhullar of Richmond, B.C., win his UFC debut with a unanimous decision over Luis Henrique.
Vancouver’s Kajan (Ragin’) Johnson knocked out Adriano Martins of Brazil 49 seconds into the third round of their lightweight bout.
Edmonton’s Mitch Clarke was TKO’D in the second round by Missouri’s Alex White in a lightweight clash. Afterward, an emotional Clarke, 31, announced he was hanging up the gloves.
In a featherweight fight, Newfoundland’s Gavin Tucker was mercilessly grounded and pounded by Iowa’s Rick (Gladiator) Glenn en route to losing a unanimous decision.
decision at UFC 215 on Saturday.
Women’s bantamweight champion amanda nunes defeated top contender Valentina shevchenko via a razor-thin split
Rafael dos anjos drops an elbow on neil magny at UFC 215.