After the final bell rang at the end of UFC 215, fans were left with a card full of entertaining fights for the most part, with finishes, dominant decision victories, and of course, since it's today's MMA, a semi-controversial and somewhat unfulfilling ending to the main event.
Johnson vs. Martins
The night began with a bang, literally, in the early prelims, as veteran Kajan Johnson earned a 3rd round KO after clipping Adriano Martins in the ever-so-sensitive spot behind the ear which shut him off, earning Johnson his 3rd straight victory and first Knockout since 2014.
Bhullar vs. Henrique
In the night's lone heavyweight matchup, UFC debutee Arjan Bhullar earned his first victory inside the octagon, after an impressive showing against HW Luis Henrique, dropping him at one point during the fight, earning Bhullar a unanimous decision victory.
White vs. Clarke
In the night's 3rd bout, up-and-comer Alex White demonstrated deadly precision in his TKO victory over tough-as-nails opponent Mitch Clarke, who despite having survived being rocked multiple times, eventually was stopped in the beginning of the second round. Clarke ended up hanging up his gloves and announced his retirement at the end of his fight, citing that he had taken too much damage over the years.
Glenn vs. Tucker
After that, Veteran Rick Glenn handed Gavin Tucker his first Pro loss after a dominant decision victory. This fight was sort of controversial in that Tucker was hurt very badly multiple times in the third, with a few moments where the fight could've been stopped. Glenn expressed slight concern over this in his post-fight interview, but was nonetheless pleased with his dominant victory.
Moras vs. Evans-Smith
In the night's first women's bantamweight bout, underdog and freshly returning Sarah Moras pulled off the upset against contender Ashlee Evans-Smith, locking in an Arm bar from the bottom in the middle of the very first round.
Vieira vs. McMann
In another upset, up-and-coming talent Ketlen Vieira had an impressive victory over one of the top contenders in the women's 135lb division, Sarah McMann. In a stunning turn of events, the still undefeated prospect tapped out McMann in the 2nd round with the choke that McMann herself has used to finish many of her opponents, the Arm-triangle. She even had to strength to finish the choke from the opposite side half guard.
The main card lived up to most of the hype surrounding it for the most part, with entertaining fights all around.
Stephens vs. Melendez
In the first fight of the card, 145lb-er Jeremy Stephens pulled out a Unanimous Decision victory over ranked LW contender Gilbert Melendez in his first fight at featherweight in the UFC . The first round began at a stalemate until Stephens landed a few powerful leg kicks.
Anyone familiar with 'Lil Heathen' Stephens knows what kind of power he brings, and he put that on showcase tonight. He tore apart Melendez's left leg, leaving it visibly swollen and him limping throughout the fight. After the first, Stephens continued the pressure on Gilbert who tried to push forward, although he ended up eating more leg kicks in the process, which ended up dropping him a couple of times. Jeremy mixed up his striking and then won another round. The third round was a culmination of all of the damage and more of the same as Stephens landed more leg kicks and dropped Melendez twice more, finishing the fight on top of him. It truly was a good night for Stephens, who even postponed his own wedding to make the fight.
Latifi vs. Pedro
In the next fight, UFC Veteran Ilir Latifi got himself a win over promising 205lb up and coming talent Tyson Pedro, also earning himself a Unanimous Decision victory. While Pedro showed off his unorthodox and unpredictable striking style, Latifi showed that he still has adequate defense, decent striking (compared to Pedro's advanced techniques) and of course the tool that won him the fight, his powerful wrestling base.
Latifi scored on all of his take down attempts in which he got Pedro down and demonstrated very skilled top control and ground and pound, which cemented his decision victory and showed the young Tyson Pedro that he still has a bit to practice in terms of being a complete MMA fighter.
Cejudo vs. Reis
In the promoted Flyweight matchup between Henry Cejudo and Wilson Reis, we had some unexpected fireworks. What many thought was going to be a grappling matchup ended up being a surprising TKO finish for Cejudo. In the first round when the fighters came out, Cejudo was noticeably fighting differently, this time taking a more karate style stance and having a much more fluid striking game. He outclassed Reis on the feet, landing combinations early and even dropped him at one point this round.
In the next round Reis came out more aggressively, but this only proved to be his final mistake as Cejudo slipped and landed a nasty straight right which resembled a piston firing. The lightning quick shot dropped Reis to the canvas, hard, and Cejudo followed up with a ground and pound flurry that warranted the early second round stoppage. It was obvious that Cejudo had grown much more in his striking and is now beginning to realize his true potential as a complete MMA fighter.
Dos Anjos vs. Magny
In the second to the last bout, Rafael Dos Anjos would fight his second match at 170lbs, going up against UFC veteran and 170lb gatekeeper Neil Magny. In the beginning of the first, both fighters came out cautious, but RDA was visibly bigger and not diminished at this weight. After some exchanges he threw a powerful leg kick that jacked Magny's leg and caused him to slip and Dos Anjos followed him down to the canvas. This proved to be the beginning of the end.
When he demonstrated his powerful top control and ground and pound skills, Rafael Dos Anjos had looked as good as he's ever been, and after doing work in Magny's half guard, passed into mount. As Magny tried to buck loose he exposed his neck and arm and Rafael recognized this then wrapping his arm around the neck, tucking his head under Magny's left arm and clamped onto a tight Arm Triangle choke. He passed seamlessly into side control to put maximum pressure into the choke, and after trying hopelessly to escape, Magny was forced to tap out in the first round.
The Main Event: Nunes vs. Shevchenko
In the Main Event, we had the much awaited rematch between reigning Women's Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes and #1 contender Valentina Shevchenko. Overall, it could be said that this fight closely mirrored their first fight. Throughout the match, there was constant back and forth striking between the two, with the majority of Shevchenko's strikes coming as counters and Nunes constantly pressing forward, like an apex predator.
Each fighter had their moments in the fight, and rounds seemed more like chess matches, with the Edmonton crowd growing ever impatient as the rounds went on without heavy action, as a lot of fights with two skilled strikers do. In the first round, Amanda came out noticeably different than in her last two fights, showing respect to Valentina's striking while still landing the occasional punch and some kicks. Valentina showed her ability to counter. In the second, Valentina noticeably listened to her coaches, landing more and countering more of Amanda's shots, as Amanda stayed with her original strategy. Shevchenko starts to land minor combinations, and picks up her pace by the end of the round, where Amanda tries to unleash a shot only to be countered.
In round 3, Amanda began working her body kicks more and more successfully yet was still not as effective with her punches. Valentina landed a couple more combinations this round, nothing too major, however she does eat a flush right from Amanda, which she shakes off.
In the fourth round, Nunes landed a counter right hand that was also flush after Valentina attempted a kick, and both fighters continue to exchange, with Valentina continuing to pick up her pace.
Shevchenko landed a combination at the end of the round, while Amanda tried to make up for her lackluster punches more in this round. In the final round, both women started more aggressively but continued the chess match as they exchange more. Nunes the engaged in a clinch and began to work the takedown, not getting it. As Valentina tried a head and arm throw, Amanda reversed it and briefly took the back of Valentina, however shortly thereafter lost the position. After a clinch against the cage again, Amanda got tookdown late.
At the end of the fight we were left with a razor close split decision in favor of Amanda Nunes, who is still the Women's Bantamweight champion. While Valentina heavily disputed this and didn't believe that Nunes should've been given the decision.
All in all we can probably guess why the judges gave it in favor of Amanda, as with decisions, the challenger must emphatically beat the champion in multiple rounds, with the prime example being Cody Garbrandt vs then champ Dominick Cruz. He dropped the champion multiple times, didn't get hurt himself, and showed precision and control over the whole match that outclassed the champion.
This didn't happen at UFC 215, because Valentina never dropped Amanda and at the end of the fight, was even taken down which most likely swayed the decision of the judges toward Nunes.
Overall UFC 215 delivered and was a very entertaining card that now holds some of the answers of the future. Henry Cejudo will most likely fight someone for the #1 contender spot in the Flyweight division, Rafael Dos Anjos will keep climbing the 170lb ladder, and of course, we haven't seen the last of Valentina. She has a smaller build and has discussed dropping down to the new women's 125 lb flyweight class. Although we may not have gotten the most exciting ending, this card was far from disappointing.