With the race on to establish a new title contender in the women's bantamweight division in case Ronda Rousey ends up out for a long time, Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko both had a lot to gain on Saturday night at UFC 196
And while both showed tenacity in their main-card opener at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nunes got the better of the battle, winning on a pair of 29-27s and a 29-28.
"Dana White, I really want the next title shot, please," said Nunes (12-4), who won her third straight fight.
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In a tentative opening round, both fighters showed respect for one another's striking capabilities while also trying to figure out one another's range. Nunes likely took the round toward the end, when she got the better of a quick little firefight, then scored a trip in the closing seconds.
There was no question who took the second round. Shevchenko caught a kick and turned it into a takedown, but Nunes rolled with it, got top position and took control from there. Nunes rained down punches and elbows, rendering Shevchenko's face a bloody mess. Late in the round, Nunes landed a rear-naked choke, but Shevchenko managed to escape.
In the third, Shevchenko bounced back from the disastrous first and likely took the third. She took an attempted Nunes trip and ended up on top in side control, and scored damage from that position. She continued to push the pace until the final horn, but without getting the finish, she wasn't taking home the victory.
"She's very tough, she's tough for me," said Nunes. "I never fight three rounds, to go to the next step. Everything's happy, it's amazing."
Shevchenko, who made her UFC debut in December with an upset win over Sarah Kaufman on short notice, dropped to 12-2.