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Nunes vs. Shevchenko 2 came down to two moments in a razor-thin fight at UFC 215

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Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko
Amada Nunes edged Valentina Shevchenko via split decision at UFC 215.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Amanda Nunes' split-decision win over Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 215, one that Shevchenko was furious about after the fact, likely came down to the last few minutes of the fifth round, and the judges' interpretations of those minutes.

Judges Sal D'Amato, David Therien and Tony Weeks were put in a tough position, because all four rounds were close. All three differed on rounds. In fact, round one, which went to Nunes, was the only round of the fight all three judges agreed upon. Still, all three had it 38-38 going into the fifth.

My own thoughts were identical to D'Amato, having rounds one and three for Nunes and two and four for Shevchenko. Therien had rounds and one two for Nunes. Weeks had rounds one and four for Nunes.

As far as the stats went, Nunes landed more strikes in every round except the fifth, ironically, the round which won her the fight. However, even though Nunes outstruck Shevchenko 86-72 for the fight, head shots, usually scored higher, saw Shevchenko have a 30-18 advantage, as 56 of Nunes 86 landed strikes were low kicks. Shevchenko, on the other hand, had 33 of her 72 strikes as low kicks.

In round five, Shevchenko had a slight edge in the early minutes. Shevchenko stopped two of Nunes' takedowns attempts and was landing slightly more, but not enough to where she seemed anything more than slightly ahead.

In perhaps the key move that ended up deciding the fight, Shevchenko went for a takedown, and in doing so, Nunes was able to sprawl and get her back. Shevchenko got out of trouble, and in the other key moment, Nunes also got a takedown as time was running low. But, as Shevchenko argued, even though Nunes was on top for most of the second half of the round, she just held position and did no damage. Shevchenko landed a series of punches off her back late in the round.

Still, holding top position and getting the two key offensive moves, the sprawl and back position, and the later takedown, appeared to win the round for Nunes.

However, In round five, Shevchenko outlanded Nunes 14-4, the only round except for round one in Nunes' favor, where the punch stats weren't close.

That was enough for Weeks to give Shevchenko the round and the fight on his card, but not the other two judges who went for having top position from Shevchenko's failed takedown and Nunes last successful one, as the difference in the fight.

Going in, Shevchenko was a slight betting favorite. That was even though Nunes had taken out Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Sara McMann and Shayna Baszler in the first round in four of her last five fights, and beaten Shevchenko by decision in the other.

The idea is that Nunes traditionally started out strong, but if she didn't win early, she would get tired, and Shevchenko was figured to be good enough standing to withstand the opening barrage and then take over, which is what happened in their first fight. Nunes won that, but it was a three-round fight where, watching the third round, one would think Shevchenko would have won the fight had there been two more rounds.

But Nunes also wouldn't have fought the same fight, and in this case, can in with a very different approach.

Nunes fought at a much slower pace, and lacking her usual early aggression to make sure she was there at the end. Shevchenko was unable to speed up the pace, to where Nunes' conditioning would be tested. Because of the slower pace, the Nunes’ fade that many felt would decide the fight, ended up not happening.

Realistically, as decisions go, this was one where there was no right or wrong, and thus, nobody really had the right to be mad when it was over. But Shevchenko could have just as easily left the cage as champion, and nobody proved at all who was the best woman bantamweight in the world conclusively.

Media scores were split down the middle, with the MMA Decisions web site having 45 percent for Nunes, 45 percent for Shevchenko, and ten percent even.

Just by that alone, you could argue for a rematch, something Shevchenko badly wanted, and something Nunes, who is now 2-0, having won a three-round decision 18 months ago at UFC 196, felt wasn't necessary.

As we've seen many times, UFC is usually leery about giving someone a championship match if the champion already has two wins over them. This was close enough to argue for it as an exception.

But there is another issue that will hurt pushing a rematch, especially in a pay-per-view headline position--the fight itself.

If one went into the fight with the idea of trying to find out who was the best fighter in the division, then this was an intense, compelling fight because from start-to-finish, it was close. There wasn't any explosive action, but one false move and one mistake could spell the difference, and probably did. If anything, it tells you a rematch on paper is a pick-em fight.

But most attend fights to see action, and the frequent booing from the Edmonton fans throughout the fight told the other story, that this was not a pleasing spectator fight, and it's not one that a lot of people would pay to see again.

In addition, the first stat available regarding public interest, Google searches, saw UFC 215 draw the lowest number of the year, with 200,000 weekend searches. Previous shows this year had all done in the 500,000 range except for UFC 214, headlined by Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier, which did 2.8 million.

That also shows that even with the wins over Rousey and Tate, and being put in the main event position at UFC 200, that Nunes' exposure from those wins doesn't appear to have translated into public appeal. Even if the show didn't draw a lot of interest, the flip side is, with the possible exception of Holly Holm, it's not like any other contender would draw more interest.