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Ketlen Vieira: Holly Holm is tougher than Amanda Nunes

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Ketlen Vieira meets former Invicta FC champion Tonya Evinger at UFC Sao Paulo.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Undefeated Ketlen Vieira was hoping to fight Amanda Nunes for the UFC bantamweight title after improving to 4-0 in the UFC, but a potential Nunes vs. Cris Cyborg superfight will delay her title aspirations.

Matched up against former Invicta FC champion Tonya Evinger in the co-main event of UFC Sao Paulo on Sept. 22, Vieira admits she’s “a little upset” that she has to fight one more time before getting her shot at the 135-pound gold.

“Every fighter that joins the UFC dreams about getting into a title fight,” Vieira said during a media day in Brazil on Wednesday. “I think I’ve earned that fight. The UFC hasn’t given me that right, I’ve earned it with my team’s hard work. But I use that to give me more strength in this camp and put on a great fight at UFC Sao Paulo. It’s my first time fighting in Brazil (in the UFC), so it’s something to give me more motivation and work harder.”

Vieira understands Nunes’ desire to go after a second UFC belt, and being part of a big fight that could guarantee her more money, but Vieira points out that “in my opinion, she hasn’t cleaned the division.”

With the UFC planning on booking Nunes vs. Cyborg for the final card of the year in Las Vegas, Vieira suggests an interim title bout between her and former champion Holly Holm for the same event on Dec. 29.

“With this fight I’ll earn, once for all, a title shot. There’s no one else,” Vieira said. “The only thing I see is an interim title fight with Holly Holm. One way or the other, winning this fight I see myself fighting for the belt. But we don’t want to think about that. We have to focus on Tonya, who is a very tough opponent.”

Holm has beaten some of the best in the UFC, and the Nova Uniao talent sees her as a tougher matchup compared to the reigning champion.

“Every fight is a fight. We know that some styles don’t match, some styles do match,” Vieira said. “I see Holly as more complicated because she’s an athlete that doesn’t stop. She’s a southpaw, and you can’t make mistakes because she has a powerful kick, so I see Holly Holm as a bit tougher than Amanda.

“Amanda fights more flat-footed, we know her best attack is a straight punch she throws, but she doesn’t have a cardio as good as Holly Holm’s. (Holm) fights five rounds and has the same gas in the end, so I think Holly Holm is a tougher fight. Of course that Amanda is very tough, they both are, but I think Holly Holm is a bit tougher.”

With a perfect 10-0 record in less than four years as a professional fighter, Vieira says that delaying her shot at the belt only benefits her.

“I’m only 26 years old, I’m not even in my prime yet,” Vieira said. “I’ll be more prepared as time goes by.”

All the title talk won’t get her focus away from UFC Sao Paulo, though, and she disagrees when people say that taking on Evinger doesn’t make sense for her because she’s not in the top 15 of the UFC’s official bantamweight ranking.

“She’s not in the top, but Tonya is a great fighter, was a champion in Invicta,” Vieira said. “We can’t evaluate her fight with Cris Cyborg because she fought in a higher weight class. If we look at her at bantamweight, where she had great wins, she has fought super experienced athletes, so she’s a dangerous and experienced fighter.

“Nothing that I present in the fight will be new to her because she has fought with the best. It will be a huge test for me. People have a superficial image of athletes and it’s not quite like that. I can say she will be one of the toughest fights in my career.”