An inadvertent head butt in the third round may have helped Valentina Shevchenko retain her flyweight title Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 275 at Singapore Indoor Stadium.
The fighters clashed heads as they were battling on the inside. Shevchenko suffered no damage, but it closed Santos’ right eye. She said after the fight that she couldn’t see out of it after it occurred.
Shevchenko picked up the pace with her striking after the head butt, peppering Santos with left hands. It was enough for her to win a split decision. Judges had it 48-47 and 49-46 for Shevchenko and 48-47 for Santos.
“I left my heart in here,” said Shevchenko, who was pushed as a flyweight like she’s never been pushed before.
Shevchenko faced adversity throughout the bout. In the first, she slipped going for a takedown and Santos got her back. Santos went for a rear naked choke and a head and arm choke, but Shevchenko was able to fight it off.
Santos got Shevchenko down in the second, but Shevchenko showed good skill fighting from the bottom and went for several submissions.
Shevchenko’s corner after the third urged her not to fight near the cage and stay in the middle of the Octagon. She did that in the fourth and was lighting Santos up on the feet in the fifth when she shot for a takedown. She was able to hold Santos down and ride out a close call.
“I have a true championship mind and I’m never satisfied with my performance,” Shevchenko said. She added the fight “was what I expected.”
Santos was glum afterward but did not dispute the decision.
“I’m still young,” Santos said. “I can’t complain about the decision but this is not the last time you guys will see me fighting for a belt.”