The UFC 231 card saw the return of Max “Blessed” Holloway to defend his featherweight title against unbeaten Brian Ortega. But the co-headliner saw a championship fight as well, between two of women’s MMA’s best strikers.
Flyweight Valentina Shevchenko was already lined up to fight for the flyweight championship earlier this year. But with champion Nicco Montano missing weight, the bout was rescheduled.
A new challenger was added to the division from the one below. Former strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk had ruled over the 115-pound class for a long time before finally meeting her match in Rose Namajunas.
Feeling the effects of a bad weight cut in one of her bouts with Namajunas, Jedrzejczyk elected to move up in weight and face a woman she’d fought three times before – in Muay Thai. And while the rules of mixed martial arts are different than those of Muay Thai, the result was the same.
Shevchenko’s superior size and technique advantage saw her continuously outpointing her opponent all night. Throughout five rounds, Shevchenko maintained the advantage as she marched down and picked apart her challenger.
It wasn’t as much of a shutout as Shevchenko’s previous fight, but it did see her win a hard-fought decision and win a championship many thought she was overdue for. As for the challenger, she is currently in a tough spot about where to shift her title aspirations.
This isn’t the only women’s superfight this year – on December 29, bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes will challenge Cris Cyborg for the featherweight championship.
Also on this card was a clash between Gunnar Nelson and Alex Oliveira. Nelson was ready to score a big takedown on his opponent, but a fence grab put a stop to that. The referee halted the action to warn Oliveira, then reset the position. The fight went on a bit back and forth before Nelson ended up in top position and bloodied his opponent with a vicious elbow then locking on a quick choke.
Hakeem Dawodu picked up a decision win over Kyle Bochniak, getting the Canadian a big win in front of his home crowd. Thiago Santos and Jimi Manuwa arguably won “round of the year” for their epic slugfest in the opening frame of their bout. After surviving some adversity, Santos proved why he is a legit force in the light heavyweight top ten. Maybe a rematch with Anthony Smith is next?
The 231 card was home to great returns and championship crowning moments – but it also showcased a lot about the future of certain divisions. The match ups to make next would depend on where the respective champions and challengers end up as far as weight classes go. Will Jedrzejczyk go back down to 115? Will Holloway move up to 155?
Ortega shares the same situation as Darren Till, the previously unbeaten challenger who fell to welterweight king Tyron Woodley earlier this year. The UFC has finally reached a time where there are dominant champions once more, and Shevchenko could dominate for years to come.