Valentina Shevchenko feels UFC bantamweight title shot very possible in 2022

Valentina Shevchenko eyeing possible UFC bantamweight title shot in 2022 | Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

UFC women’s flyweight champion eyes a chance to become a double champ before the end of year Valentina Shevchenk…


Valentina Shevchenko eyeing possible UFC bantamweight title shot in 2022
Valentina Shevchenko eyeing possible UFC bantamweight title shot in 2022 | Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

UFC women’s flyweight champion eyes a chance to become a double champ before the end of year

Valentina Shevchenko won the vacant UFC women’s flyweight title in December 2018. On June 11, ‘Bullet’ attempts to defend that title for the seventh time when she faces Taila Santos in the co-main event of UFC 275. If Shevchenko wins—and she is heavily favored to do so—the odds are good that she will once again field questions about a second attempt at winning the promotion’s bantamweight title.

Before moving to flyweight, Shevchenko went 3-2 at bantamweight under the UFC banner. Her two defeats came at the hands of now former champion Amanda Nunes. In 2017, Nunes successfully defended her title against the Kyrgyzstan-born fighter, winning a split decision at UFC 215.

In the fight that earned Shevchenko that title shot, she submitted current champion Julianna Pena via armbar in the second round of their UFC on FOX 23 headlining matchup.

Pena captured the title from Nunes in December, scoring an upset submission win at UFC 269. Pena and Nunes are currently set for a rematch at UFC 277 in July. After that bout takes place it seems, Shevchenko can se a future where—with a win over Santos—she could get her shot at becoming a two-division UFC champion.

“I think by the end of the year it’s going to be a good fight,” Shevchenko said of a potential match between herself and the Nunes/Pena winner on The MMA Hour. “But also we have to see—Miesha Tate is coming to 125 in July. So many things can happen, many things can change. So yeah, I think it’s possible. It’s very, very, very possible.”

Despite two losses to Nunes already, Shevchenko dominance during her reign atop the 125-pound weight division has kept talk of a third fight in regular rotation. She is 8-0 in the UFC at flyweight with five finishes and three unanimous decision wins. Shevchenko has TKO wins in her past two title defenses, stopping Jessica Andrade in the second round and Lauren Murphy in the fourth stanza.

UFC 275 takes place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore. Alongside the flyweight title fight co-main event, the event is expected to be headlined by a clash between light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira and challenger Jiri Prochazka.

Editorial: Doubt Holly Holm at your own risk

Holly Holm faces Ketlen Vieira at UFC Vegas 55 | Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

The last time Holly Holm had her back against the wall, she delivered a record-setting performance. Holly Holm made her UFC debut in 2015. S…


Holly Holm faces Ketlen Vieira at UFC Vegas 55
Holly Holm faces Ketlen Vieira at UFC Vegas 55 | Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

The last time Holly Holm had her back against the wall, she delivered a record-setting performance.

Holly Holm made her UFC debut in 2015. She entered the UFC as the No. 13 ranked fighter in the official UFC women’s bantamweight rankings, which was one spot higher than the woman she faced in that fight, Raquel Pennington. Since her win over Pennington that night, Holm has not slipped from the top-10 of the division.

Today, the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion sits in the No. 2 spot, second to the woman who knocked her out in July 2019, Amanda Nunes. Holm, who has not fought since she earned a decision win over Irene Aldana in October 2020, looks to prove she deserves her spot in the UFC rankings when she faces Ketlen Vieira in the main event of Saturday’s UFC Vegas 55 fight card.

At 30, Vieira is 10 years younger than Holm. A member of the UFC roster since 2016, she did not make her professional MMA debut until 2014. By then Holm had left a Hall of Fame boxing career—where she had 18 title defenses across three weight divisions—firmly behind her and moved on to a full-time MMA career. Vieira, who is the No. 5 ranked fighter in the official UFC women’s 135-pound rankings, is coming off a win over the woman who ended Holm’s run as UFC champ: Miesha Tate.

Holm had something to prove in her last outing. The talk entering that contest was that her opponent, Irene Aldana, was in line for a shot at the title with a win. As for Holm? Well, she was not, at least not publicly, in the mix for that same shot. So, what did Holm do? She went out and put on what might have been her finest performance since she head kicked the bantamweight title off Ronda Rousey in 2015.

Holm set a personal record in significant strikes landed against Aldana, connecting on 154 of 301 attempted strikes. She won the fight with ease.

Holm once again has something to prove when she steps into the octagon on Saturday night. There will be questions about her ability to bounce back from the injuries that kept her out of the cage for a career long 20 months. There will be questions if age and time have caught up with her and most of all, there will be questions about her feasibility as a title challenger in 2022.

Holm’s plan, she told CBS, is to answer those questions definitively.

“I have to win, regardless,” Holm said. “I hate to lose, anyway. I just hate to lose no matter what is on the line. That’s No. 1. I want to get in there and I want to win on Saturday. But, also, as far as a career, if you don’t win, the next steps and options are never as many as you want. They are limited. In the long run, I need this win if I want to keep progressing to getting the belt.”

Judging from how she performed the last time she faced doubts, Holm has an excellent chance of proving her doubters wrong.

UFC Vegas 55 takes place at UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The entire card streams on ESPN+ this Saturday, May 21st, starting at 4pm Eastern, 1pm Pacific.

Tabatha Ricci is the fighter to watch at UFC Vegas 55

Tabatha Ricci faces Polyana Viana at UFC Vegas 55 | Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Tabatha Ricci faces Polyana Viana at UFC Vegas 55 Tabatha Ricci heads into Saturday’s UFC Vegas 55 fight card with a 1-1 record in …


Tabatha Ricci faces Polyana Viana at UFC Vegas 55
Tabatha Ricci faces Polyana Viana at UFC Vegas 55 | Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Tabatha Ricci faces Polyana Viana at UFC Vegas 55

Tabatha Ricci heads into Saturday’s UFC Vegas 55 fight card with a 1-1 record in the UFC, a place on the main card and an opportunity to get some attention from the UFC and its fans.

Ricci got her first chance to fight under the UFC under familiar — but less than ideal – circumstances. Called on during fight week to compete at a weight class higher than her usual strawweight division, Ricci agreed to face Manon Fiorot at UFC Vegas 28 after grabbing the attention of the UFC matchmakers with two 2021 stoppage wins with LFA.

Ricci was outmatched in almost every way in that contest. She gave up height, reach and experience. However, Ricci did not back down from the challenge. Yes, Fiorot knocked her out in the second stanza, but Ricci was a game opponent for the duration of the contest.

With her foot in the door, Ricci got the chance to better represent herself in October 2021. With a full camp behind her and competing at 115 pounds, Ricci put on a pleasing performance against Maria Oliveira at UFC Vegas 41.

Ricci looked comfortable and confident against Oliveira. She showcased good movement on her feet, threw her strikes with considerable power, mixed up her striking techniques and moved forward.

Her desire to get the fight to the ground was obvious and that’s something she’ll need to work on. However, once she got the fight to the mat, Ricci showed a heavy top game and utilized a healthy dose of ground strikes while also looking for openings for her submission skills. Ricci won the fight via decision.

The 27-year-old Ricci faces the more experienced Polyana Viana at UFC Vegas 55. Two years older than Ricci, Viana is 3-3 in the UFC. She is riding a streak of two straight first-round submission wins with the promotion — earning a “Performance of the Night” bonus in her most recent outing.

Ricci is giving up height and reach to her opponent in this contest, but Viana’s reach is two-inches less than Oliveira’s was and Ricci dealt with the deficit in that fight through aggression. Expect that to be the case on Saturday night as well.

On a card lacking depth and with this fight slated to open the main card, this matchup is a great opportunity for Ricci.

UFC Vegas 55 takes place Saturday, May 21 at UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The entire card streams on ESPN+.

Amanda Nunes opens up on how Kayla Harrison’s arrival hastened ATT split

Amanda Nunes spoke about leaving American Top Team | Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The growth of American Top Team contributed to Amanda Nunes leaving for her own gym. Large MMA gyms lik…


Amanda Nunes spoke about leaving American Top Team
Amanda Nunes spoke about leaving American Top Team | Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The growth of American Top Team contributed to Amanda Nunes leaving for her own gym.

Large MMA gyms like American Top Team can have their benefits. They can also have their drawbacks. Amanda Nunes has firsthand knowledge of those highs and lows.

Nunes left MMA Masters after her UFC 178 loss to Cat Zingano to join American Top Team. While working with ATT, Nunes went on a 12-1 run. During that time she won UFC titles and bantamweight and featherweight and successfully defended those titles.

Nunes’ partnership with the gym ended after her loss to Julianna Pena at UFC 269. Pena took the 135-pound title from Nunes in that contest, winning the belt via submission in the third round. After the setback, Nunes took the featherweight title with her and opened her own gym.

At the time she left ATT, Nunes said (via MMA Fighting), “It was always in my head that one day I might want to have a space. I want to see all my teachings on the wall, put up my logo, all those things that a lot of fighters want to do that at some point in their career. I feel like this is the moment for me. I want to go on my own for a little bit.”

Nunes recently filled in some of the blanks about her split with the team. It turns out the growth of the gym and ATT bringing in fighters who might one day be her opponents helped hasten her exit from the fight camp.

“There were no girls when I got to American Top Team. I was the first woman to bring two belts and put the women’s team in history. When Kayla (Harrison) got there and then (Yana) Kunitskaya, it began creating a weird situation for me because that was my territory.” Nunes said on MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca.

“Other bantamweights were coming. Kunitskaya, who was already at the top and could’ve been a future opponent with a win over Ketlen (Vieira). She got there right when she was close to becoming the next opponent. She showed up in the gym and I had a scare when I walked in. I was like, ‘No, it’s not possible.’ It was creating this situation already.

“And then Kayla started talking. I was kind of, ‘Man, I’m not safe even in my territory.’ I was kind of cornered, even because we share the same coaches. She trains with Mike Brown and I train with Mike Brown. I was already training with them when she got there.”

“If there’s someone that carries the name of the team, that’s me, who brought two belts (to ATT),” Nunes continued. “If I wasn’t who I really am, a champion in two divisions, cool, no problem. But I was the champion already.”

When she first split with the gym, Nunes praised the team and the coaches at ATT for what they accomplished together and it does not seem as if there is any bad blood involved in the dissolution of her partnership with American Top Team.

‘I did exactly what you should never do’ – McCarthy was ‘wrong’ about Sterling-Yan

John McCarthy says he was wrong in scoring the Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan 2 contest at UFC 273 | Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

John McCarthy says ‘jaw-jackin’ during a fight is not t…


John McCarthy says he was wrong in scoring the Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan 2 contest at UFC 273
John McCarthy says he was wrong in scoring the Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan 2 contest at UFC 273 | Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

John McCarthy says ‘jaw-jackin’ during a fight is not the way to score things

The “controversy” surrounding the Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan 2 fight that took place at UFC 273 has mostly fizzled out, but a spark provided by referee turned Bellator commentator John McCarthy could reignite things more than a month after the fight took place.

Sterling won the fight via split decision. Judges Sal D’Amato and Eliseo Rodriguez had Sterling winning 48-47, while Christopher Lee had Yan taking things by the same score. The round that Lee disagreed with the other two judges was the first stanza. Lee gave Yan the nod in the round, while D’Amato and Rodriguez had it for Sterling. The win returned the UFC bantamweight title to Sterling.

In the contest’s aftermath, McCarthy sided with Lee.

“I was very impressed with Aljamain and the way he fought, but there’s no way he won that first round,” McCarthy said on the “Weighing In” podcast. “The heavier shots were landed easily by Yan, and I thought it was a smart tactic by Aljamain to stay on the outside, to move continuously, but he didn’t land much. He landed a couple of kicks, not real hard, and he got hit with some heavy shots for a little bit and right near the end, Yan really started landing some good shots.”

In a recent conversation with MMA Junkie Radio, McCarthy said he made a mistake in judging the fight.

“Here’s the first thing, and Aljamain Sterling can hate me, again, I honestly don’t care, but I will tell you, I don’t hate him,” McCarthy said. “I think he’s a phenomenal fighter. I think he’s just a dynamite fighter and he deserves to be where he’s at. But when you take a look at judging of a fight, I did exactly what you should never do, and that’s have friends over, be jaw-jackin’ with them while the fight’s going on, and then think that you saw that fight as you should have. I didn’t.”

“I went back and watched it and said I can definitely see why someone would say Aljamain won that,” McCarthy continued. “If you’re going for volume, you’re gonna go more for Aljamain. If you’re going more for power, you’re gonna go more for Yan, but it’s razor-close. And you know, I was wrong.”

McCarthy’s words need to be heeded by anyone — outside the judges at cageside — who broadcasts what they believe to be the score of a particular round. If one is not paying complete and utter attention to every second of the round, it might be better to not offer an opinion on that round because the odds are, as McCarthy said, you didn’t see that fight as you should have.

Opinion: Accepting bigotry hurts the UFC’s bottom line

Andrea Lee and her coach, Tony Kelley. Kelley made a bigoted statement at UFC Vegas 54 | Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

When the UFC doesn’t act against prejudice, it only hurts itself in the long run On Saturday night at…


Andrea Lee’s and her coach Tony Kelley. Kelley made a bigoted statement at UFC Vegas 54
Andrea Lee and her coach, Tony Kelley. Kelley made a bigoted statement at UFC Vegas 54 | Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

When the UFC doesn’t act against prejudice, it only hurts itself in the long run

On Saturday night at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, NV, fans were given an opportunity to listen in on the corner audio for one of the night’s undercard bouts, between women flyweights Andrea Lee and Viviane Araujo. What they got wasn’t any quality technical insight into the process of fighting, but instead a bigoted rant from the mouth of Lee’s coach, Tony Kelley, directed at her Brazilian opponent.

“That’s what they’re gonna do, they’re dirty f-cking Brazilians,” Kelley told Lee in response to a complaint she made over an alleged foul. “They’re gonna f-cking cheat like that. Guess what? We came to f-ck somebody up.”

Neither the UFC nor ESPN are yet to comment on Kelley’s remarks, despite the fact that Kelley is also contracted with the promotion as a fighter in the bantamweight division. That’s not a particular surprise.

In the past, UFC president Dana White has shrugged off other offensive tirades—like when Contenders Series fighter Oron Kahlon called his opponent Javid Basharat a “terrorist” during weigh-ins for their fight—by reminding fans that MMA is not a “nice sport.”

“I say it all the time. This is not a nice sport,” White told media after that incident. “This is a very rough sport. We say a lot of mean things to each other, and justice gets severed at the end of the day. Listen, when you have a situation like that, the best way to solve the problem is you fight.”

That’s an obvious copout. There are plenty of other rough sports, such as hockey, where racist comments get dealt with by more than shoulder shrugs and a dismissive wave of the hand.

The UFC’s refusal to do more than pay lip service to comments like Kelley’s—or Cody Durden’s in-cage rant where he said he had to send his UFC Vegas 43 opponent “back to China where he came from”—suggest that the promotion is far too comfortable with casual bigotry. With a fighter like Colby Covington claiming that his post-fight rant about “filthy” Brazilians after his bout against Demian Maia saved his job with the company, it’s not hard to argue that the UFC possibly even condones and encourages this type of behavior.

But, in a world where perception is often treated the same as reality, their ‘nothing is too far’ mindset might also be the reason the UFC always seems to be chasing partnership and sponsorship deals with companies that aren’t considered blue-chip brands.

It’s already been a bone of contention in the past. In 2012, Anheuser-Busch warned the UFC about some comments UFC fighters had made around that time.

“We’ve communicated to the UFC our displeasure with certain remarks made by some of its fighters, and they have promised to address this. If the incidents continue, we will act,” Anheuser-Busch said, before adding that it “embraces diversity and does not condone insensitive and derogatory comments rooted in ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, etc.”

It only seems reasonably that many other major corporations continue to hold on to that type of thinking.

While Kelley was ranting about “dirty f-cking Brazilians” the Crypto.com logo was right there next to him. They say there’s no such thing as bad press, but it’s not difficult to imagine that plenty of major potential sponsors wouldn’t feel that the cost of getting their logo in the Octagon was worth the risk of association.

While the UFC likes to portray itself as some kind of rebel outfit, those days are mostly long gone. The promotion is worth billions of dollars, and has become a weekly cornerstone for ESPN—especially on their ESPN+ streaming service. The UFC of today is, in many regards, as corporate as they come, complete with Endeavor stockholders looking for maximum return on their investment. One of the easiest ways they could likely deliver on that is to clean up their act. After all, it’s already a clear part of the promotion’s “Code of Conduct.”

That document (which the UFC seemed to have misplaced almost as soon as it was published in 2013) gives the company clear power to discipline their contracted talent for..

Derogatory or offensive conduct, including without limitation insulting language, symbols, or actions about a person’s ethnic background, heritage, color, race, national origin, age, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation.

All the UFC needs to do is blow the dust off and enforce the thing.

The UFC has grown by leaps and bounds over the years, and I don’t doubt that that trend will continue. But if it doesn’t take the simple step of living up to its own code of conduct, it could also be leaving a lot of opportunities on the table.

That self-imposed limited growth might have been acceptable when the promotion was owned by the Fertitta brothers, but today, with corporate ownership expecting constant massive returns, the UFC stifling seems like it could be a lot more unacceptable.

Instead of stubbornly sticking to its guns, the UFC needs to look forward and see its best interest would be served by acting when one of its fighters steps so clearly out of line. After all, they’ve already made it clear with their recent flag ban that they’re perfectly fine stifling ‘free speech’ when they feel the need.

Bloody Elbow reached out to UFC, ESPN and Crypto.com for comment on what Kelley said during the UFC Vegas 54 broadcast. We did not receive a reply from any of the three prior to publication.