As we look back at UFC 215, even after suffering the loss of the main event title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Ray Borg, the event delivered past the expectation of many fans. Whether it was the brutal leg kicks from featherweight Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens that chopped down veteran Gilbert Melendez, the dominating performance of Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo, the submission win of Rafael Dos Anjos or the striking chess match between Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko, this event had it all covered.
Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko
While this wasn't the most exciting fight on the card, it was a close fight, and it was good to see the striking chess match that was on display. Nunes managed to retain her Bantamweight championship, just edging out Shevchenko for a split decision. Nunes managed to find her range first, pressuring Shevchenko and keeping her back towards the cage. Nunes was attacking with kicks to the legs and body of Shevchenko, but Shevchenko wasn't going out easy and fired shots back at her, keeping the fight close throughout all five rounds, with only one takedown landed by Nunes in the 5th round.
The decision didn't come without drama though, Shevchenko visibly upset by the judge's scorecards, saying in her post fight interview:
I really don’t understand, she didn’t hit me one time. Her nose is red from my punches. Why is she still champion? Even when I was on the ground I was hitting hard from the ground position. She didn’t win this fight. I hit hard.
Neil Magny vs Rafael Dos Anjos
Rafael Dos Anjos steamrolled through Neil Magny to come up with an impressive first round submission victory, finding his new home in the UFC's welterweight division. After landing a huge low kick which swept Magny to the canvas, Dos Anjos was able to implement his world class jiu-jitsu to dominate his opponent. After passing Magny's deep half-guard and securing side control, Dos Anjos was able to step over to mount Magny. Magny did well to minimize the damage from punches and elbows, but eventually, Dos Anjos saw an opening and pounced, quickly locking in a tight head and arm triangle to claim the victory.
Henry Cejudo vs Wilson Reis
Cejudo came out in a wide based karate stance, something we haven't seen from him before. This stance seemed to work well for him as he repeatedly landed clean shots on Reis, ultimately getting the better of the striking while Reis struggled to close the distance to trade shots. Cejudo reverted back to his base, securing a take down in the final minute of the first round.
In the second round, Wilson Reis came out looking to press the action against Cejudo to shift the momentum in his favor. Unfortunately for Reis, it didn't quite go to plan, eating a hard right hand from Cejudo. Reis dropped to the floor as Cejudo swarmed him, landing shots to claim the knockout in a practically flawless victory just 25 seconds into the second round.
Ilir Latifi vs Tyson Pedro
Ilir Latifi proved too much for the inexperienced Tyson Pedro, capturing a unanimous decision victory over the previously undefeated light heavyweight. Pedro came out calm and confident, keeping his range while firing off a few early leg kicks. Latifi managed to catch a low kick and bring the fight to the ground, but during a scramble, Pedro managed to get back to his feet Pedro almost landed a clean head kick on Latifi, but the experienced wrestler used it as another opportunity to secure the round.
This was basically the story of the fight. In the second round Pedro came out looking to attack the legs again, but this time it was Latifi who was able to work his range. Latifi fired hard shots to break his way into the clinch and using it as an opportunity to slam his opponent to the canvas yet again. Tyson Pedro knew not to be there and managed to use the cage to help him get back to his feet, not without eating a few hard shots to do so.
The third round was the same, Pedro came out and attempted to chop at the legs of Latifi again, who was able to answer with some heavy shots. The two traded shots, both men were giving and receiving damage. Latifi managed to secure one last take down, where he secured the top position, holding onto the dominant position until the bell to receive the decision victory.
Jeremy Stephens vs Gilbert Melendez
Jeremy Stephens clearly won the decision with an onslaught of brutal leg kicks. The story through the whole fight was fairly similar, with the resilient veteran Melendez getting chopped down from the nasty leg kicks of Stephens. While they traded hard strikes throughout the fight, Stephens would always revert back to leg kicks, dropping Melendez to the canvas multiple times during the fight. The display of heart from Melendez was inspirational, always finding his back to his feet and surviving the three rounds.
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