Chaos continues to reign in the UFC women’s bantamweight division.
Valentina Shevchenko won the final four rounds to earn a unanimous decision over former champion Holly Holm in the main event of UFC on Fox 20 at United Center in Chicago.
Shevchenko consistently found a landing spot for her counter right hook as a frustrated Holm too often tried to attack from the outside.
“I worked for this fight very hard with all my heart for this fight. I was very excited. It is very important in my career,” said Shevchanko, a former professional Muay Thai world champion. “My strategy was to do everything I know to put all my heart and all my power and do everything I learned during the many years of training in martial arts into the fight and I did it today.”
Holm never found an answer. She scored a knockdown in the first round, but couldn’t finish Shevchenko and found herself chasing and reaching for much of the night.
“We knew she was a counter puncher and we were ready for that,” Holm said. “She is tough and I knew that. I knew I had my hands full in this fight. I knew it was a really big challenge. What can you do? I know it was a competitive fight and I could have done more. I’m disappointed in myself and take nothing away from her. She was a very tough opponent.
“I have no excuses. My performance was not where it needed to be tonight.”
The division has been shaken up a great deal since Holm uncrowned Ronda Rousey in November. Holm lost the belt to Miesha Tate in March and Tate was defeated by Amanda Nunes at UFC 200 on July 9.
Holm appeared set to earn another title shot with a victory, but she has plenty of work to do after losing a second consecutive fight. While Shevchenko called out Nunes after the win, she already lost a unanimous decision to the current champion in March.
“I won the first fight with (Shevchenko) by unanimous decision. If I fight her again I will beat her again this time very clean,” Nunes posted on Twitter after the fight. “I feel she needs to prove herself a little more. I think Julianna Pena vs. Shevchenko. Winner comes to me.”
Also on the card, Edson Barboza brutalized Gilbert Melendez with leg kicks to earn a unanimous decision victory in a matchup of lightweight contenders.
“It was a hard fight. Gilbert is a tough guy,” Barboza said after improving to 3-1 in his last four fights. “He had some good shots and kicked hard, but was off balance. The strategy for the fight was always on target, but I had overall a better game and I am very happy with it.”
Melendez, a former Strikeforce champion, is now 1-4 in five fights since joining the UFC.
“Physically, I’m a bit banged up. My leg took a beating,” Melendez said. “In the third I was really trying to apply pressure and that left me open to that leg kick. It made it hard to pressure him because my leg got chopped in the third. But I had a hell of a good time.
“It’s a tough situation now. I love to fight, but obviously I’m far from the title. I’m fighting for respect nowadays and I feel like I still get that respect.”
Heavyweight prospect Francis Ngannou knocked out newcomer Bojan Mihajlović in the first round.
Ngannou dropped Mihajlović with a body shot and the referee stopped the fight after Mihajlović turtled up on the canvas even though he appeared to be blocking the onslaught of hammerfists from Ngannou, who is 3-0 with three first-round knockouts since signing with the UFC.
Women’s strawweight veteran Felice Herrig returned from more than a year away from action to score a first-round submission win over Kailin Curran.
“I have suffered with a lot of anxiety lately,” said Herrig, who took time off with personal issues. “I had acupuncture during fight week to calm me down. Everything was about just being relaxed. I was scared about how I would be able to fight at the best of my abilities feeling this anxious. I will for sure continue fighting. I thought if I couldn’t get my nerves under control that maybe it wasn’t for me, but today I won.”
Former World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland knocked out Frankie Saenz in the third round to highlight the preliminary card.
Wineland broke a two-fight losing streak and won for the first time since January 2014.
“This victory is awesome,” said Wineland, who dropped Saenz with a right hands to start the finishing sequence. “He is a tough striker that wasn’t ready to go down yet, but I capitalized on that in the third round. The division has always respected my power, but you have to chance it and go for the win.”
Darren Elkins, Kamaru Usman and Michel Prazeres all picked up unanimous decision victories on the televised portion of the preliminary card.
Featherweight Jason Knight earned a split decision win over Jim Alers and heavyweight Luis Henrique submitted Dmitry Smoliakov in the second round. Also, Alex Oliveira earned a unanimous decision over welterweight James Moontasri.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter.