While it wasn't the most thrilling of performances, Brazil's Ketlen Vieira picked up on the of biggest wins of her career with a split-decision result over former titleholder Holly Holm and may soon be challenging for the UFC's women's bantamweight title.
The contest served as the featured bout of Saturday's UFC Fight Night 206 event, which streamed live on ESPN+ for the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Four of the fight's five rounds were scored exactly the same by the three cageside judges, leaving the third as the only result in question and the swing frame in deciding the contest.
Holm took the first by controlling much of the action from the clinch and keeping her opponent pinned against the cage. Vieira took the second, landing a slick takedown and nearly scoring a submission victory along the way with a crafty choke that Holm somehow gutted her way out of after a few tense moments.
The key third frame, Holm was able to rack nearly three minutes of control time according to UFCStats.com, earning the nod from judge Sal D'Amato, while Mike Bell and Derek Cleary seemed to favor the more immediately impactful strikes, with stats showing Vieira scoring 23 significant blows and earning their cards, while Holm answered with 18.
Round 4 may have been the most puzzling group of scores, with all three judges leaning toward Vieira, despite being briefly knocked to the canvas with a side kick to the body and holding an edge in recorded significant strikes at 37 to 23.
All three judges leaned Holm in the final frame, but it was too little, too late on the cards, and Vieira took home the split-decision result, 47-48, 48-47 and 48-47.
An elated Vieira said she believed Holm's approach of working in the clinch when possible may have affected the results but admitted she wasn't confident until she heard the scores.
"I came here to knock her down, but she came to stall," Vieira said through an interpreter. "I was in doubt. I didn't know what to do at one point or another. I respect her a lot. She's 'The Preacher's Daughter,' but I'm the one that got in the octagon. I respect her a lot, but I'm the one with the glory of God here."
Vieira (13-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) then petitioned UFC president Dana White and matchmakers Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard for a shot at the upcoming fight between current champ Julianna Peña and former titleholder Amanda Nunes.
"Listen Dana, listen Sean, listen Mick: I'm the next champion of the bantamweight division," Vieira said. "I'm next. I'll be ready. I'll be here."
Meanwhile, Holm (14-6 MMA, 7-6 UFC) was openly puzzled with the result.
"I really felt like I won the fight," Holm said. "I gave her round 2, and I felt like I won the rest of the rounds."
Complete UFC Fight Night 206 results include:
MAIN CARD (ESPN+)
- Ketlen Vieira def. Holly Holm via split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47)
- Michel Pereira def. Santiago Ponzinibbio via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
- Chidi Njokuani def. Dusko Todorovic via knockout (elbow) – Round 1, 4:48
- Tabatha Ricci def. Polyana Viana via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Junyong Park def. Eryk Anders via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
PRELIMINARY CARD (ESPN+)
- Joseph Holmes def. Alen Amedovski via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 1:04
- Jailton Almeida def. Parker Porter via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 4:35
- Uros Medic def. Omar Morales via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 3:05
- Jonathan Martinez def. Vince Morales via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Chase Hooper def. Felipe Colares via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 3:00
- Sam Hughes def. Elise Reed via TKO (punches, elbows) – Round 3, 3:52
This story first published at SI.com/MMA.