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Ketlen Vieira upsets Holly Holm via split decision in UFC main event, inches from title shot


LAS VEGAS — The UFC women’s bantamweight division has a new title contender on its hands.

Ketlen Vieira (13-2), of Manaus, Brazil, moved to 3-1 in her last four bouts on Saturday as she edged former champion Holly Holm (14-6) in a main event in five rounds. The 135-pound fight was very close. Two judges scored it 48-47 for Vieira, while a third made it 48-47 for Holm.

The win could very well put Vieira in contention for a title shot. Current champion Julianna Peña is set to defend her belt against Amanda Nunes at UFC 277 on July 30. This fight is a rematch of their shocking title fight in December, which Peña won via second-round submission.

Vieira, 30, has built his resume on two former champions. Before Saturday’s victory over Holm, she knocked out another former champion in Miesha Tate in November.

Holm is a Hall of Fame professional boxer, but it was Vieira’s hands that looked to be the most dangerous on Saturday. She found her distance with a straight right hand as the fight progressed, scoring on Holm from distance – where Holm is usually the strongest. Vieira’s success from range actually forced Holm closer, which Vieira sometimes used to his advantage by landing counter rights.

Holm’s best work actually came from the clinch, which she tried to apply throughout the fight. According to UFC Stats, she racked up over 10 minutes of control time holding Vieira against the fence, where she landed knees and short punches. She outshot Vieira in total strikes 188 to 122, but many of those short shots along the fence didn’t carry much weight.

Holm scored a knockdown with a sidekick to Vieira’s body in the fourth round, and she landed a pair of powerful front kicks in the fifth. Vieira’s attack was just heavier, though. She also nearly submitted Holm in the second round with a rear standing choke, after Holm became careless during a takedown attempt.

For Holm, the loss ends a two-game winning streak. The Albuquerque native was knocking on the door for her first title fight since 2019, when she suffered a first-round knockout against Nunes.

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