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Ketlen Vieira doubled up on wins over former UFC champions by defeating Holly Holm at UFC Fight Night on Saturday. Vieira walked out of the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada with a narrow split decision over the boxing legend.
Holm and Vieira struck accurately and often. Vieira landed 40 of 45 total punches in Round 1 while Holm found a home for 33 of 41. Saturday’s headliners did not fear each other’s strengths. Vieira was willing to contend on the feet with three-division boxing champion and Holm was comfortable grappling with the Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo specialist.
Holm found a solid entry for a double leg takedown into a single leg dump in Round 2. Vieira managed to counter the single leg and lock on a standing rear-naked choke that had Holm panicking. The look on Holm’s face sparked flashbacks of her Hail Mary rear-naked choke loss to Miesha Tate at UFC 200; however, Holm wrangled free and fed Vieira a sharp elbow.
Vieira attempted a head kick early in Round 3 but allowed Holm to push her opponent to the clinch. Holm spent the majority of the round pummeling Vieira while pressing her against the fence. It was arguably Holm’s most decisive round until Vieira planted a hard right hand on her chin in the closing 30 seconds of the round. More clinch work prevented Vieira from really building off her hard punch.
Holm pressed forward with a trademark combination of punches but received a big right hook over Holm’s left shoulder. Holm, who generally appeared noticeably slower than in previous fights, had a big moment in Round 4 by knocking down Vieira with a sidekick to the body. Vieira responded well with another clubbing right hand.
Both women really opened up in Round 5 with the scorecards possibly 2-2. Vieira landed flush with a spinning back elbow and Holm backed up Vieira with flush punches to the face. Vieira found a home for her counter right but Holm replied promptly with a left hand. Holm landed three consecutive front kicks to the face that drew audible reactions from the small crowd at the UFC Apex. Vieira repeatedly landed with an uppercut down the middle as Holm initiated takedowns. Four minutes of reasonable activity were followed by a final minute of clinch fighting with Holm landing more punches. The judges sided with Vieira in a close contest. Two judges scored it 48-47 for Vieira while one judge awarded Holm three rounds to two.
“I am the next champion of the women’s bantamweight champion,” Vieira told Daniel Cormier in her post-fight interview. “I am next, I am ready, I am here.”
Holm, who will soon be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, had no doubt in her mind that she was the fight’s rightful winner.
“I thought I won the fight. I gave her round two and I feel I won all the others,” Holm told Cormier. “I don’t think it was a question.”
Vieira may very well be next in line for the UFC women’s bantamweight championship, pending the outcome of. She now has consecutive wins over former UFC champions Holm and Tate, plus victories over other veterans like Cat Zingano and Sarah McMann. Saturday marked Holm’s first loss since being felled by Nunes in a 2019 match for the UFC women’s bantamweight championship.