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Shevchenko’s reign continues with rout of Murphy

LAS VEGAS — Not that anyone was questioning it, but Valentina Shevchenko‘s reign is as strong as ever.

Shevchenko (21-4) defended the UFC’s flyweight championship for the sixth time on Saturday, in the co-main event of UFC 266 inside T-Mobile Arena. The 125-pound title fight came to a quick and decisive finish four minutes into the fourth round after Shevchenko hurt Murphy with punches and finished her on the ground with strikes.

The TKO came after Shevchenko, of Kyrgyzstan, hurt Murphy with a counter right hook to the chin. The shot wobbled Murphy, 38, and before she knew it, Shevchenko followed with a left head kick and a long flurry of punches. Murphy retreated to the fence, where she ultimately fell to her back. Referee Keith Peterson intervened moments later.

With the victory, Shevchenko tied former bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey for the most consecutive title defenses by a female champion. Her seven wins in title fights are second all time among female fighters, trailing bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda Nunes‘ mark of nine.

None of Shevchenko’s title fights has been particularly competitive, and Saturday was no exception. She picked at Murphy from range with leg kicks and her lead left hand. Any time Murphy tried to move forward, she was at the mercy of Shevchenko’s laser-sharp counterstrikes and visible speed advantage.

In addition to out-striking Murphy 132-19, Shevchenko converted three of four takedown attempts and racked up over four minutes of control time on top. Murphy’s left eye was badly swollen in the second round, and any adjustment she tried to make only seemed to make things worse. Before Saturday, she had never been finished.

Shevchenko’s next move is unclear. She has fought Nunes twice previously, at the 135-pound mark. Shevchenko lost both times via decision, although some felt she did enough to win the rematch in 2017.

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