Valentina Shevchenko retains UFC women's flyweight title by split decision over Taila Santos

Shevchenko wins thrilling fight vs. Santos for 7th consecutive defense of title (1:12)

Valentina Shevchenko defends her title for the seventh consecutive time against a tough Taila Santos at UFC 275. (1:12)

Valentina Shevchenko defended her flyweight championship for the seventh time at UFC 275 on Saturday in Singapore, but her aura of invincibility might have taken a hit in doing so.

Shevchenko (23-3) edged Brazilian contender Taila Santos (19-2) by split decision in the co-main event of UFC 275. Two judges scored the 125-pound fight for Shevchenko via scores of 49-46 and 48-47, while a third had it 48-47 for Santos. It was the closest Shevchenko has come, by far, to a defeat since she moved to the 125-pound weight class from 135 pounds in 2018.

"When you've finished a fight, every time you find something to improve," Shevchenko said. "This is the championship mindset. Every time, you go farther and farther. I did everything. I left my heart in this Octagon. I can tell everyone, fans of MMA, I left my heart in here."

A sizable betting favorite, Shevchenko was faced with adversity from the very first round. She made a mistake in an early clinch, when she gave up her back during a takedown attempt along the fence. Santos, 28, capitalized on the error by locking in a body triangle. She threatened Shevchenko with several rear-naked choke attempts, but Shevchenko showed good defense.

The fight remained ultra competitive in the second and third rounds. Santos scored multiple takedowns and showed good grappling ability in the scrambles. Over the course of the fight, she racked up 8 minutes, 49 seconds of control time, however, her offense was fairly limited in those positions. Shevchenko clearly landed more offensive strikes, but Santos' ability to control positions was surprising, given Shevchenko's usual dominance there.

"It was what I expected," Shevchenko said. "I expected a heavier opponent. In MMA, every pound counts."

In the fourth round, Santos' right eye nearly swelled shut due to an accidental clash of heads on the feet. The swelling appeared to bother Santos a little, and she also appeared somewhat fatigued in the later rounds. Shevchenko started to land heavier combinations and secured a key takedown in the fifth round to seal the victory.

For Shevchenko, of Kyrgyzstan, it marks her ninth consecutive win, the longest active winning streak of any UFC female fighter. She passes former UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey's record of six consecutive title defenses in a women's weight class.

Santos saw a four-fight winning streak snapped.