Amanda Nunes gets revenge, recaptures UFC women’s bantamweight title from Julianna Peña

DALLAS — Amanda Nunes vowed to change her game. She vowed to get her belt back after shockingly losing it to Julianna Peña seven months ago.

In the rematch, Nunes did exactly what she promised. With a new southpaw stance on his feet and a renewed wrestling game, Nunes defeated Peña via a dominant unanimous decision (50-45, 50-44, 50-43) in Saturday night’s main event of UFC 277 at the American Airlines Center.

With the win, Nunes, the greatest fighter in MMA history, reclaimed the UFC women’s bantamweight title she lost to Peña at UFC 269 in December.

“The lioness, if she doesn’t get the prey the first time, I set the trap and I know I would get it the second time,” Nunes said in her post-fight interview.

Nunes said this fight was all about “strategy” and that the key was that she was the southpaw. Then, once Peña was settled on her feet, Nunes said she started going for the takedowns.

“The most important thing was my southpaw,” Nunes said. “I know I’d catch her with it tonight. I knew she couldn’t adjust to that. She’s not a striker. … She was so confused. I’m not very good with my southpaw yet. I told my coach, “I’ll see how I feel.” I tried it tonight and I felt good.”

Nunes dropped Peña several times in the early rounds with a right check hook from a southpaw stance. As the fight continued, Nunes began tripping Peña over and over with her wrestling, then clipped her from the top position with cutting elbows.

Peña had several bad cuts on his face after the fourth round. Nunes almost had a rear naked choke finish in fifth, but Peña was incredibly tough and fended it off.

Nunes had moments where she might have finished the fight, but maybe she didn’t want to make the mistake she made in the first fight when she got tired after trying to finish Peña in the first round.

“Julianna is badass,” said UFC President Dana White. “Your will to win is second to none. She wanted to win. As dominant as Amanda was, and she was dominant tonight — I don’t think it was close in any way, shape, or form; I thought it was full shutout – she still looked a little gun shy to me.

“She hurt Julianna many times, had her on crazy legs many times and never really addressed the killing.”

After the first fight, Nunes left her longtime gym, American Top Team, and moved to a private facility she called Lioness Studio. She trained under trainer Roger Krahl, who was in her corner for some of her biggest fights, such as knocking out Ronda Rousey.

“The best thing I did was set up my gym,” Nunes said. “I feel safe in my gym. I feel like I can grow and develop further.”

In the second round, Nunes knocked down Peña three times, setting the record for most single-round knockdowns of all time among women in the UFC, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Overall, Nunes passed Peña 85-60 in significant strikes and defeated Peña six times in eight attempts.

Nunes’ 15 UFC wins are the most among women in UFC history. This was her 10th title fight win, the most by women in UFC history and fifth-best overall. Nunes is the first woman in the UFC to reclaim the bantamweight title after losing it.

Saturday’s fight was the 13th straight rematch ever in the UFC after one fighter took the belt from another. Saturday was only the third time a fighter reclaimed the title in those cases. Randy Couture made it against Vitor Belfort in 2004 and Deiveson Figueiredo made it against Brandon Moreno last January.

Judges Douglas Crosby and Sal D’Amato each scored 10-8 for Nunes in the second round, while Crosby also scored 10-8 for Nunes in the fifth round. The other judge, Jacob Montalvo, did not score a 10-8 in any round.

When ESPN came in, Nunes was #2 and Peña #4 on its pound-for-pound women’s MMA list. At bantamweight, Peña was No. 1 and Nunes was No. 2.

Nunes (22-5) had a 12-fight win streak before losing to Peña, with victories during that stretch over Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, Miesha Tate and Holly Holm. The Brazilian brawler, who trains in South Florida, is also the UFC women’s featherweight champion.

Nunes, 34, is the first UFC fighter to have simultaneously defended two titles in different weight classes – and has seven title defenses in two divisions, the most for a woman in UFC history.

When asked at the post-fight press conference what would be next for Nunes, White said a third fight with current UFC Women’s Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko was “not a bad idea”.

Peña (12-5) had won two straight and seven of their previous nine bouts overall. The Washington-born fighter, who trains in Chicago, beat Nunes in the second round as a heavy underdog seven months ago. Peña, 32, was the inaugural winner of the women’s Ultimate Fighter tournament in 2013 and had been calling for a title fight for years before actually getting one.

Peña was taken to a hospital after the fight, and White said she would see a plastic surgeon to tend to the cuts Nunes made on her face.

“Julianna is missing a big chunk on her forehead,” White said, adding that Peña “was pretty broken tonight.”

Before dropping the bantamweight title to Peña, Nunes had beaten every fighter to ever wear the UFC women’s bantamweight or featherweight belt. She completed that feat again by beating Peña on Saturday.

“Tonight proved that she was a lucky day,” Nunes said of Peña’s title win in December. “If she needed to be a champion like that, she had her time and now it’s over.”

https://www.espn.com/mma/story/_/id/34321127/amanda-nunes-gets-revenge-recaptures-ufc-women-bantamweight-title-julianna-pena Amanda Nunes gets revenge, recaptures UFC women’s bantamweight title from Julianna Peña

Emma Bowman

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