For the first time in 7 years, Amanda Nunes has suffered a defeat.
The new UFC Bantamweight Champion Julianna Pena would have to be thanked for that. The +600 underdog would stop the unstoppable and do the unimaginable, getting a second-round submission over Nunes. This would get her into the winner’s circle at UFC 269.
After suffering an onslaught on the feet, ‘The Lioness’ would be taken down by Pena. This was the beginning to the end as the challenger secured her back. Pena would lock in a rear-naked choke and after just a few seconds, Nunes decided to tap out, ending the fight.
Many have criticized Nunes for ‘quitting’ in this fight after a 5-year title reign in the bantamweight division. Pena doesn’t share the same sentiment for her former foe, believing the tap out was the only decision left for the champ-champ.
“She had no choice but to tap,” Nunes said on The MMA Hour. “People want to say she quit – she didn’t quit, she was getting choked. She had no choice but to tap – I would have broke her neck. She tapped because she had no choice.”
Pena didn’t think was the only moment she had Nunes in trouble. Besides hurting Nunes on the feet with strikes, ‘The Venezuelan Vixen’ had another trick up her sleeve.
“It was in the first round,” Pena said. “It looked like the naked eye – I mean, these are million-dollar cameras, and they’re great, but you would think that they would get the shot of, like, I’m about to snap this girl’s arm, I’m about to have the first-ever victory by straight armlock. That’s what was playing in my mind. People are probably like, ‘Oh, she’s going to choke her,’ but I’m like, ‘Dude, her arm is going to snap in half. I have her arm.’ I wish people could see that; I don’t know if they saw it or not, I haven’t seen the full fight yet.
“I had her in trouble in Round 1, and I knew that’s the moment. I was like, man, if this is how our grappling exchanges are going to be, I can do this all night long, and especially the amount she was breathing. She was just like, [panting], and I’m just, cool.”
The Game Plan
Besides the keylock attempt, Pena would be largely dominated by Nunes inside the opening round. The unsuccessful first round would leave the mind of the TUF 18 Champion as he entered the sequel round guns blazing. She would attempt to bang it out. And that she did… quite successfully.
“She’s a fighter that doesn’t do well when she’s fighting against adversity,” Pena said. “When she’s the bully and she’s the pressure, she’s great – girls fold, they crumple. But when she is being bullied and when she is being pressured, that’s what she can’t handle, and that’s what I knew was the case.
“You saw that when she was fighting Cat Zingano. Cat Zingano broke her, and I think maybe in Invicta I saw somebody else break her, too. She’s had losses. Those types of scenarios I knew still existed in her, and it just needed a chance to break through and rear it’s ugly head, and the only way to do that is to get somebody tired and make them work and make them fight.
“I told everybody: The only way you fight this type of firepower is when you fight fire with fire, and I knew that was how it was going to be. It was going to take more than one shot to put me away and put me down. I can take a shot, as you guys have seen from my previous fights. I think that when I was rocking her on the fight, I saw my team, I just see in my peripheral view, my team going ‘Go, go, go get her!’ So that’s when I pressed her to the cage, and the takedown was there, and the choke came in just as I practiced as well. The stars were aligning.”
Stars were in full alignment as Julianna Pena secured her first UFC Championship, choking out the champ-champ Amanda Nunes.