Julianna Pena looked to get back in the win column at Saturday’s UFC 257 against Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann.
For Pena, who had fought once a year for the past four years running, the bout was at least a quick turnaround, and hopefully set the stage for a busy 2021. McMann, meanwhile, at 40, was looking to prove she still belonged among the top bantamweights in the world. Once a title challenger who fell victim to Ronda Rousey, McMann entered the fight off a win over Lina Lansberg.
Pena had to miss her daughter’s birthday for this Fight Island match-up, so “The Venezuelan Vixen” would no doubt be extra motivated Saturday. Early on, she held center, forcing McMann on the outside. The pair exchanged, McMann firing off her right hand. But when Pena landed, she did so with just a little more emphasis. Working her jab, Pena frustrated McMann enough for the Olympian to shoot in for a takedown. Pena easily avoided that first attempt, but shortly after, the wrestler did what she did best and took the fight to the ground.
From there, McMann quickly took the back, slowly but surely getting one hook in, then pulling Pena across her own body, looking for a rear-naked choke. With only one hook in, however, and not fully in position, Pena was able to scramble free. The only problem, McMann almost immediately took her down a second time.
The pair would head to the second with Pena in need of a reset. Once again, she pressured early, but almost immediately this time, McMann shot down for the takedown. Perhaps anticipating that, Pena had her guillotine ready. Slick as that was, McMann’s transition out was slicker, and Pena was forced to fight off her back. That was welcome enough, with Pena no slouch in the jiu-jitsu department. She employed a high guard, but McMann was able to land an elbow or two. The former title challenger was also gaining a lot of top time, with the duo finally getting back to their feet with 90 seconds roughly remaining in the frame. A clinch along the fence drew a warning for more action from the ref; Pena landed a knee to the body while trying to prevent another McMann takedown. An exchange of knees followed, before they broke and finished trading at center.
Pena entered round three in an interesting spot. She ended round two strong, and the score could easily have been 19-19. On the flip side, with McMann’s top time, Pena could have been down two rounds. Either way, Pena built off her momentum, landing a throw and moving into side control. McMann was stuck on her back against the cage, and when she worked to her knees, Pena was able to club her with hammerfists. Pena controlled from the back, got one hook in, then a second. McMann was at risk of being flattened out, and when she rolled, Pena locked on the body triangle, and the rear-naked choke shortly after. McMann held off as long as she could, but ultimately was forced to tap!
The Venezuelan Vixen!
🇻🇪 @VenezuelanVixen secures the RNC on Fight Island.
— UFC (@ufc) January 24, 2021
Post-fight, Julianna Pena called out the champ, Amanda Nunes, accusing her of running. With “The Lioness” set to defend her other belt (featherweight) against Megan Anderson, Pena may still need to take another bout before that comes together. One more win, given Nunes has all but cleared out the division, and Pena could very much be in the running.
Official Result: Julianna Pena def. Sarah McMann by submission (rear-naked choke), Round 3, 3:39