A little over six months ago, no one gave Julianna Pena much of a chance in her fight with Amanda Nunes. Not really.
On Saturday, the pair met atop UFC 277 for an immediate rematch which, for the first time in years, saw Nunes enter both off a loss, and as the challenger.
The pair threw down after coaching opposite one another on the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter, with the Season 30 finals coming early next month.
Pena and Nunes faced off at center for about a minute off the opening bell Saturday night, sizing each other up, feinting and moving, with little actually thrown. Pena opened up about 90 seconds in, firing her right hand. She then fanned on a front kick; Nunes whiffed on a counter, but later landed a low kick. Nunes landed a right hand by the ear as Pena came in, and was showing ample patience.
Through the opening three minutes, Nunes looked like she was in another gear, and she again clipped Pena by the ear, causing the champ to stumble. That happened again moments later; a leg kick followed. In the final 30 seconds, Nunes dropped for a takedown attempt; that was shrugged off by Pena, who landed a jab. Another exchange followed with Nunes and Pena both landing.
In the second, Nunes dropped the champ early! Ref Mike Beltran appeared to take a close look, perhaps with a stoppage in mind. Instead, he wound up letting Pena to her feet, with Nunes again taking a patient approach. Pena then pressed forward, firing punches but was sloppy and wound up caught and dropped again! Again, Nunes let her back to her feet. “The Lioness” fired a leg kick; Pena moved in with a combo, landing at least once. Around the two minute mark, Nunes ducked a kick, and the pair continued to exchange. Nunes caught Pena on the way in, then dropped her a third time in the round, this time with a left hand! Again, Nunes let her up.
Amanda Nunes opened the third with a spinning elbow. Pena closed the distance for a clinch, but Nunes immediately reversed on the fence and freed herself. Pena then clipped Nunes, and the pair exchanged some heavy shots. In a clinch at center, Nunes landed a trip, putting Pena on her back. Nunes was in Pena’s closed guard, with Pena trying to land from the bottom. Nunes slipped in an elbow, but had to contend with Pena fishing for an arm-bar, then a triangle. A couple of big elbows then got through for Nunes, cutting the champ open. Pena would briefly trap Nunes in an omoplata but didn’t have the position.
Nunes would finish the round on top, and head to the fourth with a hefty lead.
“The Lioness” landed an immediate taken as the action got underway in round four. Pena went after an omoplata again, then a triangle, then another omoplata. Nunes was able to defend each attempt, though Pena was certainly keep her busy. Pena then trapped an arm, wrenching on an arm-bar! That looked nasty, but Nunes stepped over Pena’s head with one leg, giving her just enough relief to fight the submission. She’d free herself and was briefly in side control, only to wind up back in Pena’s clearly dangerous guard. Nunes landed some smashing elbows, but Pena scrambled free — even more bloody than before. Nunes would easily land another takedown with just over a minute left in the round. An omoplata attempt followed by a triangle by Pena had Nunes stand up and back off, with ref Mike Beltran motioning Pena back up. That allowed the champ to land on Nunes, wobbling her, but Nunes immediately took Pena down again.
Heading into the fifth, Nunes had a insurmountable lead short of the judges being three blind mice, which meant Pena needed a finish. Nunes fired a leg kick early, Pena then appeared to land a solid punch only for Nunes to immediately take her down. Pena threw up a triangle and omoplata yet again, but as they transitioned it was Nunes with an anaconda in place, though Pena pulled free. They would go back to the feet for mere moments before Nunes got the fight back down and got to side control. Nunes stepped to half-guard, which allowed Pena to chase a kimura. Pena appeared to try to use it to sweep, but Nunes took the back and dragged Pena down. She then transitioned to the top, firing more elbows at the champ.
Time was now a factor, and Pena needed a Hail Mary submission. Instead it was Nunes landing a big right hand with about a minute remaining. Nunes then took the back, got a rear-naked choke in, but Pena broke free and got out of the body triangle to boot! Nunes still wound up on top, dropping some more ground n’ pound before backing off, and doing a little showboating as the fight came to a close.
No question — a dominant performance from Amanda Nunes, who reclaims her bantamweight title, and is once again a double champ.
Official Result: Amanda Nunes def. Julianna Pena by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-44, 50-43)