The rematch to one of the greatest upsets in the history of the women’s bantamweight division in the UFC is about to go down. Can Julianna Peña repeat the feat that earned her the championship belt or is Amanda Nunes destined for a comeback showing the world why she previously reigned supreme as undefeated champion for 5 1/2-years?
Every one loves a good comeback story. And Brazilian UFC Champion, Amanda Nunes is well positioned to deliver it. That is, if current women’s bantamweight champion Julianna Peña doesn’t stop her on her tracks first. Nunes is arguably the greatest-ever woman in the history of MMA and before meeting Peña in the octagon at UFC 269 last December, was at the very height of her reign as champion of both the women’s bantamweight and featherweight divisions.
After the gigantic upset that rocked the fight world, Peña and Nunes who serve as opposing coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 30, currently airing on ESPN+, are scheduled for a massive rematch on July 30 at UFC 277 in Dallas. One thing is certain, this is a must-watch battle, expect blood on the mats, and anything to happen.
Peña, who is putting her title on the line, has worked extremely hard her entire career to become a UFC champion. And she has no intention of giving that up. “This is my life’s work. This is what I’ve been doing for the last 13 years. And it wasn’t to be at the bottom of the list, it was to be at the top of the mountain. Now, things look different from the top, and my job is to make sure that anybody trying to climb up gets kicked off.”
Taking no Prisoners
The UFC legend Amanda Nunes was on a seven-year undefeated run, when Julianna Peña pulled off the rear-naked choke that sealed her fate after relentlessly hunting Nunes down without mercy, showing tremendous perseverance, stamina and mastery of her craft. She took the bantamweight crown only 3 minutes into the second round in one of the greatest women’s fights anyone had ever witnessed in MMA. She was obviously hungry and ready for the win. Peña didn’t just slay a dragon that night, she defeated a legendary titan of mythical proportions that many other athletes weren’t confident or skilled enough to challenge.
Nunes is a fighter known to impose her will on her opponents, yet Peña held her own ground and stood in exuberant defiance over the champ, relying on quick reflects and sharp movements, picking Nunes apart piece by piece all the way to the final submission.
“This might be the biggest upset in the history of MMA” Joe Rogan said.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, it’s officially the fourth-largest upset in the history of UFC title matches. The number one remains Holly Holm’s explosive victory over Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 in 2015.
Will Nunes take back the Crown?
Born in Pojuca, Brazil, Nunes escaped a destiny in a place consumed by poverty, crime, violence and drug abuse. Raised by a single mom who early on motivated and encouraged her to dedicate herself to combat sports, she began taking karate at the early age of four years-old moving on to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a teenager, where she would find her ground and quickly excel over her teammates with her first pro debut in 2008.
As a young woman, Nunes clawed her way out of the hole that threatened to swallow her, literally fighting for her life, she certainly has what it takes to rise back to the top of the bantamweight mountain.
The natural instinct when a popular and dominant champion loses a title is to focus on what they did wrong and how those mistakes can be eliminated before the rematch.
For one of the pioneers of women’s MMA, this is her biggest chance to restore her reign and dominance in the UFC. Now that she had time to work on her shortcomings, better prepare and knows first-hand what she is up against with Peña, many are confident the roar of The Lioness, will once again be the loudest sound in the jungle.
Nunes has achieved just about every accolade available to a fighter in MMA including the most wins, the most title fights, and the most consecutive wins of any other woman in the UFC. She recently left American Top Team to potentially open her own gym in Florida, is the first woman to become a two-division UFC champion and the only female to defend two titles at once. With millions of adoring fans behind her, Nunes is ready to take back her shinning crown.
The Peña Era
“People are still counting me out. People are still doubting me. People are still saying that it was a fluke and that she had a bad night, this, that and the other. They’ve got every excuse in the book for why I won,” said Peña. “So, my whole premise behind wanting to do the rematch was to solidify that I am here to stay, that this is my time, this my era. The Amanda era is done. This is the Julianna Peña era now.”
Can Peña truly confirm her supremacy, or will the re-match show the world why Nunes is recognized as a living legend in the sport?
With the amazing victory over Nunes, Peña has surely distinguished herself, but confirming it with a repeat win would forever solidify her legacy in the UFC and realize her vision of the “Julianna Peña Era”. Peña, is aware the stakes are high, and has been extremely focused and training consistently for this rematch. Everything hangs in the balance, and she has the future of her legacy to solidify.
In addition to Peña and Nunes’ main card title fight, the UFC 277 co-main event is the interim flyweight match between Brandon Moreno and Kai Kara-France.
The youngest of four siblings, Julianna was born and raised in Spokane, Washington. An example and inspiration of women empowerment, Peña is not only a UFC champ, but she is also a wife and mother. Family is important to her and outside of her career, she enjoys a private life with her husband and their daughter, Issa Cruz, born January of 2018.
Growing up, fighting wasn’t something Peña was particularly interested in, and most definitely not as a career path. She enrolled in cardio kickboxing classes for the exercise and to stay in shape, found a passion for it, and from there transitioned into MMA.
In 2013 she starred in the award-winning MMA documentary, “Fight Life”, directed by James Z. Feng and was propelled into the spotlight. In August of that same year, Peña was selected to be on The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate.
Pena made her UFC debut against Milana Dudieva at UFC 63 Fight Night and won via TKO. Shortly after, she went on to win two consecutive fights and suffered her first loss at the hands of UFC champion, Valentina Shevchenko.
Peña is a well-versed athlete that can hold her own in striking and once the fight hits the ground.
“There’s definitely a helplessness about a rear-naked choke. Putting someone to sleep. I definitely think
that’s a little bit more satisfying for me.”, says Peña.
In the famous words of the Wu-Tang Clan, Lioness you “better protect ya’ neck”, The Vixen is coming for ya’.
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