Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Peña | Photo Credit: UFC Facebook
Julianna Peña caused one of the biggest upsets in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) history at UFC 269 in December 2021 when she defeated Amanda Nunes and secured the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship. Peña and Nunes clash again in an eagerly anticipated rematch at the upcoming UFC 277 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, on July 30, 2022. Can Peña cause another upset and retain her title, or will Nunes exact revenge?
The latest UFC 277 betting odds suggest the rematch between Peña and Nunes will be one-way traffic in favor of the challenger. It is easy to see why Nunes is the hot favorite as she is ranked second in the women’s pound-for-pound rankings, trailing only Valentina Shevchenko. However, Peña was a massive underdog in the first clash, and we all know how that turned out.
Peña, known as “The Venezuelan Vixen,” stands 5ft 7in tall and tips the scales at 135lbs. A purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, under Luiz Claudio, Peña has a professional record of 11 wins and four losses since 2009. Her only UFC defeats came back in 2017 when Valentina Shevchenko caused a submission by an armbar. Three years later, Germaine de Randamie won with a guillotine choke, resulting in a technical submission.
Although Peña’s victory over Nunes was utterly unexpected, nobody can argue that it was not well deserved. Pena managed to walk through some of Nunes’ best shots before significantly outstriking “The Lioness” in the second round. Peña landed 74 significant strikes in Round 2 compared to the 34 of Nunes. She then perfectly executed a rear-naked choke, and an exhausted Nunes tapped out and relinquished her bantamweight belt.
Nunes Will Learn From Her Mistakes
Amanda Nunes | Photo Credit: UFC Facebook
Nunes never admitted such after the fight, but she made two major mistakes in her loss to Peña. First, she got her game plan wrong and seemingly wanted to knock out her opponent. Nunes did not switch tactics when that strategy did not work, ultimately costing her. Second, Nunes evidently underestimated Peña and thought she could simply bulldoze her and make Peña the 14th fighter she had laid out on the canvas. It is difficult to conceive that Nunes will make the same mistakes again.
The 34-year-old Brazilian superstar has an impressive 21-5 record, with 13 of those victories ending in a knockout. Until the shock defeat to Peña, Nunes last lost a fight in September 2014 when Cat Zingano won by TKO at UFC 178. Nunes went on to win her next 12 contests, including doing the double over Valentina Shevchenko, beating Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg, and coming out on top against Germaine de Randamie and Megan Anderson. None of those fights were easy on paper, yet Nunes left them all in her wake.
While fans of the underdog will, no doubt, be rooting for Peña to win again at UFC 277, everything points towards Nunes reclaiming her UFC Bantamweight belt. Nunes revealed to ESPN that she was carrying some niggling injuries in the first battle with Peña. She was suffering from injuries to both knees but decided to go ahead with the fight after postponing the original contest after contracting COVID-19. Perhaps she should have withdrawn again, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Nunes is now fully recovered, and a Nunes at 100% is a far better MMA fighter than Peña, with all due respect. In addition, many overlooked that Nunes’ two fights before the Peña upset were at 145lbs when she successfully defended her featherweight titles against Felicia Spencer and Megan Anderson. Having to drop 10lbs while injured and possibly suffering the effects of COVID-19 is not easy. Nunes will be fully prepared for this encounter, so the answer to the question in the title is a resounding no; sorry, Peña fans.