On Saturday night in Dallas’s American Airlines Center, the moves paid off as Nunes reclaimed the UFC bantamweight title she lost to Peña in December, taking a unanimous decision (50-45, 50-44, 50-43) in the main event of UFC 277 and claiming a part of MMA history.
“The lioness, if they don’t get the prey the first time, I set the traps better and I know I’d get it the second time,” Nunes said afterwards as she held her young daughter in the ring.
Nunes, whose 15 UFC wins are the most in promotion history, won her 10th title fight — the most among women in UFC history and fifth most overall.
Nunes left Peña bloodied as she struggled to thwart Nunes’s change to a southpaw stance, with the right hand and foot forward, then leading with right jabs following with a left cross right hook. That, along with her wrestling technique in later rounds, was the key, she said.
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“The main thing was my southpaw,” Nunes said. “I know I was gonna catch her with that tonight. I knew she wasn’t gonna be able to adjust to that. She’s not a striker. … She was so confused. I’m not very good yet with my southpaw. I told my coach, ‘I’m gonna see how I feel.’ I tried tonight, and I felt good.”
Using the stance, Nunes (22-5 MMA, 15-2 UFC) dropped Peña (11-5, 7-3) several times in the early going and then took down Peña with her wrestling moves. She knocked Peña down three times in the second round, a UFC Women’s record for knockdowns in a round, according to ESPN Stats & Information. She led Peña 85-60 in significant strikes and took her down six times in eight attempts.
After the fight, Peña headed off to receive medical attention for facial cuts, according to UFC President Dana White.
“Julianna’s got a big chunk missing from her forehead,” he said in the UFC 277 post-fight news conference. “She’s going to see a plastic surgeon right now, take some time to heal, and then I don’t know. She got pretty banged up tonight. It was like five or six knockdowns in the first two rounds. She was hurt. She needs to take some time off, relax, spend some time with her daughter and then we’ll go from there.”
Nunes became the first to regain the UFC bantamweight title after losing it, but it came at a cost. Her right eye was swollen almost shut and she used crutches to get to the post-fight news conference.
“I thought it was completely dominant,” White said. “There were five knockdowns in the first two rounds. There’s a big difference between submission attempts and knockdowns. They’re not even comparable. Julianna’s tough as nails and her will to win is second-to-none. She wanted to win. I think as dominant as Amanda was — and she was dominant Tonight — I didn’t think it was close in any way, shape or form. It was a complete shutout.”
Nunes, who plans to get a little rest and visit Brazilian family she hasn’t seen in years because of the coronavirus pandemic, called it “the best day ever” and added that “the best thing I did was make my gym. In my gym, I feel like I’m safe. I feel like I can grow and evolve.”