Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweights Cat Zingano and Amanda Nunes fought for a chance to contend last night (Sat., Sept. 27, 2014) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Zingano entered this bout coming off a 17-month layoff. Though she had earned a title shot prior to her knee injury, "Alpha" was looking to prove that she's still an elite bantamweight.
"Lioness" had yet to fight anyone of Zingano's caliber, but she had ripped through her first two opponents. Faced with a step up in competition, Nunes had to show that her brutish style of offense could work against the division's elite.
In the end, Zingano proved to be the superior fighter.
Nunes landed a hard leg kick and followed it up with a clinch takedown. Zingano attempted an armbar from guard -- and it looked quite tight -- but Nunes escaped the hold. Nunes backed away and landed some hard leg kicks while Zingano stayed on her back.
When it looked as though the referee was going to stand the fight back up, Nunes dove in with a nasty punch. "Alpha" looked to be badly hurt, and Nunes flurried mercilessly. However, Zingano weathered the storm, mostly relying on toughness.
Then, Nunes stood up and dove into another violent punch. She looked to be close to a finish once again but attempted to dive on a footlock. Zingano used this as an opportunity to reverse into top position with about a minute left.
Zingano attacked with some decent ground strikes, and the fight then returned to the feet. Controlling a front head lock, Zingano landed a sacrifice throw on "Lioness." Still, it's not enough to earn her the round back.
Zingano started the second with a takedown directly into side control. Zingano scored with a nice right hand as Nunes recovered guard. Zingano next gave Nunes a taste of her own medicine, delivering some vicious ground strikes while standing above guard.
"Alpha" continued to land elbow strikes while Nunes slowed down. In the half guard, Zingano controlled her for much of the round. Nunes rolled for a kneebar, which allowed Zingano to momentarily attack with a twisting footlock.
Neither submission succeeded, and the round ended with Zingano on top.
Zingano opened the third round with a series of clinch knees before tossing Nunes to the mat. She then moved into the full mount while Nunes held tight. Before long, Zingano really opened up with her elbows. Not long after, the referee called the fight.
For Zingano, this was an excellent return. It wasn't easy by any means -- Zingano definitely absorbed some hard power punches -- but she showcased her heart and aggression. Zingano had a rough year both emotionally and physically, so it was a joy to see her successful return.
In her next bout, Zingano will face Ronda Rousey. Whether she has the skill necessary to defeat Rousey is anyone's guess, but she definitely has the mental fortitude.
This was a disappointing performance for Nunes. She had her opportunity in the first round to pull off the upset but ultimately her conditioning failed her. This is a familiar story for the Brazilian, as all of her victories come via finish early in the fight.
Hopefully, Nunes takes it upon herself to improve her cardio. She has the skill and athleticism to compete with the best, but there's clearly a hole in her game. For her next bout, I'd like to see her face off with Liz Carmouche.
At UFC 178, Cat Zingano announced her return to the women's bantamweight division with a vengeance at the expense of Amanda Nunes. Does she have a chance against Ronda Rousey?
For complete UFC 178 "Johnson vs Cariaso" results, including blow-by-blow coverage of the entire pay-per-view event, click here.