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Julianna Pena vs. Cat Zingano? 'Vixen' interested in 'Alpha' fight this fall

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women's bantamweight rising star Julianna Pena, who captured The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 crown with a technical knockout win over Jessica Rakoczy, looked impressive in her return from injury, smashing Milana Dudieva into oblivion.

But with just two fights under the ZUFFA banner, it's a bit premature to start talking about a potential title fight against Ronda Rousey.

Unless...

The best way to leapfrog the rest of the 135-pound division is to use former No. 1 contender Cat Zingano as a stepping stone. "Alpha" suffered her first professional defeat at the hands of "Rowdy" earlier this year, but outside of that 14-second loss, has looked nearly invincible.

"That's the best fight for [Pena's] career path," Pena's head coach, Rick Little, told UFC Tonight (via MMA Fighting).

Zingano is likely to stay on the shelf until later this fall, but it sounds like Pena may be willing to wait, since a victory over "Alpha" is bound to do more for her career than a pair of wins over middle or lower-tier competition. That's up to promotion matchmakers, but it's hard not to like that potential pairing.

And the victor could go on to face Ronda Rousey the winner of this fight at the year-end UFC pay-per-view (PPV) event.