Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight queen, Amanda Nunes, will throw down opposite Judo Olympian, Ronda Rousey, this Friday (Dec. 30, 2016) at UFC 207 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Prior to entering UFC, Nunes’ record against top competition wasn’t all that great. She won three of her first four bouts inside the Octagon in dominating fashion, and the Brazilian received a big step up in competition.
“The Lioness” thrived.
In her last three bouts, Nunes quickly mauled both Sara McMann and Miesha Tate, as well as handed the No. 2-ranked Valentina Shevchenko her first and only UFC loss. Nunes is on a tear, but she’s facing an entirely different kind of match up in this bout.
Let’s take a closer look at her keys to victory:
A major part of Nunes’ success inside the Octagon has come from her natural size and athleticism. She’s bigger, strong, and moves with more fluidity than most of her opponents, and she’s able to make great use of the mixed martial arts (MMA) basics because of it.
On her feet, that translates into simple but powerful combinations and crisp strikes.
Nunes makes pretty good use of her length. She may punch herself into the clinch a bit more often than is healthy for a woman about to face Rousey, but the Judo brown belt is skilled in that area. In fact, it usually allows her to hunt for takedowns of her own.
When she remembers to throw it, Nunes has a long, sharp jab. This was most notable opposite Miesha Tate, who was very determined to look for the takedown. Nunes snapped her head back and bloodied her up with the jab, forcing her opponent to take ugly shots from far away (GIF).
More often, Nunes relies quite a bit on her right hand. She has real power in the punch, and it’s a potential finisher in each of her fights. Opposite Tate, she did a nice job of keeping her feet under her while firing the right, which helped prevent Tate from ducking under the punch to score a takedown. That will be important in this match up as well, as historically Nunes has accidentally closed the distance on herself after landing her overhand.
The other main tool of Nunes’ distance kickboxing is the right low kick. She often throws it without setup, which is an issue, but the kick packs enough power that her opponents are often able to capitalize. When landed cleanly, she’s able to spin her opponent around or sweep a Southpaw to the ground. Plus, her leg kicks were strong enough to break down and finish Shayna Baszler.
Lastly, Nunes does nice work in the clinch. Her strength allows her to yank around her opponent from the collar tie without much difficulty, helping her set up knees. Additionally, a failed trip can be converted into offense against an off-balance opponent.
Nunes is a Judo brown belt with great physical strength, so clinch work is an obvious strength for her. In general, her grappling is probably more dangerous than her striking, as Nunes is a really exceptional top player.
In the clinch, Nunes very often looks to trip her opponent. While fresh and at her sharpest, Nunes will aim for small foot sweeps or a subtle outside trip. This is where she does her best work, as Nunes definitely has the technique to land these takedowns. Alternatively, Nunes can dig her underhook deep into a body lock and lock to force her foe to the mat, which is most effective when chained with one of the aforementioned trips.
As Nunes grows tired, her takedown attempts become more desperate. When that happens, she’s far easier to reverse. Aside from that situation, she’s rarely taken down.
Once on top, Nunes is really devastating. She does an excellent job of gaining posture, as she really avoids sitting back on her knees even while in guard. Because of that, she’s proven to be effective from all positions with her ground strikes and does a lot of damage from there.
In guard, Nunes quickly finished Sheila Gaff in her UFC debut. After forcing her foe to the mat, Nunes did not allow her opponent to control her posture, stepping up onto one foot and framing with her arm. Once that space was created, Nunes was able to drop hard elbows and end the bout (GIF).
Opposite Cat Zingano, Nunes showed off her full ground and pound display, particularly in the first round. From guard, Nunes dove in with heavy right hands and postured within the guard admirably. She also stepped up to a leg in half guard to deliver hard elbows, a frequent technique for the Brazilian (GIF). Finally, when able to advance past her opponent’s guard, she did an excellent job of controlling while landing hard shots.
A jiu-jitsu black belt, Nunes has finished three of her opponents via submission. Each of those submissions came via rear naked choke, and there’s a definite pattern to how Nunes secures that hold.
After rocking her opponent, Nunes does an excellent job of jumping into back mount and looking to finish with the submission. This was the case in her bouts with McMann and Tate, but the latter one in particular showed some nice technique.
From turtle, Nunes secured wrist control on the far arm — a devastating strategy that is becoming more and more common — and stood over her opponent. Tate was unable to do much but absorb punches from this spot, so Nunes really forced her to give up the hooks. With wrist control and hooks, Nunes was able to easily hip in and flatten her opponent out. That’s the worst position in the sport, meaning the choke was all but locked up at the point (GIF).
It’s also worth mentioning that Nunes does a very nice job of cutting through her opponent’s guard. She’s able to do so effectively because of her posture, as her opponents have a difficult time maintaining a tight guard while eating hard shots. With the guard loose, Nunes will methodically move into half guard and then mount, delivering hard punches and elbows the whole time.
Since Rousey was first dethroned, the strap has been passed around like a hot potato. Nunes’ goal since capturing the belt has been to end that pattern, but she’s been given a seriously difficult task in the form of “Rowdy.” That said, if Nunes is able to hang onto her strap, there stands a good chance that she’ll be able to hold onto the belt for a long time.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an undefeated amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.