Julianna Pena did what Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, and Holly Holm failed to do.
She beat (and finished) Amanda Nunes, widely considered the greatest female mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter in history. Pena’s bookie-busting upset — which cost some idiot $318,000 — will undoubtedly lead to an immediate rematch between “Lioness” and the “Venezuelan Vixen,” perhaps at some point in early-to-mid 2022.
It also torpedoed any chance of Nunes fighting Kayla Harrison, according to UFC President Dana White.
The undefeated PFL lightweight champion, who also competes at 145 pounds, was cageside for the UFC 269 pay-per-view (PPV) event last Sat. night (Dec. 11, 2021) inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the cameras made it a point to get the two-time Olympic gold medalist on screen in the moments before the Nunes vs. Pena co-main event.
It was all for naught.
“These are those things man, for like a Kayla Harrison, the Amanda Nunes fight was huge,” White told reporters at the UFC 269 press conference. “If they would have faced off it would have been a massive, mega-million dollar fight. If Amanda Nunes had won tonight, the Kayla Harrison fight would have been one of the biggest fights you would have ever seen.”
Which is why Harrison was screaming “FUUUUCK!” after the fight (see the video below):
Harrison, 31, became a free agent after the 2021 PFL championships, where she steamrolled the overmatched Taylor Guardado. There was talk leading up to UFC 269 that Harrison would sign with UFC and challenge Nunes inside the Octagon after her fight, operating under the assumption that “Lioness” — a bloated -1000 favorite — would cruise to victory.
Instead she was tired out, beat up, and forced into submission.
Nunes was two-division champion and retains her 145-pound strap, but White told reporters that a bantamweight rematch was first order of business. That said, an exact timeline has yet to be determined. The good news is that UFC officials are “still talking” to Harrison about a potential partnership in 2022, though PFL and Bellator MMA are still in the running.
PFL is familiar ground while Bellator MMA has Cris Cyborg.
There is no pressure for Nunes to defend her 145-pound title, simply because UFC does not have a featherweight division, which is why the Top 15 remains blank during every rankings update. That gives “Lioness” time to settle her unfinished business at 135 pounds and perhaps rebuild her mystique for a future Harrison fight, assuming the 12-0 judoka finds her way into UFC at some point early next year.
For complete UFC 269 results and fight coverage click here.