Julianna Pena pulled off a stunning upset victory over the now-former UFC “champ-champ,” Amanda Nunes, this past weekend (Sat., Dec. 11, 2021) at UFC 269, choking out “Lioness” to become the promotion’s new women’s Bantamweight champion.
After the fight, Nunes was criticized for tapping too quick, with some suggesting that she was looking for a way out and simply quit, but not because of the pressure of the rear-naked choke. It’s a sentiment that doesn’t sit right with Pena, who says had Nunes not tapped she’d be going home with a pretty severe injury.
“She had no choice but to tap. People want to say she quit — she didn’t quit, she was getting choked. She had no choice but to tap — I would have broke her neck. She tapped because she had no choice,” Pena said during a recent appearance on The MMA Hour (via MMA Fighting).
According to the new champion, she and her team have been working to perfect that particular choke for a while now, and it was pretty similar to the hold she forced Sara McMann to tap to in her previous fight.
But, what really caught most pundits off guard was the fact that Pena — who is more well-known for her grappling — out-struck a champion who has knocked out the cream of the crop in the Bantamweight and Featherweight divisions.
But, that was all part of the plan, too, say Pena, who says unlike Nunes’ other opponents, she refused to be bullied.
“She’s a fighter that doesn’t do well when she’s fighting against adversity,” Pena said. “When she’s the bully and she’s the pressure, she’s great — girls fold, they crumple. But, when she is being bullied and when she is being pressured, that’s what she can’t handle, and that’s what I knew was the case.
“You saw that when she was fighting Cat Zingano — Cat Zingano broke her, and I think maybe in Invicta I saw somebody else break her, too,” Pena continued. “She’s had losses. Those types of scenarios I knew still existed in her, and it just needed a chance to break through and rear its ugly head, and the only way to do that is to get somebody tired and make them work and make them fight.”
For the newly-crowned champion, the victory is a bit sweeter because she felt Nunes wasn’t given her the props she felt she deserved, almost dismissing her as a legit threat. Now that she is the hunted, “The Venezuelan Vixen” is the one with the huge target on her back.
As far as her first title defense is concerned, it could very well come against Nunes since Dana White has thrown out the idea of an immediate rematch, one “Lioness” has already confirmed she’s ready to take part in.
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