Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Bantamweight rivals Amanda Nunes and Julianna Pena will clash once more TONIGHT (Sat., July 30, 2022) at UFC 277 inside American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
When Pena stood her ground and suddenly began to box up “The Lioness” in the second round of their UFC 269 title fight, she did more than shock Nunes. The mixed martial arts (MMA) world as a whole was fairly flabbergasted. Pena has never shown a ton of stand up skill, but she nevertheless managed to turn the tables on arguably the heaviest hitter in women’s MMA history (watch it here). What happens next? Can Nunes return to her peak performances and deliver the beatdown that was widely expected in Dec. 2021, or does Pena now hold an unconquerable mental edge?
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Cris Cyborg (UFC 232), Ronda Rousey (UFC 207), Holly Holm (UFC 239), Miesha Tate (UFC 200), Valentina Shevchenko (UFC 215, UFC 196), Germaine de Randamie (UFC 245), Sara McMann (UFC Fight Night 73), Raquel Pennington (UFC 224)
Key Losses: Julianna Pena (UFC 269), Cat Zingano (UFC 178), Sarah D’Alelio (Invicta FC 4), Alexis Davis (Strikeforce: Barnett vs Kharitonov)
Keys to Victory: Nunes is a brutally powerful fighter. She just cracks so much harder than her peers and is so much stronger in the clinch — it’s not hard to understand why she was dominant for half a decade.
Nunes’ great mistake in the first fight was fighting desperately. It’s almost like she was in a hurry to score the first-round finish, and when that didn’t happen, all the air left the balloon. She looked confused and tired in the second, unable to comprehend how Pena was still in her face, throwing punches.
The problem is none of that’s necessary. Nunes doesn’t have to knock out Pena to win. Raquel Pennington is a similarly hard-nosed scrapper to Pena, and Nunes didn’t try to blitz her to the finish. Instead, she picked her apart over five rounds en route to the stoppage, never fatiguing because she remained calm while delivering major punishment.
Nunes may be 0-1 in this rivalry so far, but she’s still the vastly superior technical striker. If she is able to relax and let the fight play out a bit more measuredly, all her skill advantages should be more useful.
Key Wins: Amanda Nunes (UFC 269), Sara McMann (UFC 257), Cat Zingano (UFC 200), Nicco Montano (UFC Fight Night 155), Jessica Eye (UFC 192)
Key Losses: Germaine de Randamie (UFC Fight Island 4), Valentina Shevchenko (UFC on FOX 23)
Keys to Victory: Pena is a scrapper. She does her best work from top position, but when the takedown doesn’t come easily, Pena is more than willing to bite down on her mouthpiece, throw hard, and hope the next takedown produces better results.
In the first fight, Pena’s ability to mitigate the low kick with checks, withdrawals, and counter punches made a huge difference. Without the calf kick destabilizing her footing, Pena was able to punch forward successfully. She still had to keep an eye out for that punishing overhand, but it’s much easier to worry about one weapon than multiple.
She has to keep her lead leg safe in the rematch, too.
Otherwise, Pena has to build from her previous success. The jab was a huge weapon for her last time out, and if she continues to address the low kick, it should remain an important factor tonight. Really though, Pena didn’t win because of marvelous technique. She won because she stood her ground and brought the fight to Nunes, tiring out the champion and making her question herself in the process.
If the kernel of doubt remains, Pena can pour it on and win again.
This is the most interesting women’s Bantamweight title fight in years. That’s not saying much, but still!
How Nunes responds from her first loss since 2014 will have a major impact on her legacy. Already, some are questioning whether Nunes ever deserved her pound-for-pound status, and those critiques will amplify with a second loss. Alternatively, Nunes has a chance to prove that even greats have bad nights, and that she’s actually a much better fighter than her opponent.
Conversely, Pena will forever have a spot in her division’s history as the woman who dethroned Nunes. The question now becomes whether or not she can remain as champion? Pena has shown clear potential since she won The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), but consistency has always been a challenge. Historically, Pena picks up a bit of momentum then it falls apart, but defeating Nunes a second time would be one hell of a way to buck that trend.
At UFC 277, Amanda Nunes and Julianna Pena will go to war in the main event. Which woman walks away with her hand raised?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 277 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ABC/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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