When Julianna Pena submitted Amanda Nunes back in Dec. 2021, it was an utterly shocking result. There was no real reason to believe in Pena on paper. She had self-belief and heart, a pair of great attributes, but Nunes had every conceivable technical and athletic advantage. Pena won anyway, actually made it look fairly easy, and a lot of fight fans were left scratching their heads in confusion.
Logically, the first fight was hard to explain. Lots of potential excuses were offered: injury, COVID-19, less-than-ideal training circumstances, a lack of motivation. They’re all believable and can excuse away the night to an extent, but UFC 269 still felt like an aberration.
Comparatively, Pena vs. Nunes 2 felt like a return to normalcy.
It was almost comforting to watch Nunes pulverize her opponent on the feet and on the canvas, simply because things made sense again. We were in familiar ground, watching “The Lioness” feast on an opponent forced to merely survive.
Now, Nunes did offer up at least one new wrinkle to her game. She’s switched to Southpaw to blast left kicks on occasion previously, but this was the first time Nunes has used that angle to really release the right handed check hook. Given Pena’s habit of rushing forward on a straight line, it was a smart move, and it paid off.
Otherwise, the standard Nunes playbook was in full effect. Heavy right hands, chopping calf kicks, takedowns from the clinch, dive bomb right hands from full guard — these are all the weapons Nunes has used to terrorize her division for years. Last night, Pena looked just like Germaine de Randamie in getting smashed from top position, even down to the lone moment of hope in the form of a submission attempt.
The whole situation was a bit reminiscent of Georges St. Pierre vs. Matt Serra 2. Sure, the underdog won the first fight, but it was a shock for a reason, and the second fight illustrated precisely why with a bloody clarity.
Unlike “GSP” vs. Serra, however, there might actually be demand for a third fight. This pummeling was at least entertaining, and women’s Bantamweight is not Welterweight. There’s no real contender waiting in the ranks for an overdue shot. Seriously, Holly Holm vs. Ketlen Vieira was supposed to determine the next woman in line, but that s—t was unwatchable. I certainly don’t need to see Shevchenko vs. Nunes 3.
No, all MMA logic and the status quo should be put on the line at least once more. At least the stakes are high! Even if we feel like the outcome is once again guaranteed after last night’s brutality, these occasional moments of chaotic, logic-bending results are what make the sport such a fun ride.
Pena broke the system once, might as well give her a chance to do it again.
For complete UFC 277: “Nunes vs. Pena 2” results and play-by-play, click HERE.
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