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By the tip of the night time, it virtually seemed like an actual lion may need been concerned.
Following the primary occasion at Saturday’s UFC 277, the Octagon at American Airways Heart in Dallas Texas, it was evident from the canvas that somebody had taken a severe reduce. The unfortunate soul was Julianna Pena, the bravest challenger but to step into the Lioness’ den. However not like their first encounter again in December, Pena wasn’t primed to drag the shocker this time.
That’s proper. “The Lioness” Amanda Nunes is UFC ladies’s bantamweight champion as soon as once more. Over 25 grueling minutes, Nunes sought out, remoted and totally destroyed each weak spot Pena uncovered—or thought she uncovered—the primary time round.
“If the Lioness doesn’t get her prey the primary time, I set the lure higher, and I do know I’ll get it the second time,” Nunes instructed broadcaster and podcaster Joe Rogan within the cage after the battle. “Now we’re right here to make historical past once more.”
Nunes took the unanimous choice, with the three ringside judges scoring it 50-45, 50-44, 50-43. Which means: one, no decide noticed Pena profitable a spherical, two, one decide gave Nunes a 10-8 spherical in a nod to her dominance, and three, two decide gave her two such 10-8 rounds.
The one factor that made this respectable was the outlandish toughness displayed by Pena. And we’ll get to that.
The bout began slowly. Pena seemed to push the problem with quantity however didn’t land something to write down dwelling about. Nunes, who began southpaw earlier than switching to orthodox, used a counter-right hook to rock Pena with about 1:30 left. Pena despatched a proper of her personal down the pipe within the spherical’s remaining seconds and narrowly received the quantity battle 51-47 per UFC stats, however Nunes nonetheless managed to search out extra harm and took the spherical on that foundation.
With about 40 seconds gone within the second, Nunes scored one other knockdown on a brief counter shot. I feel it was honest to say the Brazilian had Pena’s vary and timing down, whilst she herself switched stances all through to maintain Pena guessing.
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Nunes scored one other knockdown about 40 seconds later, however there was nothing brief about this one, a sweeping bolt of power that appeared to knock the champ into the air. Someway, as her again hit the ground, Pena saved her wits about her sufficient to flash her guard and hold the Lioness from pouncing.
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Within the third, Pena tried to take issues to the clinch, however Nunes wrenched free simply. Nunes appeared to be in much better form than for his or her first bout—which she has famously said she was underprepared for due to a bout with COVID, a knee harm, complacence, and the distractions of fame together with constructing a brand new fitness center.
However right here there was no lingering of the stamina concern that spelled her undoing of their authentic bout. She hit a visit takedown on the three-minute mark of the third, adopted by an prolonged floor sequence that noticed Pena go fishing for a triangle choke and an armbar to no avail. Nunes didn’t do a lot from inside Pena’s guard—that’s, till in regards to the 1:10 mark, when an elbow sliced open Pena alongside the hairline. And that’s when issues began to get messy.
Pat your self on the again in case your bingo card had Nunes, and never Pena, forcing the motion to the bottom. Within the opening seconds of the championship rounds, Nunes landed a double-leg takedown and saved the motion on the mat for one more prolonged stretch. It wasn’t like we didn’t know Nunes might do that—she did it in 2019 to keep away from buying and selling with world-class kickboxer Germaine de Randamie—nevertheless it was the uncommon pundit who noticed it coming Saturday.
For those who’re accustomed to Pena’s public persona, it’s one which stands out for its competitiveness. And that’s saying one thing within the UFC. It’s like declaring a shark for being toothy. There have been UFC Embedded episodes this week the place a slew of coaches instructed tales of her work ethic, like her insistence on working just a few seconds previous the tip of each drill whistle.
So it wasn’t a shock to see her proceed to battle via what was a fully grueling fourth spherical. An armbar got here shut, however Nunes gutted her manner out of it. As soon as they discovered their manner again to their toes, Pena’s face was a bloody mess. However she stayed sport.
The fifth was noticeably and understandably slower, with each fighters close to exhaustion. And but, right here was the Lioness, grinning manically and nonetheless capturing for takedowns. At one level, the strain from a semi-serious anaconda choke try from Nunes appeared to wring blood from Pena’s reduce like a moist sponge. Maybe the large signature of the ultimate seconds was Pena gutting her manner out of a gnarly, injury-to-insult Nunes neck crank.
Make no mistake: This was a dominant victory by Nunes. Pena received the primary two rounds on quantity, however Nunes received all 5 in pure harm. She additionally hit on 6-of-8 takedowns to Pena’s 0-of-0, racking up a mixed 11:49 of management time. That’s not a misprint. Pena had not one second of management time, not even within the clinch.
The harm to Pena’s noggin was severe sufficient that it required not solely a visit to the hospital however an emergency session with a plastic surgeon, in accordance with UFC President Dana White (h/t Marc Raimondi of ESPN).
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So, sure, whereas Pena is clearly Nunes’ only opponent thus far, there’s nonetheless just one GOAT right here. GSP-Matt Serra didn’t want a rubber match. Am I saying Pena-Nunes 3 ought to by no means occur? In fact not. However maybe Pena might beat another person earlier than leaping again in. It is a significantly attractive proposition when recalling that one Valentina Shevchenko could also be ready within the wings.
As for Nunes, she’s taking her time.
“Let me sit down, let me return to Brazil,” she instructed Rogan. “I haven’t seen my household there for 3 years. Due to the epidemic. So I stayed right here, I targeted on getting the belt again. Now I’ve an opportunity to return and see my household. Let the Lioness relaxation a bit bit, and I’ll come again as quickly as potential.”
Along with her loss avenged and the primary jewel of her crown restored, the Lioness can simply having fun with being a GOAT for some time once more.