At the final pay-per-view of 2021, fans were treated to one of the greatest upsets in UFC history. In the co-main event, Peña challenged what looked to be an unstoppable reign atop the bantamweight division for double champ Nunes. The narrative for many leading into the fight was that the immense confidence “The Venezuelan Vixen” had would be shut down by the “Lioness,” who branded her foe as “delusional.”
What transpired instead was nothing short of incredible. After a strong opening round for Nunes, Peña turned the heat up in the second, keeping the Brazilian at bay with her jab and standing toe-to-toe with her on the feet. After Nunes’ body language and facial expression changed, the underdog dragged her to the mat and submitted her.
The finish resembled a parody of a nature show, with the zebra turning the tables and actually hunting down and tearing apart the lioness themselves.
Like a portion of fans and pundits in the combat sports community, Cormier, who was calling the fight Octagon-side, believes Nunes was mentally defeated during the fight and perhaps chose to end it before she should have.
“It was crazy, because for as crazy as it seems, she beat Amanda to the point that she made Amanda Nunes take her football and went home,” Cormier said on the latest episode of DC & RC. “It’s like the kid that gets beaten and is like, ‘I’m going home.’
“It’s hard to say Amanda Nunes quit. But, when you look at her body language and you look at the way the choke was put in, you question whether or not that unfamiliar thought crept back into her mind… We speak about her in such legendary terms. We speak about the company that she keeps in terms of female sports. To tap like that after being in that choke, it almost feels like she should’ve just went to sleep… If you’re gonna lose, your place amongst the greats, even if it’s temporary, she can go back and beat Julianna Peña, but it felt like she should go out on her shield more.”
Peña: “She Had No Choice But To Tap”
Unsurprisingly, the newly-crowned UFC women’s bantamweight champion sees it a lot differently. During an appearance on The MMA Hour just days out from her title crowning, Peña claimed the choke was something she’d been working ahead of the fight, and suggested Nunes had no choice but tap.
“Yeah, Rick [Little] and I have been working this choke for a while, and it was the same pretty much variation choke that I got with Sara McMann. It was absolutely tight, and she had no choice but to tap. People want to say that she quit. She didn’t quit. She was getting choked, you know? She had no choice but to tap. I would have broke her neck. So she tapped because she had no choice.”
Whether Nunes tapped prematurely, knew she was beaten, or genuinely had no choice, it certainly doesn’t matter for Peña. “The Venezuelan Vixen” did what no woman had done in Nunes’ previous 12 fights: She broke her inside the Octagon.
Who do you agree with, Julianna Peña or Daniel Cormier?