After COVID-19 saw her initial championship challenge postponed, Peña will finally fight for UFC gold for the first time in Las Vegas this Saturday. “The Venezuelan Vixen” will enter the pay-per-view co-main event having gone 2-2 in her last four outings.
Defeats to Valentina Shevchenko and Germaine de Randamie were split with a decision victory over inaugural flyweight champ Nicco Montaño. A third-round submission win against Sara McMann at UFC 257 in January was enough to secure Peña a date with the “Lioness.”
Prior to her loss against the current 125-pound queen, Peña defeated the likes of Jessica Eye and Cat Zingano on her way to a perfect 4-0 start on MMA’s biggest stage. The Ultimate Fighter 18 winner will be looking to add the name of Nunes to an already impressive résumé on December 11.
A victory will certainly be no easy task. Nunes is the consensus Female GOAT and holds both the bantamweight and featherweight titles. Since a 2014 defeat to Zingano, the Brazilian has won 12 straight contests, defended her titles seven times, and beaten names like Shevchenko, Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, Holly Holm, and Raquel Pennington.
With that in mind, it’s unsurprising not many are giving Peña a chance at having her hand raised at UFC 269. But in an interview with TMZ Sports, the number one contender suggested fans and pundits are wrongly “sleeping” on her, and admitted she’s relishing the underdog status.
“I feel like a lot of people are sleeping on me, and they think that I’m a sacrificial lamb. But I definitely think that, you know, I know I’m definitely not a sacrificial lamb, and everybody loves an underdog. So, I’m just ready to get out there and bring something better to the table.”
While many expect another easy ride for Nunes, former two-division title challenger Chael Sonnen shared a similar view as Peña. Although he didn’t predict an upset victory, he did suggest the 32-year-old is a lot more likely to do it than any of the champ’s previous challengers.
Peña Has ‘Never Felt More Prepared’
In her last two defenses, Nunes successfully retained her 145-pound gold with triumphs over Felicia Spencer and Megan Anderson, the latter of which came via a destructive first-round armbar at UFC 259 in March.
It’s no secret that to have any hope of dethroning Nunes, Peña will have to be at the top of her game and hope that the two-division titleholder isn’t at the top of hers. According to the Washington native, she’s done everything she can ahead of the final pay-per-view of the year.
“I am ready. I am in the zone. I have never felt more physically or mentally prepared in my life and it’s my time. It just feels so great to know that I have literally left no stone unturned. I’m ready to go. I’m in the zone… I am more ready than I’ve ever been in my life.”
Whether her preparation will be enough remains to be seen, but Peña certainly has an aura of confidence that not many have seemed to have prior to facing Nunes. That could, of course, be shut down with another dominant performance from the Brazilian, but anything can happen in MMA…
Do you think Julianna Peña has what it takes to dethrone Amanda Nunes?