2022 is representing a fresh challenge for Nunes. For the first time since 2015, she’s entered the new year off the back of a defeat. While she was coming off a loss to then-fellow contender Cat Zingano seven years ago, this time around she’s looking to rebound after having one of two belts she held last year snatched from her grasp.
After extending her two-division rule with a dominant first-round submission over Megan Anderson last March, Nunes was tasked with returning to 135 pounds to defend her bantamweight strap for the first time since 2019. In her way of completing another year with champ-champ status and extending her win streak to 13 was Peña.
While most expected “The Venzuelan Vixen” to represent a small hurdle for the “Lioness,” she turned out to be a 10-foot wall that stood firm in the face of the consensus female GOAT.
After surviving the opening round, Peña turned the intensity up in the second. When she appeared to tire and hurt Nunes on the feet, the UFC’s first female TUF winner dragged the Brazilian to the ground and submitted her.
Nunes: Peña Was The First Opponent To Catch Me On The Feet
Two months removed since the memorable upset, which many have branded the most shocking in UFC history, Nunes has provided some context behind her performance.
While many branded her loss as a display of quit, the reigning featherweight queen has suggested she was carrying a number of injuries into the contest that were serious enough for a doctor to recommend her withdrawal. With those issues contributing to what she described as a “mess” of a camp, Nunes believes she simply wasn’t prepared enough.
But despite citing those struggles as reasons behind her setback, Nunes also gave credit to the newly crowned bantamweight titleholder. During a media scrum earlier this month, the 33-year-old pinpointed one punch early in round two as the turning point in the contest.
“I got caught in the beginning of the second round. I don’t know if it was a jump-in, overhand, I don’t know what the move was. But for me, it looked like a jump overhand. It got me right here [points to behind left ear],” said Nunes. “It’s like, that was the end. I was not able to recover after that. I told Nina (Nunes) like, I felt dizzy, because I never got caught before. If you’re asking me how getting caught feels, I never would’ve answered because I never got caught before. So when I got caught, I lost everything; I lost my balance, my visual was a little bit blurry, too, and from that moment, everything went downhill.
“When I got on the floor, I was already done,” Nunes continued. “From watching the fight, and how everything was played in my head after I got caught, yeah. Everybody say I was tired and everything, okay, (they) look at me and say, ‘Your timing was off;” yeah, I didn’t train well for the fight. Of course, you think I showed up 100%? But I did get caught. She really connected a good one and I wasn’t able to recover.”
Having apparently become the first woman to really catch Nunes and badly wobble her in the striking realm, Peña will look to repeat the feat when she puts her gold on the line in a rematch against the Brazilian later this year.
Before that, though, the pair are set to exchange words and interact on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter, where the two rivals will serve as coaches.
Who do you think will win the rematch, Amanda Nunes or Julianna Peña?