At UFC 277, Amanda Nunes entered The American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas with her back against the wall. Had she lost to Julianna Peña for the second straight time, that would have effectively marked the end of the Amanda Nunes era in the UFC’s women bantamweight division and cemented the reign and torch-pass over to “The Venezuelan Vixen.”
Instead, Nunes did what most people expected her to do in their first bout back at UFC 269. She turned in a dominant performance, with scorecards of 50-45, 50-44, and 50-43.
Usually, when a fight produces such one-sided scorecards, you won’t be hearing many calls to run it back from the MMA community. Yet, one person who predictably wanted just that was Peña herself, who reminded everyone of another scorecard: The 1-1 tally of her fight history against Nunes.
Meanwhile, there has been another name that has been bandied about over the years as a potential trilogy opponent for Nunes — dominant flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko.
Even though Nunes is up 2-0 on Shevchenko, both fights were highly competitive. Perhaps it is that differing fact from the Nunes/Peña rematch along with Shevchenko’s coinciding reign of dominance over the past few years that make the fans more interested in a Nunes/Shevchenko trilogy.
MMA News polled over 100 fans on which trilogy bout they would prefer, and a resounding 85% voted for Nunes/Shevchenko.
The Pro-Shevchenko Trilogy Argument
It’s been five years since the last time Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko shared the Octagon. The first time took place at UFC 196, with Nunes winning by way of unanimous decision (29-28×2, 29-27).
The second fight at UFC 215 was even more competitive, with Nunes winning by split decision this time (48-47×2, 47-48). The media scorecards published on mmadecisions.com also represented how close the fight was, with journalists being split down the middle 10-10, with two people scoring it as a draw.
The competitive nature of both fights, especially the rematch, along with the fact that both women have been the two most dominant female fighters in the UFC for the better part of the last decade are the standout reasons for why fans prefer this trilogy.
The Pro-Peña Argument
The points supporting the case for a Peña trilogy are two-fold:
1) Unlike Shevchenko, Peña holds a clear, decisive victory over Nunes.
2) If we are talking about what fans “want” to see, then from an entertainment standpoint, both Nunes/Peña fights were more entertaining than the Shevchenko/Nunes bouts by a mile. Even if most consider the rematch to have been a one-sided beating, it was not lacking in action, and Peña made it very interesting on the mat with numerous submission attempts.
I personally believe Nunes/Peña makes for a more compelling trilogy in 2022 for the following reasons:
1) Shevchenko is at her best as a flyweight. Amanda Nunes cannot compete at flyweight. There is no reason to believe Shevchenko will fight much differently against Nunes in 2022 than she did the first two times at bantamweight. If that’s the case, we’ve already seen that fight twice with practically the same exact outcome.
2) Shevchenko has her own unfinished business to attend to. A significant portion of the MMA community disagree with the judges’ scorecards in Shevchenko’s last title defense against Taila Santos. And even if you are in the camp that believes it was a clear-cut win for Shevchenko, you would still have to concede that the head clash that impaired Santos’ vision lends an added wrinkle of uncertainty behind that fight.
Santos is the first person to take Shevchenko to within one round of losing at flyweight and was ahead in the fight prior to the accidental headbutt. With this in mind, the timing of Shevchenko/Nunes doesn’t seem optimal when Shevchenko finally has a compelling storyline in her own division.
3) Similarly, Nunes finally had someone come along and challenge her at bantamweight. Now that the score is 1-1 between her and Peña, the story isn’t complete until the tie is broken.
4) Fair is fair. Peña gave Nunes an immediate rematch. It seems only right for Nunes and the UFC to return the favor.
The fact is, Julianna Peña was underestimated way back in the leadup to UFC 269 when she was a massive +600 underdog. So it makes sense that fans will consider that book to be closed with the first chapter being titled “Fluke Victory.”
But in reality, Peña did not land a haymaker or pull off a sudden submission. She did exactly what she said she would. She took the fight to Nunes on the feet over a prolonged stretch of time before ultimately taking her down and submitting her.
That is the equivalent to a dominant unanimous decision victory. To say otherwise is likely just reverting back to the preconceived notion that Peña can’t hang with Amanda Nunes. Peña already proved that narrative wrong despite her now falling victim to recency bias. If fans and Nunes are right and it really was a fluke, then it wouldn’t hurt to prove it by breaking the tie.
All things considered, Julianna Peña deserves a chance to stun the world again in what history says would be a more entertaining fight and buildup than a Shevchenko/Nunes trilogy would be right now.
What do you think? Which trilogy would YOU prefer Amanda Nunes to compete in and why? Valentina Shevchenko or Julianna Peña?