After a stunning upset at UFC 269 that saw Julianna Peña (12-5) claim the bantamweight crown, Amanda Nunes (22-5) returned to the Octagon on Saturday night at UFC 277 from American Airlines Center in Dallas with revenge on her mind. Nunes did just that, dominating Peña from bell to bell to reclaim her belt in the main event.
Nunes opened the fight switching stances and tossing a handful of head kicks. Peña waited nearly a minute into the fight to look for an opening, moving inside and throwing a quick combination before jumping out of Nunes’ reach. Peña was wary to trade hands with the former champion, trying to stick and move, but often catching a hook on the way out. Nunes put Peña down to a knee twice in the first round, with the first coming from a counter-hook and the second coming from a stiff jab out of southpaw. Peña fought off a takedown attempt at the end of the round, standing Nunes up and catching her with a combination of her own. Nunes responded with a nice one-two that wobbled Peña before the round ended.
Early in the second, Nunes dropped Peña with a huge counter right hook, but couldn’t finish her on the ground. Back on her feet, Nunes put Peña back on the mat with another big right hand, again opting to let her get back to her feet. Peña refused to back down though, continuing to charge forward with a handful of punches as she pushed Nunes back. Nunes yet again dropped her with a counter shot for the third time in the round, refusing to get on the mat and allowing her to get back to her feet.
Midway through the third, Nunes earned her first takedown of the night, moving into full guard. Nunes proceeded to drop huge elbows from the top and Peña nearly transitioned her way into an arm bar attempt. Nunes was technically sound though and moved into side guard to end another dominant round.
To open the championship round, Nunes earned another takedown and worked from full mount early in the fourth. Peña yet again went for an arm, but Nunes put a knee on her stomach and easily transitioned out. Peña had another shot at the arm, but Nunes wrapped her legs around the champ, and flattened herself to escape. Back on their feet, Nunes landed another takedown. Peña looked for a triangle, but couldn’t get it locked in. Back on their feet again, Nunes tripped the champ and worked from the top.
In the fifth and final round, Nunes outmuscled Peña for a takedown just seconds into the round. Peña escaped back to her feet, but it was Nunes going right back to the ground, content to user her strength to keep the champ grounded through the end of the fight.
After seven years as the world’s most dominant bantamweight in the world, Nunes was pressed and overwhelmed by Peña in their first showdown, before being submitted in the second round. Before that, the former two-division champ had knocked off Valentina Shevchenko, Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, Miesha Tate, Holly Holm, and Germaine de Randamie.
Peña’s victory over Nunes last year came as a stunner, with an up-and-down tenure that saw her trade wins and losses over the last six years, including a submission loss in 2020 to de Randamie and then two submission wins over Sara McMann and Nunes.