The Lioness nonetheless hungers for gold, and he or she feasted heartily on Saturday night time.
Seven months after falling prey to Julianna Peña, Amanda Nunes as soon as once more guidelines because the apex predator in each of the UFC’s heaviest ladies’s divisions.
The reigning featherweight champion wasn’t content material to settle for only one belt. No. Nunes wished that bantamweight crown again; she wanted it.
“When The Lioness don’t get the prey for the primary time, I set the entice higher, and I knew I’d get the prey this time,” a beaming Nunes replied within the octagon, moments after regaining the 135-pound crown in UFC 277 foremost occasion in Dallas. “Now, we’re right here, making historical past once more. Double champ once more, child!”
Whilst a substantial betting favourite over Peña, whose December victory by way of second-round submission ranks among the many biggest upsets in UFC historical past, doubts sprang up. Was this the start of the top for MMA’s feminine GOAT? Was the transfer away from vaunted American Prime Staff an act of desperation? Had been COVID-19 and a knee harm mere excuses from a going through legend?
Right here’s a brand new query: After the best way the Brazilian mauled Peña at American Airways Heart, how foolish do these questions sound on Sunday?
To listen to Nunes inform it within the cage, altering up her coaching residence paved the best way for such brilliance on what she referred to as “the very best day ever in my life.”
Amanda NunesGetty Pictures
“The most effective factor that I did was make my gymnasium occur,” Nunes declared. “In my gymnasium, I really feel like I’m secure. I really feel like I can develop much more.”
Maybe that development, that evolution, was the genesis of a brand new strategy. The wheels got here off Nunes’ finely-tuned engine final time — following a robust opening body — when she allowed herself to interact in a firefight with Peña, who has beforehand been recognized extra for her harmful grappling and submissions. The twin-champ light, and certainly one of her belts drifted away to the 32-year-old from Spokane, Wash.
This time, Nunes took her time. This wasn’t enjoying together with her meals, as she metaphorically has finished prior to now with overmatched challengers. Peña had earned an excessive amount of respect for such an strategy. As a substitute, Saturday’s challenger managed the tempo, pelting Peña with the extra highly effective photographs to set a tone for what was to return.
Spherical two had been Nunes’ catastrophe within the winter. Come summer season’s runback, it was her masterpiece. She painted Peña to the canvas 3 times, dropping her twice with laborious lead proper hooks from southpaw within the first two minutes and a 3rd time with a stiff left straight late within the spherical.
Two issues turned clear over the ultimate quarter-hour: Nunes hits more durable than Peña, and Peña has no stop in her. A heavy elbow opened a lower alongside Peña’s hairline with 90 seconds to go within the third, however Nunes was pressured to defend an omoplata — the primary of many such makes an attempt from the artful now-former champ.
Regardless of clear success on the ft, Nunes switched to a takedown-heavy strategy within the championship rounds. Whilst she received each spherical, securing remaining scores of 50-45, 50-44, 50-43, a bloodied Peña by no means felt out of the struggle. A fourth-round armbar threatened one other comeback victory for Peña, who as soon as once more entered because the betting underdog — to a lesser diploma this time.
However Nunes proved her championship mettle within the closing 5 minutes, attacking with a menacing rear-naked choke within the twenty fifth minute. She was hungry, and The Lioness wished that mata leão — “lion killer” in Portuguese, one other identify for the maintain she appropriately sought — however Peña proved her personal fortitude in fending it off. An ethical victory of types: She’s the one one who’s stopped the opposite.
Make no mistake, although. Nunes received what mattered: that scrumptious gold trinket she loved pairing together with her different one the previous few years. All is correct in her world once more.
“I used to be supposed to do that the primary time, however I instructed you guys: I didn’t know [if] I used to be prepared for that.”
Nunes is prepared now, and he or she let all ladies 135 kilos and up realize it with a mighty roar.