Amanda Nunes says she dragged out her dominant victory in the rematch against Julianna Pena to prove that the American got lucky the first time they met.
Nunes, considered the greatest female athlete in the sport’s history, reclaimed her bantamweight title in the headline bout at UFC 277 in Dallas on Sunday morning, beating her opponent comprehensively on way to a unanimous decision triumph. The judges at American Airlines Center scored the clash (50-45, 50-44, 50-43).
In winning, Nunes avenged her shock defeat to Pena at UFC 269 last December, when the then-champion lost via second-round submission. Widely viewed as one of the biggest shocks in UFC history, it was Nunes’ first defeat in 13 bouts.
Speaking after the rematch on Sunday, which included three knockdowns and a gruesome gash on Pena’s forehead, Nunes told reporters: “I know Julianna’s tough. I know. I was ready for that. I could’ve finished her, but I wanted to go five rounds with her tonight to prove I was better than her. I’m better than her. I proved it tonight.”
Nunes added: “Tonight proved [December] was a lucky day for her. If she needed to become a champion like that... she had her time, but now it’s over.”
Nunes, 22-5 in professional mixed martial arts (15-2 UFC), regained double-champion status by adding the bantamweight belt to her featherweight crown. She attended the post-fight conference on crutches and with a swollen face, but said the injuries were not serious.
“Couple things here, but I don’t think it’s anything that bad,” Nunes said. “But physically I feel amazing. I could have gone six rounds tonight, seven. So I’m very happy.
“Everything tonight was all strategy. The main thing was my [switching to] southpaw - I know I was going to catch her with that tonight. I knew she was not going to be able to adjust to that. She's not a striker.
"She was so confused. I'm not very good yet with my southpaw. I told my coach, 'I'm going to see how I feel.' I tried tonight, and I felt good."
When asked post-fight what would be next for Nunes, UFC president Dana White said a third encounter with current women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko was "not a bad idea". The pair have fought twice previously, in 2016 and 2017, with Nunes winning both by decision - the latter by split.
“Yeah, good,” Nunes said of the trilogy. “If she’s open to, that’d be awesome.”
Immediately following UFC 277, Shevchenko tweeted that Nunes had “decided to fully copy my stand-up game”. Shevchenko has won her past nine since losing the rematch to Nunes, although last month’s decision win against Taila Santos at UFC 275 was closer than many expected.
Told about her old rival’s tweet, Nunes said: “That’s funny. She had to put out something to stand out. Because right now, as a champion, Valentina... she lost her last fight.”