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UFC Sacramento results: Julianna Pena returns with win over former champion Nicco Montano

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UFC Fight Night: Pena v Montano Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Julianna Pena returned from more than two years away and got back in the win column with a victory over former UFC flyweight champion Nicco Montano.

It was a bit of a slow start for Pena but once she settled into a rhythm, the veteran bantamweight contender showcased a suffocating ground game that shut Montano down. In the end, Pena earned a unanimous decision victory with the scorecards reading 29-28, 29-28 and 29-27 all in her favor.

“It feels really great. There’s nothing like the feel of this canvas underneath your feet,” Pena said following the win. “I’m really happy to be back”

With both fighters coming off long layoffs it was a matter who would knock the ring rust off first and right away it was Montano on the assault with a strong clinch game before transitioning to a ground and pound attack once the fight hit the floor. Montano was constantly looking to do damage while Pena was trying to find a way to escape.

Montano went for a similar strategy in the second round but this time Pena was able to make an adjustment as she grabbed onto a headlock before dragging the former flyweight champion to the ground. Pena started hammering away with elbows and short punches from inside the guard, eventually opening up a cut on Montano.

With an even fight through the first 10 minutes, Pena took Montano back to the ground to open the final round to continue working from the top where she was most dominant. Pena wasn’t doing a ton of damage but she was peppering away with enough elbows and punches to keep Montano underneath her.

Montano eventually slipped free to get back to her feet with less than two minutes remaining but Pena was still landing the better strikes as time ran out between two former “Ultimate Fighter” champions.

The back and forth battle resulted in a unanimous decision victory for Pena, who gets her first win since 2016.

Pena jumps right back in the thick of the bantamweight division after being just one win away from a title shot prior to her last fight and then taking an extended hiatus to welcome her daughter to the world.