After enduring an early onslaught from Sara McMann in the first round, Pena returned fire by showing off her superior grappling, which led to a takedown and eventually a rear naked choke to finish the fight. The end came at 3:39 in the third round as Pena moves to 2-2 in her past four fights.
Afterwards, Pena was brimming with confidence as she took aim at the reigning UFC bantamweight champion.
“I feel amazing,” Pena said. “It played exactly how I thought it was. I just beat the best wrestler in the division. Amanda Nunes, I want to fight you. It’s time for her to quit ducking.”
Prior to the finish and asking to fight the champ, McMann and Pena were more than happy to throw hands as the fight got started but that changed about midway through the first round when McMann shot for her first takedown. She then worked to transition to a submission attempt before eventually settling into Pena’s guard where she began raining down elbows and punches.
In response to the grappling attacks, Pena readied herself for the takedown and started threatening more with her own submission game from the bottom. The former Ultimate Fighter winner applied a tight guillotine choke that forced McMann to scramble her way free to get out of trouble.
Pena’s ability to stave off the wrestling attacks from McMann with her own grappling brought the bantamweights to a pivotal third round. It was there that Pena started to push the pace on McMann with a slick body lock takedown of her own that put the former title contender on her back.
With time ticking down in the final round, Pena was able to take McMann’s back, which then allowed her to slip the arm under the chin and secure the rear naked choke. McMann tried to fight her way free but the submission only tightened and she was forced to tap out.
Pena has long been considered a threat to anybody in the top 10 at bantamweight but she’s been unable to sustain the kind of winning streak that would allow her to move into title contention. It’s tough to say if the win over McMann will grant her a championship opportunity but Pena definitely sent notice to the division that she’s gunning for the gold.