At UFC 277, Nunes challenges bantamweight champion Julianna Peña in a rematch of a December 2021 bout that saw Peña author one of the biggest upsets in UFC history, submitting Nunes in the second round to claim the belt. But when the two step into the cage to settle up this Saturday, Shevchenko believes Nunes gets the win she was expected to score in the first bout.
“I think Amanda [wins],” Shevchenko said when asked on The MMA Hour if she thought Peña wins the rematch. “Because I felt in her last fight against Julianna, she kind of didn’t look like herself. I don’t know [what] factors affected that — family, training camp, friends at the gym, or whatever — but she didn’t look the same way when we fought. She was completely different. Body type, mental type, focus type, completely different. So my thoughts, if she will be the same Amanda who I know, she will win the fight.”
Shevchenko knows both women well, having fought them before. The UFC flyweight champion submitted Peña back in 2017, and had two hard-fought bouts against Nunes, the second of which was for the bantamweight title. Nunes managed two decision wins over Shevchenko, which likely informs the champion’s belief that she will reclaim the title; however, “Bullet” also acknowledged that Peña is far from an easy out.
“It’s a fight. You never know what’s going to happen,” Shevchenko said. “Julianna, she’s a strong opponent, she’s a furious opponent, and she knows how much pressure is on her now to prove that she’s real champion. She will get ready for the fight like crazy, just get rid of everything outside of the fight and just focus on that, to beat Amanda and get her confirmation that she is real champion. It’s a very hard opponent, but I still think [Amanda wins]. But here it’s a lot of ‘if.’
“So let’s see. We can say whatever, but the fight is real and it will show who is the best.”
Peña and Nunes rematch in the main event of UFC 277, which takes place Saturday at American Airlines Center in Dallas.