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Hot Tweets: Julianna Peña vs. Amanda Nunes 2, Paddy Pimblett vs. Tony Ferguson, and fist-fighting wild animals

UFC 277 Weigh-in Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

With the back-to-back morning start time events, we had to put Hot Tweets on hold, but now that the UFC is back to its regularly scheduled programming, so are we. A lot has gone on in the past couple of weeks, with more to come tonight, so let’s talk about all of it, plus one of my favorite insane things to debate at the end.

The rematch

Tonight, Julianna Peña puts her bantamweight title on the line against Amanda Nunes after taking the belt from her at UFC 269 last year. Not a lot of people picked Peña to win that one, but I’m one of the few who did — and I’ve got receipts. And the reason I did is simple: Peña is a horrible style matchup for Nunes.

You can read my full breakdown of the fight here, but the short version is that Peña’s durability, pressure, pace, and tenacity are huge weapons against Nunes’ brand of fighting. By virtue of her physical gifts, Nunes tends to overpower her opponents, and the one’s she can’t, she can sort of smother. Peña allowed her to do neither, because Peña has a rock for a head and she creates action, one way or another. That, in turn, forced Nunes to consent to a fight she’s uncomfortable in and can’t win long term because gas tank and durability have never been strengths. I don’t know if Peña can force the same fight again, especially now that Nunes knows what she’s facing, but heading into that fight, Nunes seemed to be far too confident given the tough matchup ahead of her. We’ll see if this time around she learned her lesson.

If Julianna Peña wins again

If she wins again, things will get fun. That’s what always happens when a dominant champion loses — there’s a period of turmoil while the division sorts itself out. In this instance, Ketlen Vieira will get the next crack at Peña, and that is 100-percent a fight that Vieira can win. After Vieira comes Holly Holm (again) or perhaps Valentina Shevchenko. Then there’s a list of other bantamweights out there that haven’t fought Vieira or Peña and they’ll be able to get in line. The division will open up and be fun again. Just look what’s going on at light heavyweight right now! That division is more exciting than ever, because ANYONE could hold the title by the end of the year. It’s completely up for grabs.

Chaotic divisions are one of the most fun things about MMA, and if Peña proves the first win was no fluke, 135 has a real chance to be tossed in the blender for awhile. Or Peña could become a new dominant force in the division. Either way, it’s going to be interesting.

If Amanda Nunes wins

If Nunes wins, the same thing happens as if Peña wins: Ketlen Vieira gets a title shot. Sure, there will be some calls for a trilogy (especially depending on how she wins), but the general vibe will be that Nunes proved the first to be a fluke and now it’s back to business as usual. Vieira will get the shot and Peña will fight Holly Holm. If Peña wins that one, then they can do the trilogy.

As for the cutting a division, there’s zero chance they’d cut 135 before 145. 145 is not a real weight class, in part because it hasn’t been built, and 135 is the marquee women’s division. I have always been mildly intrigued by the idea of “women’s heavyweight” just being any weight above 125 pounds, but that’s never going to happen either. The UFC is going to hold onto 145 until Nunes retires, at which point it will vanish like the lightweight division once did. C’est la vie.

Amanda Nunes’ 145 run

It 100-percent did more good, for a few of reasons. First, it allowed her to become a two-division champion. I hold winning multiple title in less esteem than most, but it’s undeniably cool to say she was the first two-weight world champion in women’s MMA history. Second, and tied to the first part, it let her fight Cris Cyborg, which aside from making her a bundle of money, functionally cemented her as the top pound-for-pound fighter in WMMA and the GOAT. Lastly, it kept her busy; 135 pounds is a pit of woeful despair when it comes to contenders, and so instead of fighting a litany of rematches, Nunes got to face a Megan Anderson and Felicia Spencer, solid wins on the résumé.

The only real arguments against the 145 sojourn are that it may have made making 135 more difficult, and that if she had stayed at 135 the entire time, she’d have more title defenses of that belt, for record purposes. I truly don’t think the cutting weight thing matters at all, and while I’m a huge proponent of title defenses as a signifier of greatness, Nunes has seven total title defenses of two belts, which is still excellent.

There’s a reason Nunes keeps saying she wants to defend both belts with a win tonight: It’s more cache, more money, and more options for her moving forward.

UFC 277 Prelims

There’s no doubt about it, they aren’t good. Fortunately, the main card is exceptional and that’s the one we’re having to shell out the $75 for, so I’ll take that exchange any day of the week. I will also add that I think there’s a high likelihood for a lot of finishes on the undercard tonight. The matchups may be absent name value, but a lot of the fights look like they should set up for action. Let us hope, anyway.

Dastardly genius

First off, I hate how fascinated I am by this. We started talking about it earlier this week and it’s been in my head ever since, because the real answer is: I have no idea!

Paddy Pimblett is a monstrously huge star, and people like that bend betting lines. Pimblett has been a bigger favorite than he “should” have been in all of his fights because the public loves him and puts money down on him (the same thing happens with every star). But as a result, I could see this line be much closer than people think. Especially since Tony Ferguson hasn’t won a fight since beating Donald Cerrone in 2019. My gut tells me that Ferguson still opens as a decent favorite though, in the -210 range.

As for the matchup, I kind of think it’s perfect. Pimblett is a huge star and Ferguson rides the line between tough matchup and big name very well. The issue with Paddy is that a loss could end all the fun, and so having him fight steps up in competition runs a high risk of ending the party too soon. With Ferguson though, a former interim champion and star in his own right, a loss would not derail Pimblett, but could be explained away as “too much too soon” for the Scouser. And of course if he wins, it’s huge for him. And make no mistake, I wouldn’t favor him to win, but he absolutely could. Ferguson is clearly on the decline and Pimblett is a very good grappler. There’s a world where he takes “El Cucuy” down and just smothers him.

Honestly, I kind of hope this is the fight they make next.

Petr Yan vs. Sean O’Malley

Absolutely perfect matchmaking.

For one, it’s like O’Malley said himself, there really was no one else to book him against. The rest of the top 15 all have dance partners or are injured, so in some ways this books itself. But from a business standpoint, the UFC is freerolling a shot at making a legitimate superstar. If Yan wins, it’s no harm, no foul. Yan is a former champion, a guy some people still think is the best in the world, and he’s expected to win. Yan doing Yan things to O’Malley won’t hurt the “Suga” stock a bit.

But if O’Malley wins? Whoa buddy, he’s on a whole new stratosphere of stardom. O’Malley is already one of the more popular fighters in the UFC — a win over Yan will cement him as a legitimate top talent, and you can put the boosters on him because he’s going straight to the moon. And here’s the sneak part: O’Malley actually can win this fight!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m picking Yan to get the W. But Yan is a slow starter who builds momentum as the fight goes on. That style is much more effective in five-round fights, and with only 15 minutes, there is absolutely a world where O’Malley uses his length to pick Yan off early or out-point him for the first two rounds. Again, it’s not the most likely outcome, but definitely in the range of possibilities.

Fighting animals

You might be surprised to hear that I have spent an unreasonable amount of time debating this question (or substantially similar ones), and while I have some controversial opinions (I’ll get to those shortly), mostly I think my views can be objectively agreed upon.

But this?

Some of these were so shockingly bad that it kept me up at night. A moose would not “whoop me decent,” it would obliterate my body with alarming alacrity! Whoop me decent implies a moral victory. As in I’d lose but could make it the full 15 minutes. Moose are 6 feet tall and weigh over 1,000 pounds! The best I’m doing against a friggin’ moose is bleeding in its eye and giving it an infection after I’m dead. So, in light of this, and because I can do what I want, I will be ending this week with the appropriate tiering here.

My Lunch: Penguin, Turtle, Beaver.

This category is basically all the animals that I’m substantially larger than that aren’t especially quick and/or can’t fly. Platypus could arguably be included under those parameters, but they also have a venomous spur that complicates kicking it. Any bird that can fly isn’t “My Lunch” because I don’t have wings or a goddamn jet pack, so while it might not be able to kill me, I’m going to struggle to kill it too. Fish are the interesting one because the battle dynamics determine the winner. Underwater? I have zero shot. On land, any fish has zero shot. Venue will decide out fate.

Whoop Them Decent: Duck, Flamingo, Vulture, Raccoon, Aardvark

For simplicity’s sake, I’m putting the flying animals here because if they cannot fly, I win convincingly, but they still would suck to fight. Have you ever met a pissed off duck? I have and they’re not enjoyable.

Fair Fight: Dog, Hyena, Wolf, Badger, Gazelle, Fish, Octopus, Shark, Orca, Dolphin

This will be by far the most contentious tier but it’s the one I’m the most confident in. Dogs, hyenas, and wolves are all basically the same animal, and if you’re only taking on one and not a pack, it’s a 50/50 fight. I’m not saying you won’t get hurt — you will — but so will the dog/wolf/hyena. And if it’s life or death, I think most people can hold their own with a dog/wolf/hyena.

As for the aquatic animals, it’s as mentioned before: Venue matters. An orca stands no chance against me in the middle of the Sahara, and I stand no chance against a great white in the ocean. Even stevens.

The badger should potentially be a tier lower given our enormous size advantage, but out of respect to the honey badger’s absolute fearlessness, he gets bumped here.

Lastly, the gazelle. This is the one I have the most questions about but I defaulted to the view that humans have been persistent hunting gazelle (or similar) for thousands of years, and so I’m calling this one even. Willing to be called wrong on this one though.

Whoop Me Decent: Alligator, Komodo Dragon, Tapir, Snake, Ostrich, Warthog, Llama

All of these animals should win in a fight against a person, but there is at least a path to victory for the human.

Steve Irwin made a career of fending off gators and that’s at least replicable, though killing it still seems a tall order bare-handed. Feel somewhat similar with the Komodo Dragon. The key is to get behind it.

Tapir’s are not really a violent animal but they outweigh us by several hundred pounds, which is really enough. Same for llamas. Warthogs are aggressive but they aren’t that big and we’re smarter. There’s some small hope of a win.

Ostriches are a tough out, but you can find videos of people subduing them without tools. The neck is a weak point.

Snakes is the big open category. Depending on the snake, it’s either an easy fight or certain death. More often than not, it feels like the snake wins though.

Certain Doom: Bear, Lion, Elephant, Big Cat, Baboon, Gorilla, Rhino, Hippo, Moose, Zebra, Walrus, Giraffe, Deer

You have no way to win a fight bare-handed and also no way to not get torn to shreds. Thank God we figured out pointed sticks, because the world really would have annihilated us a long time ago had we not.

Thanks for reading and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about things at least somewhat related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck, because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew, and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. Send them to me and I’ll answer the ones I like the most. Let’s have fun.

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