After a shocking upset cost her the bantamweight title in their first encounter, Nunes left no doubt in the rematch as she punished Julianna Pena for five consecutive rounds to win a lopsided unanimous decision. The judges scored the fight 50-45, 50-44 and 50-43 as Nunes became a two-time title holder at 135 pounds and a simultaneous two-division champion yet again while still holding featherweight gold as well.
“Honestly, when the lioness didn’t get the prey the first time, I set the trap better and I knew I’d get her the second time,” Nunes said following her victory. “Double champ again. Let’s go.
“The best thing that I did was make my gym happen. In my gym, I feel safe. I feel like I can grow even more. I’m really evolving even more. I was supposed to do this the first time but I was not ready for that. This is the best day ever in my life.”
It was a much more reserved approach for Nunes in the rematch as she learned her lessons from the first fight by staying on the outside while delivering some hard punches and several stiff kicks to the calf. Peña showed good defense as she timed her counters while trying to keep out of range from Nunes’ considerable power.
When Peña started moving forward with more aggression, Nunes tagged her with a big right hand that was continuously landing on target. Peña was dropped momentarily from a couple of those punches but Nunes stayed patient as she continued to set up her strikes rather than rushing forward to look for the finish.
Peña’s coaches looked to make some adjustments between rounds but she ended up being dropped hard to the canvas by another nasty right hand. With Peña on wobbly legs, Nunes cracked her with another big punch but somehow the former Ultimate Fighter champion refused to go away.
A straight left down the middle planted Peña on the mat yet again but Nunes still refused to go to the ground with her, which allowed “The Venezuelan Vixen” to recover enough to get back to her feet.
As the third round got started, Peña was continuously moving forward, putting punches in Nunes’ face as she looked to finally change the momentum in what had become a one-sided fight. Nunes countered with a takedown as she finally landed inside Peña’s guard where she began doing work on the ground.
With Peña stuck underneath her, Nunes began raining down elbows that opened a number of cuts on the head as blood began pouring out. Thanks to her success on the ground, Nunes continued to drag Peña down to the canvas where she exerted her dominance.
Peña was doing her best to threaten with submissions including an armbar that caught Nunes off guard for a moment but the Brazilian scrambled until she eventually broke free. From there, Nunes continued to punish from the top as Pena’s face turned into a bloody mess.
The strategy stayed the same for Nunes going into the final five minutes as she just kept putting Peña on the ground and then controlling the action from there. Nunes continued to hammer at Peña as she watched the seconds tick away until she was bantamweight champion again.
When Peña finally got back to her feet, she was wearing a crimson mask from several cuts along her forehead as Nunes celebrated her victory with her wife Nina and daughter Reagan joining her in the cage. With the win, Nunes is now looking for a little time off following back-to-back battles against Peña as well as coaching a season of The Ultimate Fighter against each other as well.
“Let me sit down, let me go back to Brazil. I haven’t seen my family in three years because of the pandemic,” Nunes said. “I need a little rest. I know you guys want to see me back but let the ‘Lioness’ rest a little bit and I’ll be back as soon as possible.”
Unless Nunes opts to go back to 145 pounds where virtually no contenders exist for her right now, it would seem a third fight against Peña would be the logical next move but for now it appears the reigning two-division UFC champion will allow the dust to settle and take a well-earned vacation before she makes any decisions where her career is involved.