In the rematch, Nunes did exactly what she promised. With a new southpaw stance on the feet and a renewed wrestling game, Nunes defeated Peña via a dominant unanimous decision (50-45, 50-44, 50-43) in the main event of UFC 277 on Saturday night at American Airlines Center.
With the victory, Nunes, the greatest female fighter in MMA history, reclaimed the UFC women’s bantamweight title she lost to Peña at UFC 269 in December.
“The lioness, if they don’t get the prey the first time, I set the trap and I know I’d get it the second time,” Nunes said in her postfight interview.
Nunes dropped Peña with a check right hook out of the southpaw stance several times in the early rounds. As the fight wore on, Nunes began using her wrestling to take Peña down over and over, then cut her up from top position with slicing elbows.
Peña had several bad cuts on her face after the fourth round. Nunes nearly had a rear-naked choke finish in the fifth, but Peña was incredibly tough and fought it off.
After the first fight, Nunes left her longtime gym, American Top Team, and moved into a private facility she has dubbed Lioness Studio.
“The best thing I did was make my gym,” Nunes said. “In my gym, I feel like I’m safe. I feel like I can grow and evolve.”
Coming in, ESPN had Nunes ranked No. 2 and Peña ranked No. 4 on its pound-for-pound women’s MMA list. At bantamweight, Peña was No. 1 and Nunes was No. 2.
Nunes (22-5) was on a 12-fight winning streak before losing to Peña, with wins during that stretch over the likes of Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, Miesha Tate and Holly Holm. The Brazilian slugger, who trains out of South Florida, is also the UFC women’s featherweight champion.
Nunes, 34, is the first UFC fighter to defend two titles in separate weight classes concurrently — and has seven title defenses across two divisions, the most for a woman in UFC history.
Peña (11-5) had won two straight and seven of her nine previous fights overall coming in. The Washington-born fighter, who trains out of Chicago, beat Nunes via second-round submission seven months ago as a heavy underdog. Peña, 32, was the first female Ultimate Fighter tournament winner in 2013 and had been calling for a title shot for years prior to actually getting one.
Before dropping the bantamweight title to Peña, Nunes had beaten every fighter who ever held the UFC women’s bantamweight or featherweight belts. She completed that feat again with the win over Peña.