Julianna Pena shocked the world with her second round submission of long-time UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes on Saturday night, and as the dust begins to settle she’s now breaking down how she managed to defeat ‘The Lioness’.
Pena says her gameplan was to take the fight to Nunes and make her tire, and it wasn’t long before she started to see signs that it was a strategy that was paying off.
“I had her in trouble in Round 1, and I knew that’s the moment,” Pena recalled on The MMA Hour show. “I was like, man, if this is how our grappling exchanges are going to be, I can do this all night long, and especially the amount she was breathing. She was just like, [panting], and I’m just, cool.”
That only reaffirmed Pena’s belief that the double-champ struggles when she’s not the aggressor.
“She’s a fighter that doesn’t do well when she’s fighting against adversity,” Pena said. “When she’s the bully and she’s the pressure, she’s great – girls fold, they crumple. But when she is being bullied and when she is being pressured, that’s what she can’t handle, and that’s what I knew was the case. You saw that when she was fighting Cat Zingano; Cat Zingano broke her, and I think maybe in Invicta I saw somebody else break her, too. She’s had losses. Those types of scenarios I knew still existed in her, and it just needed a chance to break through and rear it’s ugly head, and the only way to do that is to get somebody tired and make them work and make them fight.
“I told everybody: The only way you fight this type of firepower is when you fight fire with fire, and I knew that was how it was going to be. It was going to take more than one shot to put me away and put me down. I can take a shot, as you guys have seen from my previous fights. I think that when I was rocking her on the fight, I saw my team, I just see in my peripheral view, my team going ‘Go, go, go get her!’ So that’s when I pressed her to the cage, and the takedown was there, and the choke came in just as I practiced as well. The stars were aligning.”
Some have said that Pena’s eventual rear-naked choke finish wasn’t even fully in and that Nunes simply quit on herself, but the newly crowned champion insists that she’d been working on this modified version of the choke in training and that it left the Brazilian star with no chance of escaping.
“She had no choice but to tap. People want to say she quit – she didn’t quit, she was getting choked. She had no choice but to tap – I would have broke her neck. She tapped because she had no choice.”
As for what comes next now that she is the champion, Pena is in no doubt about that.
“Amanda is the only matchup I think that makes sense for me and giving her that rematch,” Pena told MMAjunkie.