Julianna Peña had a huge upset over Amanda Nunes at UFC 269

Massive underdog Julianna Peña (r.) Defeated Amanda Nunes (l.) By submission last night.
Photo: Getty Images

Julianna Peña staged the performance of a lifetime on Saturday night at UFC 269. Few had predicted she would stand a chance against UFC flyweight and bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, a woman with tin hands. Nunes had eliminated his last 12 opponents dating back to 2015. This includes a unanimous decision win over Germaine de Randamie in 2019, who introduced Peña in 2020 despite being known more for her strikes than her holds.

This was Peña’s second loss in his previous four fights. The other was a submission defeat to Valentina Shevchenko, who pushed Nunes into a 2017 championship fight but still recorded a split decision defeat. In Nunes’ recent victories, the question is usually asked, in the midst of a dominant unanimous decision win, or after a quick conclusion: “Who can provide you with a challenge?”

The answer to this question surprisingly turned out to be Peña. She took a hit in the first round on Saturday night, but while on the ground she managed to keep the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt from finishing it the same way Shevchenko and de Randamie did. It forced Nunes to expend some energy early in the fight, and Peña’s angle calmed her between Round 1 and Round 2 by saying “We have it right where we want it.”

A corner tip like that sounds as ridiculous as predicting Peña will win the fight, but what was even more savage was the start of round two. Peña began trading blows with the stone-fisted Nunes. Even though the swelling in Peña’s left eye increased, she was able to hold a candle to that champion and eventually put her on her back. Peña then jumped on Nunes and subdued her with a naked rear choke.

This is a New York Giants defeating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII of a shocking kind, and is arguably the biggest in UFC history. Nunes was a -1200 favorite to defeat Peña. Before Saturday night, what was commonly considered the greatest upheaval in UFC history was Matt Serra who eliminated arguably the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, Georges St. Pierre.

Serra had the opportunity to fight St. Pierre almost like a gimmick. He won the welterweight competition in the fourth season of The last fighter, back in the days when the UFC’s cable television partner was Spike TV, and for that season there weren’t two top contenders to coach teams of opposing fighters as they prepared for their big pay-per-view showdown. The prize for The last fighter 4 it was a fight for the championship. St. Pierre was a -1300 favorite to defeat Serra and lost by TKO in the first round.

It’s a personal choice as to which legend was more shocking to see punched, St. Pierre being ground and pounded into flesh by Serra, or Nunes being shot down and choked by Peña, but Saturday night will enter the annals of sports history.

A -1200 underdog with a .500 win rate over the past five years has eliminated a fighter who many thought had no valid challengers. There is always the possibility of this happening, but it rarely happens.

Is there a chance Mike Tyson will lay an egg against Buster Douglas in a heavyweight championship fight, or that Mike White has the most yards spent in the NFL in his first career as a starter.

However, these jaw-dropping upheavals did not mean that these losers suddenly became the unstoppable forces their highly favored enemies were perceived to be. The Giants didn’t win another playoff game for four years. Serra lost three of his next four fights before retiring, including a second-round TKO defeat to St. Pierre in the rematch. Douglas lost the heavyweight title in his next bout and never regained it, and White hasn’t played since his four interceptions against the Buffalo Bills.

Perhaps this will be Peña’s fate as she will likely be a loser again every time she and Nunes have their rematch, but for now he becomes the fan favorite David. Peña used his slingshot to smother a mixed martial arts Goliath. For now she is the champion, and her performance will be remembered forever.


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