There was a time, not too long ago, when Amanda Nunes took the field by such a margin that when a fight was booked you almost felt sorry for her opponents.
Those days are long gone, even though at the UFC 277 main event at the sold-out American Airlines Center in Dallas on Saturday, Nunes corrected the mistakes and defeated Juliana Pea in a bout to regain her championship was more competitive. seemed on the surface.
Nunes won by scores of 50-45, 50-44 and 50-43 and regained the women’s bantamweight belt when Pea presented her at UFC 269 in Las Vegas in December.
Nunes dropped Pea three times in the second round and was 6 out of 8 in takedowns in a five-round fight. Nunes had a control time of 11 minutes, 48 seconds in a 25-minute fight and Pea had none. Each fighter had a submission effort.
Look at those numbers on paper and give you a shrug and don’t think about it beyond that.
But Pea showed that he is probably the toughest fighter in the UFC as he absorbed an incredible amount of punishment but never stopped trying to win. Because he did Submit Nunes with a rear naked choke in the second round at Las Vegas in December; no one could see her efforts on Saturday.
He tried a triangle choke and a rear naked choke and an armbar and a kimura. Nunes had great submission defense and went out of them, and that’s one of the reasons why she’s clearly the greatest female fighter the game has ever seen.
But seven months ago, Pea reminded us what was possible, and so it must have been on everyone’s mind in Saturday’s rematch. Nunes went down an incredible three times to Pea in the second round, but did not pursue him on any of those occasions.
Nunes knew. She knew this was the only area that could cause her problems, even though she had a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
So Nunes fought carefully, strategically, and did not go into the fray with Pea until the fourth day when he changed his plan and started more scuffles. And when he did, Pea started making threats.
The performance didn’t get more love from his boss, UFC President Dana White. It did not earn a post-fight bonus, as Fight of the Night went to Brandon Moreno and Kai Cara-France, and the performances of the night were awarded to Alexandre Pantoza and Drew Dober.
Dominating over a great fighter like Pea would have been enough to win him over, at worst, a display of knight bonuses, but White was strangely calm on his attempt.
“Two things: I think Juliana is tough as nails and her desire to win is second to none,” White said when asked about Nunes’ performance at a post-fight news conference. “She wanted to win. As impressive as Amanda was, and she was impressive tonight, I didn’t think it was close in any way, shape or form. It was totally off, but she still got me a little bit.” Looked gun-shy.”
White refers to the way Nunes performed when he won the featherweight title from Chris Cyborg at UFC 232 in Los Angeles on December 29, 2018. He hurt Cyborg early in the stand-up and stood his ground and fluttered until Cyborg could move. But no more.
But that fight had some differences compared to Saturday. First, Nunes was fighting a woman who took her best punches and then handed it over. even if it is subconsciously, that was to impress him. More importantly, the 2018 version of Nuance was 30 years old. It’s version 34 and age is undoubtedly a factor.
Now, don’t take this as a suggestion that Nuance is ready for the glue factory, because she isn’t.
Nunes is also now a married mother, which is another factor. Before the birth of their daughter, Raegan, all that mattered to Nunes was fighting. But now, he’s got something else that’s taking some of his attention away from the fight.
She said in the Octagon on Saturday that she wants to take a vacation and is away from the cage for some time, and no one can deny her that. She has been an active champion and deserves time off.
Thus there is a chance that the next time she fights she will be 35 years old, as her birthday is on 30th May. But even if she is not, she will still be very close to that birthday. Of the 11 people who hold UFC titles today (Nunes has two), they are grouped in the age group of 28 to 35.
So this would suggest that he is on the back side of his prime. Now, Nunes is great, there are only a handful of fighters who can quite compete with her.
Pena, apparently, is one of them. So, too, is flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko, who lost a pair of close decisions to Nunes in bantamweight.
But who else? Nunes beat Cyborg in 51 seconds, but their rematch is no slam dunk in Nunes’ favor. But Cyborg is now with Bellator and there is no chance that she will ever fight Nunes in the UFC again. Kayla Harrison may be the one who can beat her, but Harrison fights at a lighter weight, so the only weight Nunes will gain will be at featherweight, and that’s with the PFL, so again, almost no chance of a fight between them Is.
So you have to wonder what Nunes will think after a few weeks of rest when he has time to reflect on his career. She said before the fight that she wanted to fight until she was 40, and that wouldn’t happen until May 28, 2028, however, it’s never wise to hold fighters for what they say before an important bout .
Does she survey the landscape and realize there aren’t too many fights that make sense? Perhaps.
At bantamweight, the top contender is now Caitlin Vieira. Anyone who witnessed his fight, Holly Holm would not consider him a serious threat to defeat Nunes. Who else? Holm? Irene Aldana? Raquel Pennington?
The Nunes have defeated most of them and the picking is slim.
She might come back and defend the title a few more times and make a couple of $2 million or $3 million paydays. That money, of course, will come in handy.
But there’s really no fight other than a rubber match with Pea or Shevchenko to make his blood boil.
Running as a goat unquestionably wouldn’t be the worst thing, though Nunes showed Saturday that he still has a lot to offer.
But she is no longer a child, and the level she achieved on Saturday is getting harder and harder to achieve.
It’s going to be seen. It’s no shock if she fights again, but it wouldn’t be surprising if she walks away at the top of the game rich, healthy and frankly, undisputed.