Julianna Pena punches Amanda Nunes during the women's bantamweight title match at UFC 269 on December 11, 2021.  (AP)

Here’s how to approach title rematch between Julianna Peña and Amanda Nunes

Six years ago, Amanda Nunes defeated Mischa Tate at UFC 200 to become champion of the women’s bantamweight division, less than a round away. She quickly accepted herself as the most feared woman in MMA and became the third fighter in promotion history to win two titles at once. After ousting Chris Cyborg for the featherweight belt, his biggest challenge was finding contenders who could lead him competitively and carry on his legacy. It may have taken more than half a decade, but last December, at UFC 269, he finally found that opponent. And Juliana Pea has the fourth longest singles title reign in UFC history.

As a massive +650 underdog, Pea stunned the entire MMA community by submitting Nunes in the second round. The inherent moneyline odds for Pea gave him a winning chance of a little over 13%, but you’d never know by looking at how the fight played out. This Saturday night at UFC 277, she remains a minor but vital underdog (+210) as she defends her title in a rematch against Nunes. The odds indicated that Pea’s unlikely win was likely an outlier, but is it worth betting on Nunes as a big favorite? Here’s how I played the main event, as well as my position on the heavyweight clash of the main cards.

Amanda Nunes’ best version wins this fight nine times out of 10, but the challenge lies in determining the likelihood that fighter will appear. We know that Nunes’ cardio was a deciding factor in the first meeting. Amanda scores the knockdown and controls Pea on the ground. But Nunes couldn’t make it out of the second round, a feature not featuring a fighter with experience competing in the championship round.

It was Nunes’ first cut of 135 pounds in two years, and the initial fight was called off to date when he contracted COVID-19 a week earlier. The circumstances around his conditioning should be much more favorable this time. That adds to my belief that cardio will never be less of a factor in Saturday night’s main event.

Julianna Pena punches Amanda Nunes during the women's bantamweight title match at UFC 269 on December 11, 2021.  (AP)

Julianna Pena punches Amanda Nunes during the women’s bantamweight title match at UFC 269 on December 11, 2021. (AP)

Other aspects of the original fight were inconsistent with each fighter’s career performance. Per Richard Mann, Pea averaged 16.01 critical strikes per minute and landed 78. The output from the range was higher than his last eight fights combined. Pea’s aggression was a tactical advantage, but duplicating it after months of having Nunes ready to counter isn’t something I’m running to bet on.

Unless Nunes’ gas tank betrays him for the second time in a row, the striking and battling advantages we saw in the first fight should last throughout the rematch. A more strategic approach to eliminating Pea would go a long way in avenging him and reclaiming the title. I think it’s a standing fight, with Nunes patiently mixing in leg kicks and big power shots from outside. After a few rounds of methodically knocking him to the feet, Pea will have no choice but to shoot casually for the takedown, narrowing his road to victory to crack Nunes’ historically strong 82% takedown defense. .

Control will be the determining factor, and I’m betting Saturday night Amanda Nunes will deliver in a big way. I’m sure we’ll see a more focused version of “The Lioness” as she puts at least one more final stamp on her legacy. Your cash is probably safe on Moneyline, but I see better value in betting Nuance to get the finish. It would be hard for Pea to last all five rounds without setting the terms of the fight. I will target Method-of-Victory props once the market opens at BetMGM.

The Bet: Amanda Nunes by KO/TKO, DQ or Submission (-135)

No one snatches victory from the jaws of defeat like “Black Beast”. His right hand is the ultimate equalizer, making him the quintessential underdog living. We’re moving Lewis into a perfect buy-less spot after skipping two of the last three matches, and I’m happy to roll the dice with a knockout performer against a fighter taking a big step forward in the competition .

Line speed leading to the guard’s favorite screams, with Lewis at the end of his career. However, his one-punch knockout prowess has a history of sabotaging the plans of the rising stars of the UFC. Pavlovic’s last three victories have come through first-round stoppages. An overly aggressive approach can be against a fighter his worst enemy, requiring only one mistake to turn off the opponent’s lights. Lewis has undoubtedly fought in front of his hometown, but I think he will be the loser this time around. How Pavlovich handles the adrenaline of his first UFC main card is an interesting dynamic that favors Lewis in my opinion. This fight should be close to the flip of a coin, so I’d value +120 for a small stake with the 24-fight UFC legend.

The Bet: Derrick Lewis (+120)

*data provided by ufcstats.com

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