'I could see the change in her face': Delving into Julianna Peña's historic win over Amanda Nunes

LAS VEGAS – Julianna Pena’s face was blank and emotionless. On her knees, she reached over to hug Amanda Nunes. An inspector from the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) approached and gestured for Peña to go to his corner, where a ring doctor treated his bruised left eye.

Peña had just beaten the indomitable Nunes, the greatest female fighter of all time by almost any measure. She had just become the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion. She had just surprised the world.

The more than 18,000 people who attended UFC 269 Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena knew all of those things. Peña had no idea. He leaned over to ask the doctor what was going on.

“I said, ‘what happened?'” Peña said at the post-fight press conference. “He said, ‘It’s over, that’s it. Congratulations.’ I was like, ‘Oh! Gosh, I didn’t even know.’

Peña thought that perhaps the assault was over and she and Nunes would continue fighting. He never felt or saw Nunes play in surrender, which he did at 3:26 into the second round. But after speaking with the doctor and his trainer Rick Little, a smile formed on Peña’s face. And all of a sudden, he started climbing up the cage to celebrate.

That image won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Peña, a +650 underdog according to Caesars Sportsbook, ended Nunes’ 12-fight winning streak. UFC President Dana White said the surprise was “up there” with Matt Serra’s surprising knockout of Georges St-Pierre in 2007 among the greatest in UFC history.

How did Peña amazingly become a UFC women’s bantamweight champion on Saturday night? ESPN asked several people who had a first-hand perspective of the epic moment to recall what they saw.

Nunes won the first round comfortably, dropping Peña with a right hand, reversing a takedown attempt by Peña, and spending the rest of the round on top in position on the ground.

Little: “I loved the first round. I loved how it went. I was worried that [Nunes] I could run. “

Mike Brown, , Nunes’ coach at American Top Team: “The fight at first was a bad idea. I thought it was terrible to go to the ground with [Peña]. At first maybe [si Nunes no luchaba] she “would have [tenido] the power to get her out of there. “

Peña hit a left hook that caught Nunes’s attention 12 seconds into the second round. At 1:00 minute, Peña landed a great combination, his most significant punches of the fight so far. She was throwing straight punches, countering Nunes’s turn to the right.

Pain: “Everyone thinks I’m just an expert on the ground or I’m just a person to fight below. But in mixed martial arts you have to be well versed everywhere. I have confidence on my feet, I have confidence on the ground.”

Michael Chiesa, Peña’s longtime teammate, who was watching from the front row: “Julie was well prepared to wield Amanda’s power. When she came out and went head-to-head with her in round 2, I knew that was it. the change of momentum in which she would take over the fight. “

By 1:40 minutes into the second round, Peña and Nunes were in a full-blown firefight. Both women were throwing heavy blows and taking damage. Nunes started to bleed from his nose. Peña’s left eye began to swell.

White: “They were standing opposite each other and they were both pitching. [Peña] he was definitely landing more punches. But Julianna’s face was also bursting. Julianna was taking some hits too. “

Brown: “I told [a Nunes], ‘Take it easy. Straight strokes. One and two, use your feints. ‘

Peña hit two big left hooks at 1:55 of the second round. Nunes’s hands fell immediately. In the blows, Peña’s mouth guard fell off. Referee Marc Goddard had to retrieve it and put it back in Peña’s mouth. Peña continued to exchange blows with Nunes.

Pain: You are on the horse. Don’t get off the horse. We could do this all day. I was comfortable, I was ready. I could see the change in her face. And then I can see my corner. ‘Come on, come on, come on, come on, come on!’ “

Little: “I knew when I saw Amanda, she gave her a certain look. She did in the fight with Cat Zingano and other fights. I’ve seen it. When you defend yourself, there is a shaky look that she gives. And you can’t do that. With a girl like Julianna. She’s an absolute killer, and if you give her a chance, she’ll go after you. “

Nunes hit a big right hand at 2:28, but Peña kept coming. Nunes has knocked out people like Cris Cyborg with blows like that, but he couldn’t stop Peña.

Brown: “It seemed that [Nunes] it was a little out of control. He wasn’t fighting smart at all. I was just fighting. I think he thought maybe in his head he’s just going to break her and get her out of there or something. But she just wasn’t preparing anything. “

White: “I thought Amanda looked like she was getting tired.”

Little: “I honestly wasn’t happy with what I was doing [Peña], because I knew that at any moment we could have taken her there. Once we had Amanda a little fatigued, I knew the takedowns were coming – Julie took down Sara McMann, an Olympian … I was sitting there saying, “Grab her.” [Peña] was in the moment. That’s all Julianna. You can’t say training. That was not the plan. This was not how he wanted her to fight her. It was in the corner on the edge of my seat. “

At 3:01 minutes, Peña landed four punches in a row that hurt Nunes. Then Peña followed up with a great four-shot combo that pushed Nunes into the cage. Peña kept throwing punches and Nunes started a clinch to slow things down. Peña pushed Nunes against the cage, landed a knee to the body and dropped Nunes at 3:15 with a well-executed shot from the bodylock position. Seven seconds later, Peña had Nunes’s back with Nunes in a turtle position and wrapped his left arm around Nunes’s neck.

Little: “This sounds crazy, but we have a choke that we’ve been working on and I knew if [Nunes] I turned my back on him, it was going to be a mooring. It’s a hybrid rear choke and it cuts your throat, man. It’s disgusting. It’s a nasty choking on the windpipe. If you’re sucking wind, it’s bad. It feels like your head is going to explode. We are tearing the chin and the strangulation lengthens the neck more than it strangles it. We want forward pressure. The strangulation was perfect. “

With Peña choking her and neither of Peña’s legs hooking the inside of Nunes’s legs like a traditional bare butt choke, Nunes bent her head to the carpet. Peña kept pressing and Peña played in surrender at 3:26 minutes.

Pain: “I saw it dripping [sangre] a little up the nose and put the choke on, but wasn’t sure. I did not realize that she touched to surrender. I remember when I put it down, I thought, ‘man, I wish someone could tell me how much time I have left in the round.’ Because he didn’t know how much time was left. And then after that, the referee picked me up and they threw me into the corner. “

Chiesa: “When Julie finished Amanda, I was obviously overwhelmed with happiness. It was a very emotional moment for me. I know all the trials and tribulations she went through to get to that moment. That ending was an accumulation of her 14 years. [de entrenamiento] dedicated to this sport “.

After speaking with the ring doctor and later with Little, Peña knew for a fact that he had done what many considered impossible. She had become a champion, something she has been saying she could do since 2016. Meanwhile, Nunes was treated by a doctor and his wife Nina, a UFC female strawweight fighter, approached her in the cage.

Then the celebration began.

Pain: “I’ve been [peleando] for 13 years and never jumped into the cage before, never. He had never been in the cage before. [Mis esquinas] They were like, ‘Get in the cage. ‘I was like,’ OK, this is my time to get in the cage! ‘ When I got there, I thought, oh, this is kind of scary. But I was happy. That’s when I realized that ‘You did it’. I was euphoric, literally euphoric. One of the best moments of my life. “

Brown: “I believe that [Nunes] He’s had a lot of pressure for a long time and I think maybe now he’s feeling a little bit of relief. I think he was a bit in that mode. “

Little: “This is crazy. [Peña] and I started [a entrenar] in a garage. To be honest, it still hasn’t assimilated. It doesn’t feel real yet. I’ve heard people say that and I didn’t understand it. But it doesn’t feel real and it hasn’t been assimilated. “

White: “We have seen it so many times. Anything is possible in this sport.”

Pain: “Amanda has been a great champion. She has done a lot for the sport. For me, to be able to bring out without a doubt the best of all time … is something that is still going through at the moment.”