2021 was an overall positive year for Latinos, but closing out with a 135-pound champion is something few would have predicted. Julianna Peña, with Venezuelan and Mexican blood, kept the belt that the Brazilian Amanda Nunes held for more than 5 years.
But Julianna’s feat was not the only one in December, Dominick Cruz made it clear to us that neither time nor injury has kept him from the best at bantamweight and he remains undefeated in non-championship fights.
Speaking of bantamweight Sergio Pettis got one of the best knockouts of the year defending his belt over Japan’s Kioji Horiguchi. December brought great news for Latinos in the big leagues and some contrasts
The “Venezuelan Vixen” can boast the 135-pound belt and probably one of the biggest upsets in UFC history by subduing Amanda Nunes in the second round of the co-star at UFC 269.
A career with long absences due to injury and some unexpected defeats caused his wait to be more than five years to contest the championship, but in the end, Peña keeps the crown and a message for the millions who doubted her.
It seemed that Pedro Munhoz would surprise him in the first episode, the former bantamweight champion overcame to take the victory at UFC 269 and open a range of possibilities for his future at 36 years old. The fight with former featherweight champion José Aldo seems closer than ever, however there are other names like Sean O’Malle and Chito Vera appearing on the horizon. His footwork and heading are still intact and we can’t rule out Mexican-American in the title dispute anytime soon.
The king of Bellator’s bantamweight division is consolidated and even though it looked like he was losing the fight to Kioji Horiguchi, he was working to surprise him until he sent him to sleep with a spinning fist.
Pettis was crowned this year against Juan Archuleta and is now preparing for 2022, where he will have to defend three times if he wants to win the million dollars for the 135-pound tournament, the youngest of the brothers of Puerto Rican and Mexican origin wrote his own story.
Although he had to face Macy Chiasson at more than 145 pounds, he managed to close the year with two wins. Something very important for the fighter of Mexican origin who had to go more than 15 months without fighting for a suspension and was removed from the ranking.
Now, with victories against Pannie Kianzad and Chiasson, who was classified, they will give him an important leap to return to the title conversation, which already played at the time against Amanda Nunes, but today the division has a new queen.
The good news was the Argentine’s return in 2021, but unfortunately he closed the year with a loss to Geoff Neal, a complicated opponent who came out to make a conservative strategy in combat. While Santiago tried to fulfill his promise to knock out to gain attention in the Top 10 welterweight, Neal sought to secure his victory, seeing two losses in a row.
Santiago is there to compete with anyone in the division, but he took a step back from his title aspirations in the near future.
The Puerto Rican was the contrast of what we saw with Dominick Cruz, he faced a great opportunity against the legendary José Aldo, but he fell short. Although Font managed to impose his jab and kept his distance, he could not with the power of the Brazilian’s right hand, who also got the opportune takedowns to tie the decision of the judges.
Font remains among the best at 135 pounds and could face someone of quality in his next Octagon appearance, but he was very close to becoming the next challenger.
An injury took her off the card on Saturday and she will have to be intervened. She is 3-1 in the UFC and consensus dictates that she can be a threat in the bantamweight division, but after an abrupt gym change and lack of continuity, it seems we haven’t been able to see her to her full potential.
Paint for a comeback in the second half of 2022 at best.