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Heavy underdog Julianna Pena stuns Amanda Nunes at UFC 269

Updated December 12, 2021 - 8:58 am

Julianna Pena had been shouting from the rooftops for five years that she would beat Amanda Nunes if she got the chance.

She was right.

Pena submitted Nunes, widely considered the greatest female fighter in UFC history, in the second round of the co-main event of UFC 269 on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena to take the women’s bantamweight title.

In the main event, Charles Oliveira submitted Dustin Poirier in the third round to win his 10th straight fight and retain the lightweight title.

Pena first called out Nunes after a UFC 200 win in the same building in July 2016, but she went 2-2 in her next four fights and took an extended absence for the birth of her daughter as Nunes was conquering two divisions and building a Hall of Fame resume.

Pena backed up every word once the bell rang.

“I’m not surprised …,” she said, channeling a famous Nate Diaz quote.

After Nunes controlled the first round, Nunes stood toe-to-toe and traded big right hands. The lengthy exchanges brought the crowd to its feet, and Pena, more known for her grappling, seemed to be less affected by the shots than Nunes.

Nunes eventually dropped to the canvas, and Pena secured a choke that forced an almost immediate tap from Nunes.

“I told you, don’t ever doubt me again,” said Pena, at +650 the second-biggest underdog to win a UFC women’s title fight. “I definitely expected to win. The world is my oyster. You have the ability to do anything you want in this life, and I proved that tonight.”

Nunes, who still holds the featherweight belt, had won 12 straight fights.

“I knew she was a warrior that can get hit and still come forward,” Nunes said. “I just shut down tonight. I did everything I trained for, but there were some things I thought I had fixed in training that appeared again tonight.”

Oliveira also won by locking in a choke, though his was secured while he was on the back of a standing Poirier.

It was his first title defense after winning the belt by knocking out Michael Chandler in May.

“I’m the world champion,” Oliveira said. “I’m the man. They talk; I do.”

Said Poirier: “It sucks, man. I worked hard to get back here and fight for another world title, and I got choked out again. I’m heartbroken.”

Poirier, who was coming off back-to-back wins over Conor McGregor, found success in the first round with his striking. He got the better of the exchanges and thought he had hurt Oliveira on a few occasions.

Oliveira answered and then took control in the second round by landing in top position after a scramble and pinning Poirier to the mat for the final four minutes of the round.

“They can hit me a lot, but I’m going to walk forward,” Oliveira said.

Poirier said he didn’t fight too hard to get off his back in the second round because he didn’t want to potentially give up his back, but that’s exactly what happened when the third round began.

Oliveira jumped on Poirier’s back as he stood facing the cage and locked in the choke after some hand-fighting for position.

“I landed some good clean shots,” Poirier said. “I thought I could put him away, but he’s a champ. The game plan was to take my time, but I got in a brawl again.”

Rising bantamweight star and fan favorite Sean O’Malley kicked off the pay-per-view card with a first-round knockout of Raulian Paiva.

O’Malley scaled back on some of his usual flashy strikes and instead snapped Paiva’s head back with several jabs in the opening minutes until he found his range.

He eventually dug his heels in near the cage and opened up until he got the finish.

“I wanted to put him up against the cage and tee off like ‘Canelo’ (Alvarez),” O’Malley said. “I think he’s one of the toughest guys I have fought, but when I land those big shots, I’m going to take you out. That’s what happened.”

Also on the main card, Geoff Neal won a split decision over Santiago Ponzinibbio in a battle of fringe welterweight contenders.

The two former bantamweight champions on the card had mixed results.

Dominick Cruz scored a unanimous decision over Pedro Munhoz, and Cody Garbrandt was knocked out in the first round by Kai Kara-France.

Garbrandt was making his debut at 125 pounds, dropping in weight after losing four of his past five fights since losing the belt at 135.

It didn’t go much better for him at flyweight. Garbrandt survived the first wave of crushing right hands, grabbing hold of Kara-France and getting a takedown to briefly slow the attack.

Once separated, Kara-France went back to work.

Garbrandt is 1-5 in six fights since capturing the title by beating Cruz on Dec. 30, 2016, at T-Mobile Arena.

Cruz, who missed 3½ years after that loss with injury, improved to 2-1 since making his return last year.

He was knocked down twice by Munhoz in the first round only to rally in the final 10 minutes by keeping him off balance with constant movement and a cardio edge.

Heavyweight slugger Tai Tuivasa recorded his fourth straight knockout victory, finishing Augusto Sakai 26 seconds into the second round.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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