MMA: 'Lioness' Nunes is back after blasting Pena to reclaim UFC bantamweight crown

Brazil's Amanda Nunes lost the belt to Julianna Pena in 2021, but won it back after a five-round battle on July 30, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

DALLAS, TEXAS (REUTERS) - Amanda Nunes put on a mixed martial arts clinic to beat Julianna Pena by unanimous decision after a thrilling five-round battle in front of a crowd of 19,442 at the American Airlines Centre in Dallas on Saturday (July 30), reclaiming the UFC bantamweight title.

Nunes' five-year reign as bantamweight champ came to an end when she lost the belt to Venezuela's Pena in December 2021. But the Brazilian took it back on Saturday with a striking masterclass before moving the fight to the mat and surviving a number of dangerous submission attempts from Pena.

Fighting out of a southpaw stance, the 34-year-old dropped Pena three times in the second round - twice with her right hand and once with her left - as her opponent struggled to find her range. Pena (12-5) did not fare much better on the ground.

"I had a bad night, but I know I was going to come back," Nunes (22-5) said about her loss seven months ago. "I am 'The Lioness'. I knew I would come back and now I am the champ again."

Nunes pulled off a string of takedowns over the final three rounds and spent most of her time in top position, but she had to survive a threatening attempt at an armbar submission midway through the fourth round as Pena, 32, fought desperately off her back with Nunes raining down elbows on top of her.

The judges rewarded Nunes with a unanimous decision victory (50-45, 50-44, 50-43) that saw her add the bantamweight belt to her featherweight title as she regained her status as reigning champion in two weight classes.

In the co-main event of UFC 277, Brandon Moreno scored a third-round TKO win over Kai Kara-France set up with a thunderous kick to the body to win the interim flyweight title. The Mexican will now face Deiveson Figueiredo for the undisputed title.

The interim title was created because current titleholder Figueiredo was unable to make the date as he recovered from hand and knee injuries.

Figueiredo and Moreno have fought three times and each has gone 1-1-1, with both claiming the title in their wins.

The Brazilian was brought into the cage and they exchanged words to set up their fourth fight. "I don't hate you," said Moreno, who is 5-1-1 in his past seven. "I want to fight against you in December. Let's go in December."

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