Julianna Pena was quite proud of her ability to battle through adversity against Sara McMann at UFC 257.
“The Venezuelan Vixen” spent the majority of the first round on her back and was taken down again in Round 2, but Pena was able to stay active from her back with submissions before returning to her feet, where she attacked the Olympic silver medalist with knees and punches. That momentum carried into the final stanza, as Pena landed a takedown of her own, transitioned to McMann’s back and secured a rear-naked choke submission at the 3:39 mark.
“The most important thing is to keep moving and keep the fight going no matter what. Never be in a stalemate position, never be flat on your back,” Pena said. “Always keep the fight going and focus in every position that I am and be present in every position that I am. If I’m on my back, I know that I can still threaten with submissions off my back. I can still throw strikes as long as I’m continuing to move throughout the fight, that’s all I care about.
“Of course there were times when you like wished you had sprawled harder so she didn’t get the takedown quite so easily, but I think that that just comes with the time,” Pena continued. “As long as you can stay cool, calm and collected in there, I think that that’s the most important thing. It’s just not to lose your head and not to be over in the moment, just be in the present moment and that’s what I focused on.”
The victory allowed “The Ultimate Fighter 18” winner to rebound from a submission loss to Germaine de Randamie in her lone appearance of 2020. Overall, Pena is 6-2 in UFC competition, with her only other defeat coming at the hands of current flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko.
“You always learn from your losses, but Germaine was in the past,” Pena said. “All those fights are in the past. I’m thinking about moving forward and being present and Sara was my opponent. I was thinking about Sara McMann only. Now I can move forward and think about who’s next, but the only person that I see that makes sense to me is Amanda Nunes.”
Nunes, the UFC’s reigning champion at featherweight and bantamweight, is slated to defend her 145-pound belt against Megan Anderson at UFC 259 on March 6. “Lioness” last put the 135-pound title on the line against de Randamie at UFC 245, where she won a unanimous decision.
Pena believes her resume is deserving of a title shot and that her skillset could cause some problems for Nunes.
“Coming off of fighting three former world champions in a row and then I just beat the best wrestler in the division and Amanda can’t fight wrestlers,” Pena said. “When you saw her fight against Cat Zingano, she got ragdolled and got stopped in the second round.
“I am a nightmare in this division. I’m coming off of a win in devastating fashion, a rear-naked choke, a win by submission, a stoppage. I think that that’s enough to give me the fight with Amanda, especially since she is fighting a girl with only three wins and a girl who hasn’t had quite the resume that I’ve had. I’ve had the toughest road in the division, more than anybody.”