Nunes beats Pena to regain UFC bantamweight title
Last updated on .From the section Mixed Martial Arts
Amanda Nunes outpointed Julianna Pena in an absorbing rematch to reclaim her bantamweight title at UFC 277 in Dallas, Texas.
The victory over the 32-year-old means Nunes, who also holds the featherweight title, becomes the first two-time double champion in UFC history.
"We make history again, this is the best day in my life," said Nunes.
In the co-main event, Brandon Moreno claimed the interim flyweight title as he stopped Kai Kara-France in the third round with a crushing body kick.
Following the bout, the division's champion Deiveson Figueiredo joined Moreno in the cage as the pair agreed to an unprecedented fourth fight for the undisputed title.
New coaching team pays off for Nunes
Pena sensationally submitted Nunes in Las Vegas seven months ago, ending her 12-fight win streak to win the title in one of the biggest shocks in UFC history.
The defeat was Nunes' first in seven years in a run that had seen the 'Lioness' beat a number of current and former champions including Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg and Valentina Shevchenko twice.
Pena was keen to point out her victory was not a fluke in post-fight interviews, reminding critics she had predicted her title reign from the moment the fight was announced.
The pair's rivalry gained another layer after they were confirmed as coaches of opposing teams on the UFC's reality television series the Ultimate Fighter.
Nunes came into the rematch with a new coaching team following her decision to set up her own gym after the defeat by Pena, citing a desire for her own space.
The changes she had made to her game were evident from the start, as she adopted a southpaw stance that she has rarely shown in previous fights.
After rocking Pena with right hands twice in the first round, Nunes asserted full control in the second as she floored her three times, becoming the first woman in UFC history to knock an opponent down three times in the same round.
In the third the Brazilian showcased her grappling prowess as she took Pena down and cut her open with a number of slashing elbows on the mat.
Pena's team knew the champion was behind, urging her to apply more pressure and look for a finish in the latter rounds.
Despite a number of armbar and triangle attempts on the ground from Pena, Nunes navigated the threats safely on her way to victory.
As the fight reached its conclusion, she danced on the spot confident she would regain her title, while a bloodied Pena lay on the mat.
The win silences critics who suggested Nunes had lost her hunger after being the dominant woman in the sport for so long.
Nunes praised her new coaching team in the post-fight interview.
"The best thing I did was make my dream happen [move gyms]," said Nunes.
"I feel like I can grow even more now - I've evolved even more.
"Now I have a chance to go back to Brazil and see my family that I miss so much. Please let me rest a little, and I'll come back as soon as possible."
The co-main event saw Mexico's Brandon Moreno take on New Zealand's Kai Kara France for the interim flyweight title, with current champion Deiveson Figueiredo out injured watching on cage-side.
In a close-fought contest, it was a devastating body kick by Moreno, 28, in the third round that proved the difference.
After trading strikes and leg kicks in the opening 10 minutes, Moreno drove his left leg into Kara-France's liver, dropping the New Zealand fighter in pain.
As Moreno jumped in, landing a flurry of punches, referee Herb Dean stopped the fight, crowning Moreno as champion.
Following the bout, Figueiredo joined Moreno in the cage as the pair agreed to a historic fourth fight for the undisputed title.
No two fighters have ever fought four times against each other in the UFC before.
The pair drew the first, with Moreno winning the second and Brazil's Figueiredo avenging defeat in the third in January.
"I don't hate you, I forgive you, but don't be confused, I want to fight you for the belt in December," said Moreno.
Figueiredo responded by requesting that the fight to take place in Brazil.
Elsewhere, home favourite Derrick Lewis suffered a first-round knockout at the hands of Russia's Sergei Pavlovich in their heavyweight bout, while Magomed Ankalaev defeated fellow light-heavyweight Anthony Smith for his ninth win in row.
In the main card's other flyweight bout, Alexandre Pantoja earned an impressive first-round submission over Alex Perez.
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