UFC 269 saw the unthinkable happen.
Julianna Peña has conquered an unstoppable force, killing Amanda Nunes to become the new bantamweight champion.
After splitting his last four fights, Peña (11-4) did not appear to be up to the dominant Nunes (21-5), who had crushed their opponents in a 12-game winning streak. But the streak is meant to be broken, and that’s what happened when Peña submitted Nunes with an almost naked choke in the second round.
Despite an absorbing penalty on the mat in the first five minutes and then a facial injury in the second, Peña executed a flawless game plan, draining Nunes. And as Nunes’ facial expression changed from supreme confidence to abject doubt, Peña put Nunes on the mat and locked her submission. The upheaval sent shockwaves through the fighting world, rivaling Matt Serra’s TKO victory over Georges St-Pierre in 2007.
Charles Oliveira has also successfully defended the lightweight title, completely changing the narrative after entering the fight as an underdog against Dustin Poirier.
Poirier (28-7, 1 NC) broke through Oliveira (32-8, 1 NC) with fierce shots in the first round and looked like he was poised to win the fight. But Oliveira followed the same plan as in his title win over Michael Chandler by barely making it out of the first round and then taking control of the fight in the second. And while it was his strike that turned the tide against Chandler, it was on the mat this time, completely changing the direction of the fight.
The critical moment came in the third round. Oliveira took control of Poirier’s back and the artist of submission left no room for doubt. Oliveira forced Poirier to slap a naked starter from the back, effectively silencing any doubts that he couldn’t defeat Poirier. With this victory, Oliveira proved that he is the best lightweight in the world.
UFC 269 was a tribute to the sport. Sean O’Malley opened the map dramatically, showcasing his elite strike. O’Malley (15-1) pierced Raulian Paiva with a devastating right hand to the head, then capitalized with a left hook to the body before piercing him with punches for a TKO victory. Despite his tenacity, Paiva (21-4) was completely overwhelmed, further solidifying O’Malley as an emerging star in the bantamweight division.
Kai Kara-France also won the most significant victory of his career. Ranked sixth in the flyweight division, Kara-France (23-9, 1 NC) wiped out former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt, winning a first round TKO. Kara-France was extremely precise in all of his strikes. Two right hands helped cut the distance, and it was all mathematical after Kara-France followed that up with an overhand left rand / uppercut combination.
Garbrandt (12-5) has now lost five of his last six games, a far cry from five years ago when he was undefeated and beat Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight title. In a story of two fighters moving in completely opposite directions, Cruz (24-3) looked exceptional in the preliminaries, beating No.8 Pedro Munhoz in a unanimous decision victory. And in a ranked welterweight battle, No.12 Geoff Neal beat No.14 Santiago Ponzinibbio by split decision. The victory puts Neal (14-4) in a position to fight another ranked opponent after beating his first at Ponzinibbio (28-5).
As was widely expected, a title changed hands at UFC 269, but in unforeseen ways. Julianna Peña’s astonishing victory turns the fighting world on its axis, and the arrival creates the need for an unmissable rematch against Nunes.
And while it took 28 fights in the UFC for Charles Oliveira to become champion, it didn’t take long for him to assert his dominance as champion. Beating Poirier in his first title defense is a decisive victory for Oliveira. He is now preparing for Justin Gaethje, who will be his next challenger for the lightweight belt.
LIGHT COMBAT TITLE: CHARLES OLIVEIRA (c) VS. DUSTIN POIRIER – 12:27 a.m. ET
Charles Oliveira is calm everywhere except in the Octagon.
After absorbing a huge amount of punishments from Dustin Poirier, Oliveira took control of the fight in round two, then recovered Poirier in round three, almost immediately forcing Poirier to submit to his bare rear choke.
Oliveira (32-8, 1 NC) is now the best lightweight in the world. Poirier (28-7, 1 NC) is an elite fighter, but Oliveira did his best and then showed why he is an exceptionally skilled submission artist.
Poirier opened the first round with an outrageous amount of big shots. Oliveira somehow resisted that punishment, dealing a few punches but was clearly outmatched. The pace throughout the first five minutes was uninterrupted, and it continued that way until Oliveira settled on top of Poirier in the second round.
The critical moment came in the opening moments of round three, with Oliveira settling on Poirier’s back. He then locked onto a naked choke in the standing rear, and Poirier got no response.
Oliveira already had the most finishes in UFC history, and he’s now adding to that record by knocking out Poirier.
FIGHT FOR THE WOMEN’S ROOSTER WEIGHT TITLE: AMANDA NUNES (c) VS. JULIANNA PEÑA – 11:50 p.m. ET
After a win last January, Julianna Peña called Amanda Nunes.
And she got what she asked for at UFC 269. In one of the biggest upheavals in sports history, Peña overcame a seemingly unbeatable force, becoming the new women’s bantamweight champion.
Nunes (21-5) dominated Peña (11-4) in the first round, forcing the fight to the ground then refusing to give in. But the second round was a whole different set of circumstances, with Peña trading strikes with Nunes. Peña took control of this battle, wearing down Nunes and then putting her on the mat, that’s when she submitted it with a choke in the back.
After the fight, the damage to Peña’s face was clear, as Nunes certainly landed his fair share of shots. But Peña, just as she had promised, was too much for Nunes, who was exhausted halfway through the second round.
This match is tailor-made for a rematch, where, without a doubt, Nunes will always be the big favorite. But until then, the title – and the fighting world – belongs to Peña.
COMBAT IN WEIGHT welterweights: GEOFF NEAL VS. SANTIAGO PONZINIBBIO – 11:11 p.m. ET
Geoff Neal and Santiago Ponzinibbio traveled the distance in a ranked welterweight battle.
In an incredibly close fight, No.12 Neal defeated No.14 Ponzinibbio by split decision. Neal (14-4) controlled the third round, which was critical after two razor thin laps.
The defeat hurts Ponzinibbio (28-5), as the top 15 in the welterweight division is already overcrowded with talent. The victory will push Neal into another fight against a ranked opponent, giving him a lot of momentum for the New Year.
FLY WEIGHT FIGHT: CODY GARBRANDT VS. KAI KARA-FRANCE – 10:49 PM ET
Kai Kara-France’s heavy hands were too much for Cody Garbrandt, winning by KO just over three minutes after the first round.
Kara-France (23-9, 1 NC) was extremely precise, reducing the distance with two right hands, followed by an overhand left rand / uppercut combination that left Garbrandt (12-5) unable to defend himself. This is an incredibly important victory for Kara-France, who is quickly doing the job of a former bantamweight champion.
Reducing the weight and changing divisions often comes with problems, but it’s hard to say if durability is the reason Garbrandt lost when Kara-France pulled off such sharp shots. Garbrandt’s loss of TKO is devastating, and he’s now lost five of his last six fights. After beating Dominick Cruz (who looked exceptional in a unanimous decision victory in the preliminaries over Pedro Munhoz) in December 2016 to win the bantamweight title, it was almost all downhill for Garbrandt.
Kara-France’s next goal is a title shot. Already ranked sixth in the division, he is certainly in the game with this resounding victory.
COQ WEIGHT FIGHT: SEAN O’MALLEY AGAINST. RAULIAN PAIVA – 10:25 p.m. ET
The unranked UFC champion has just passed the toughest test of his career.
Sean O’Malley introduced Raulian Paiva. O’Malley (15-1) landed a right hand on Paiva (21-4) head, which opened up a flurry of fire. It included a left to the body and barrage of shots to the head, leading to a spectacular knockout with 18 seconds left in the first round.
O’Malley (15-1) ended a three-game winning streak for Paiva, winning her third in a row in the process. After the fight, O’Malley admitted he suffered from a rib injury that almost forced him to retire from the fight, but he came out on top and scored a fantastic victory at UFC 269. With an elite strike and an impressive winning streak, the TKO victory will help lift O’Malley up the standings.
Ratings before UFC 269
Two title fights take center stage tonight at UFC 269.
Seeking to extend her reign of domination, Amanda Nunes defends her bantamweight title against Julianna Peña. Charles Oliveira also returns to the Octagon, making his first lightweight title defense against lead Dustin Poirier.
Nunes (21-4) is in serious need of competition, but it is highly doubtful that Peña (10-4) will play the part of David and knock over Goliath. Stylistically, Nunes presents too many problems for Peña, and barring a massive upheaval, her reign as the champion will continue well beyond this evening.
In the lightweight title fight, there are many who underestimate Oliveira (31-8, 1 NC), which is somewhat understandable given the elitist nature of Poirier (28-6, 1 NC) in the cage. This is the opportunity for the champion to prove he is the best lightweight in the world, while also marking a long-awaited opportunity for Poirier to become the undisputed champion.
Sean O’Malley opens the main card against Raulian Paiva, which should be an entertaining start to UFC 269. Paiva (21-3) isn’t a snap, but it’s another winning fight. to O’Malley a chance to show up and shine. Former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt is also on the card, mixing him up as flyweight against Kai Kara-France. Heavy hands pave the way for a knockout victory for Kara-France (22-9, 1 NC), but it’s a fight Garbrandt (12-4) can’t afford to lose after dropping four of his last five games. There is also a ranked welterweight battle, as No.12 Geoff Neal (13–4) faces No.14 Santiago Ponzinibbio (28–4).
After an undercard that featured a vintage performance by Dominick Cruz, who defeated Pedro Munhoz by unanimous decision, as well as another knockout from Tai Tuivasa against No.11 Augusto Sakai, UFC 269 gained momentum. All night long. Built around two world-class title fights, the main map should deliver some end-of-the-year fireworks display a few weeks before the ball drops.
More MMA coverage:
• Charles Oliveira is anything but silent in the octagon
• Sean O’Malley on UFC 269 Bout: “I’m finishing this fight with a knockout”
• Francis Ngannou ready for first heavyweight title defense at UFC 270
• Charles Oliveira-Dustin Poirier title fight set to bring fireworks to UFC 269