The build up to UFC 207 was all about the return of former bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, who was the only champion the division had ever known for years. The pre-fight discussion was so centered around Rousey that Amanda Nunes wasn’t even featured in the video promotions for the fight.
Long-time UFC color commentator Joe Rogan even questioned the way the UFC was marketing Friday’s fight on Twitter, calling attention to the disrespect directed toward the champion. Nunes, after all, headlined the historic UFC 200 card with an impressive win over Miesha Tate, a legend of the sport in her own right, and was the first openly gay champion in the UFC during a week when the UFC was raising money for an LGBTQ center in Las Vegas—not to mention the first woman from Brazil to win a title belt, a country that’s been a integral part of the promotion’s success and lineage of champions.
After drawing a hard line in the sand with Conor McGregor regarding media obligations for events, the UFC bent the rules to accommodate Rousey’s desire to avoid journalists during fight preparations. It was another potential slight to Nunes, who could’ve used the media obligations and hoards of cameras to build her brand as the new champion. The UFC instead elected to help Rousey focus on reclaiming the belt, and perhaps returning to the UFC a pay-per-view star to lead events alongside McGregor.
That decision ironically afforded Nunes time to focus on a fight against the largest figure in women’s MMA without distractions and without facing questions about pressure. And while the UFC was coddling Rousey, they were unintentionally aiding Nunes.
It didn’t take long for Nunes to dismantle Rousey and retain her bantamweight title. Rousey showed no improvement since her loss against Holly Holm, fighting like fans are now accustomed to seeing, eating shots as she marched forward in an effort to get her hands on her opponent to throw her to the ground. Nunes welcomed the pressure and used her superior striking to halt Rousey’s offensive with powerful combinations. Rousey was rocked a couple of times before finally being wobbled as she backed against the cage. Rousey appeared to be out on her feet when referee Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight after just 48 seconds.
Rousey didn’t stay around to talk to Rogan or acknowledge Nunes after the fight, who seemed to pursue her as she exited in an effort to acknowledge her with a sign of respect. As Rousey exited, the baton was passed to Nunes, who now continues her reign over the division. Three women held the belt in 2016 and Rousey looked to become the fourth to cap a turbulent year, but Nunes instilled stability on Friday night.
Fans of the sport might be stunned by how Nunes was able to pick Rousey apart with the precision of a surgeon, but not Nunes’s teammates like UFC fighter Alex Chambers.
“We were watching [UFC 193] at her apartment and I’ll never forget the words that came out of Amanda’s mouth when she saw Holly win the belt: ‘That belt will be mine,’” Chambers told the Extra Rounds podcast earlier this week.
“It wasn’t so much the words, but the deliberative intent she had in those words. That was the big deal. That desire is reflected in the way she trains and the way she prepares for a fight.”
At UFC 207, those words were reflected in the way she dispatched a legend en route to becoming just the second woman in UFC bantamweight history to successfully defend the belt.
And now, Nunes reigns.