UFC 269 saw the unthinkable occur.
Julianna Peña conquered an unstoppable force, slaying Amanda Nunes to become the new bantamweight champion.
After splitting her last four fights, Peña (11–4) appeared to be no match for the dominant Nunes (21–5), who had steamrolled opponents during a career-defining 12-fight win streak. But streaks are meant to be broken, and that is what happened when Peña submitted Nunes with a near-naked choke in the second round.
Despite absorbing punishment on the mat in the first five minutes, and then getting her face battered in the second, Peña executed a flawless game plan, exhausting Nunes. And as Nunes’ facial expression changed from supreme confidence to abject doubt, Peña got Nunes on the mat and locked in her submission. The upset sent shockwaves throughout the fight world, rivaling Matt Serra’s TKO win against Georges St-Pierre in 2007.
Charles Oliveira also successfully defended the lightweight title, completely changing the narrative after entering the fight as the underdog to Dustin Poirier.
Poirier (28–7, 1 NC) drilled Oliveira (32–8, 1 NC) with ferocious shots in the opening round, and appeared to be on the cusp of winning the fight. But Oliveira followed the same blueprint as he did in his title victory against Michael Chandler by nearly not making it out of the first round, then seizing control of the fight in the second. And while it was his striking that turned the tide against Chandler, it was on the mat this time, completely altering the direction of the fight.
The critical moment occurred in the third round. Oliveira gained control of Poirier’s back, and the submission artist then allowed no room for doubt. Oliveira forced Poirier to tap to a standing rear naked choke, effectively silencing all the doubts that he could not defeat Poirier. With the victory, Oliveira proved he is the top lightweight in the world.
UFC 269 was a tribute to the sport. Sean O’Malley opened the card in spectacular fashion, showcasing his elite striking. O’Malley (15–1) drilled Raulian Paiva with a devastating right hand to the head, then capitalized with a left hook to the body before drilling him with blows for a TKO win. Despite his toughness, Paiva (21–4) was completely overmatched, further solidifying O’Malley as an emerging star in the bantamweight division.
Kai Kara-France also put forth the most meaningful win of his career. Ranked sixth in the flyweight division, Kara-France (23–9, 1 NC) obliterated former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt, winning via an opening round TKO. Kara-France was extremely accurate with all of his strikes. Two right hands helped close the distance, and it was all mathematical after Kara-France followed that with an overhand rand/uppercut left combination.
Garbrandt (12–5) has now dropped five of his past six, a far cry from five years ago when he was undefeated and beat Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight title. In a tale of two fighters moving in completely opposite directions, Cruz (24–3) looked outstanding on the prelims, defeating No. 8 Pedro Munhoz in a unanimous decision victory. And in a battle of ranked welterweights, No. 12 Geoff Neal defeated No. 14 Santiago Ponzinibbio by split decision. The win puts Neal (14–4) in position to fight another ranked opponent after defeating his first in Ponzinibbio (28–5).
As was widely expected, one title changed hands at UFC 269—though in an unforeseen manner. Julianna Peña’s stunning victory spins the fight world on its axis, and the finish creates the need for a must-see rematch against Nunes.
And while it took 28 fights in the UFC for Charles Oliveira to become champion, it did not take long for him to assert his dominance as champion. Defeating Poirier in his first title defense is a career-defining victory for Oliveira. He now prepares for Justin Gaethje, who will be his next challenger for the lightweight belt.
LIGHTWEIGHT TITLE BOUT: CHARLES OLIVEIRA (c) VS. DUSTIN POIRIER — 12:27 AM ET
Charles Oliveira is quiet everywhere but the Octagon.
After absorbing a tremendous amount of punishment from Dustin Poirier, Oliveira took control of the fight in the second round and then got Poirier’s back in the third round, almost immediately forcing Poirier to submit to his rear naked choke.
Oliveira (32–8, 1 NC) now stands alone as the top lightweight in the world. Poirier (28–7, 1 NC) is an elite fighter, yet Oliveira withstood his best—and then showcased why he is an exceptionally skilled submission artist.
Poirier opened the first round with an outrageous amount of big shots. Oliveira somehow withstood that punishment, landing a few blows but clearly was overmatched. The pace throughout the first five minutes was nonstop, and it continued in that manner until Oliveira established position atop Poirier in the second round.
The critical moment occurred in the opening moments of the third round, with Oliveira establishing himself on Poirier’s back. He then locked on a standing rear naked choke, and Poirier had no answer.
Oliveira already had the most finishes in UFC history, and he now adds to that record by tapping out Poirier.
WOMEN’S BANTAMWEIGHT TITLE BOUT: AMANDA NUNES (c) VS. JULIANNA PEÑA — 11:50 PM ET
Following a win this past January, Julianna Peña called out Amanda Nunes.
And she got what she asked for at UFC 269. In one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport, Peña defeated a seemingly unbeatable force, becoming the new women’s bantamweight champion.
Nunes (21–5) dominated Peña (11–4) in the opening round, forcing the fight to the ground and then refusing to relent. But the second round was an entirely different set of circumstances, with Peña exchanging strikes with Nunes. Peña seized control of that battle, wearing down Nunes and then putting her on the mat, which is when she submitted her with a rear-naked choke.
Following the fight, the damage on Peña’s face was clear, as Nunes certainly landed her share of shots. But Peña, just like she promised, was too much for Nunes, who was exhausted midway through the second round.
This matchup is tailor made for a rematch, where, undoubtedly, Nunes will still be the heavy favorite. But until then, the title—and the fight world—belongs to Peña.
WELTERWEIGHT BOUT: GEOFF NEAL VS. SANTIAGO PONZINIBBIO — 11:11 PM ET
Geoff Neal and Santiago Ponzinibbio went the distance in a battle of ranked welterweights.
In a fight that was incredibly close, No. 12 Neal defeated No. 14 Ponzinibbio by split decision. Neal (14–4) controlled the third round, which was critical after two razor thin rounds.
The loss hurts for Ponzinibbio (28–5), as the top 15 in the welterweight division is already overcrowded with talent. The win will push Neal forward into another fight against a ranked opponent, giving him plenty of momentum for the new year.
FLYWEIGHT BOUT: CODY GARBRANDT VS. KAI KARA-FRANCE — 10:49 PM ET
Kai Kara-France’s heavy hands were too much for Cody Garbrandt, winning by knockout just over three minutes into the first round.
Kara-France (23–9, 1 NC) was extremely accurate, closing the distance with two right hands, followed by an overhand rand/uppercut left combination that left Garbrandt (12-5) unable to defend himself. This marks an incredibly important victory for Kara-France, who makes quick work of a former bantamweight champion.
Cutting weight and switching divisions often leads to problems, but it is hard to say if durability is the reason why Garbrandt lost when Kara-France landed such clean shots. The TKO loss for Garbrandt is devastating, and he has now lost five of his past six fights. After defeating Dominick Cruz (who looked outstanding in a unanimous decision victory on the prelims against Pedro Munhoz) in December of 2016 to win the bantamweight title, it has been almost all downhill for Garbrandt.
The next goal for Kara-France is a title shot. Already ranked sixth in the division, he is certainly in the mix with this outstanding victory.
BANTAMWEIGHT BOUT: SEAN O’MALLEY VS. RAULIAN PAIVA — 10:25 PM ET
UFC’s unranked champion just aced the toughest test of his career.
Sean O’Malley laid out Raulian Paiva. O’Malley (15–1) landed a right hand to the head of Paiva (21–4), which opened up a flurry of shots. This included a left to the body and a barrage of strikes to the head, leading to a spectacular knockout with 18 seconds remaining in the opening round.
O’Malley (15–1) ended a three-fight win streak for Paiva, winning his third in a row in the process. After the fight, O’Malley admitted he has been dealing with an injury to his ribs that nearly caused him to withdraw from the fight, but he gritted through and delivered a fantastic win at UFC 269. With elite striking and an impressive win streak, the TKO victory will help elevate O’Malley into the rankings.
Notes Before UFC 269
Two title bouts take center stage tonight at UFC 269.
Seeking to extend her reign of dominance, Amanda Nunes defends her bantamweight title against Julianna Peña. Charles Oliveira also re-enters the Octagon, making his first defense of the lightweight title against top-ranked Dustin Poirier.
Nunes (21–4) is in serious need of competition, but it is highly doubtful that Peña (10–4) plays the role of David and knocks off Goliath. Stylistically, Nunes presents too many problems for Peña, and barring a massive upset, her reign as champion will continue well beyond this evening.
In the lightweight title bout, there are many underestimating Oliveira (31–8, 1 NC), which is somewhat understandable considering the elite nature of Poirier (28–6, 1 NC) in the cage. This is the champ’s chance to prove he is the top lightweight in the world, while it also marks 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) is no pushover, but this is another fight giving O’Malley a chance to showcase and shine. Former bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt is also on the card, mixing it up as a flyweight against Kai Kara-France. Heavy hands open a path to a knockout victory for Kara-France (22–9, 1 NC), but this is a bout that Garbrandt (12–4) cannot afford to lose after dropping four of his past five. There is also a battle of ranked welterweights, as No. 12 Geoff Neal (13–4) squares off against No. 14 Santiago Ponzinibbio (28–4).
Following an undercard that featured a vintage performance from Dominick Cruz, who defeated Pedro Munhoz by unanimous decision, as well as another knockout punch from Tai Tuivasa against No. 11 Augusto Sakai, UFC 269 has built momentum all night. Built around two world-class title bouts, the main card should deliver end-of-the-year fireworks a few weeks before the ball drops.
More MMA Coverage:
• Charles Oliveira Is Anything but Quiet Inside the Octagon
• Sean O’Malley on UFC 269 Bout: ‘I’m Ending This Fight in a Knockout’
• Francis Ngannou Ready for First Heavyweight Title Defense at UFC 270
• Charles Oliveira-Dustin Poirier Title Bout Should Bring Fireworks to UFC 269