Search icon


12th Dec 2021

‘Greatest upset in the history of the sport!’ – UFC 269 delivers big shocks

Patrick McCarry

Julianna Pena

“I still can’t believe it happened.”

Julianna Pena pulled off a shock win to rival Holly Hom’s UFC 183 knock-out of Ronda Rousey to win the women’s bantamweight title in Las Vegas.

The American was up against Amanda Nunes [21-4], who was on an 11-fight winning streak that stretched back six years and included victories over the likes of Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate and Valentina Shevchenko.

‘The Lioness’ walked into The Octagon as reigning featherweight and bantamweight champion, and was putting the latter on the line. She was a 1/10 favourite – Nunes was out at 7/1 in a two-horse race – while Daniel Cormier was talking her up as the greatest female sports star of all time.

In the first round, it looked as though Cormier and the odds makers were on top of matters. Punchy as ‘The Venezuelan Vixen’ was, Nunes clearly had the bigger frame and more grappling power. She won the first round, but not without eating a couple of Nunes shots and having one of her takedown attempts stuffed.

Julianna Pena (R) punches Amanda Nunes of Brazil in their women’s bantamweight title fight during UFC 269 event at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Julianna Pena seals a shock victory

The second round saw Pena walk forward and start to tag Nunes with lefts and rights. Her left jab was causing the Brazilian issues and she was suddenly looking uncomfortable.

Nunes has 15 wins by knock-outs or stoppages and she was uncorking some big shots, too, but Pena felt she was in now-or-never territory. She took some licks but was doing the bigger damage. Another flurry put Nunes back against the fence and, desperate, the champion tried to grapple again.

Pena got Nunes to ground easily enough and had not fully locked in the rear naked choke, but it was enough to force the tap. Nunes had had enough and relinquished her belt without hanging in there a while longer.

Over in the ESPN commentary booth, the reaction of commentators Cormier, Joe Rogan and Jon Anik told you all you needed to know. Rogan declared it was, “The greatest upset in the history of this sport.” Only Matt Serra’s win over Georges St-Pierre and Holm over Rousey could rival that claim.

‘Do Bronx’ retains his belt and Cody Garbrandt stunned

Elsewhere at UFC 269, there were wins for Sean ‘Suga’ O’Malley, Geoff Neal and former men’s bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.

Cody Garbrandt, the man that dethroned Cruz back in 2016, continues to struggle to match the peak he hit that night. After a losing skid in the 135 lbs division, Garbrandt dropped down to flyweight and took on New Zealand fighter Kai-Kara France. The Kiwi secured a TKO win that surprised many fight fans.

Dustin Poirier, fresh off two wins over Conor McGregor in 2021, faced Charles ‘Do Bronx’ Oliveira in the UFC 269 main event and was well on top in the first round.

Another slight favourite [like Garbrandt], Poirier then found the going tougher in the second round when he was taken down and opted to go into complete defence mode rather than make the Brazilian work hard.

In the third round, the end was confirmed by a rear naked choke on a standing but flagging Poirier. Up next for Oliveira is a likely 2022 date with Justin Gaethje, while Poirier may face McGregor for a fourth time.