There is an argument to be made that Brazilian fighter Amanda Nunes is the woman who beat the woman who beat the woman.
Ronda Rousey and Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Santos are two truly memorable scalps in her career over the last two years, and on Saturday night the 31-year old known as ‘The Lioness’ has the opportunity to clear the decks at the T-Mobile Arena here when she faces former bantamweight champion Holly Holm. Nunes has both the style, and the momentum, to make another statement against the Albuquerque-trained former multiple boxing and kick-boxing champion known as ‘the Preacher’s Daughter’.
You would not want to jinx the affair come the weekend, but on Wednesday evening at the Palms Hotel Resort in Sin City, Nunes was the recipient of three gongs at the annual Fighters Only World MMA Awards, claiming Female Fighter of The Year, Upset of the Year and Knockout of the Year, those last two for her 51-second demolition of Santos, late last year, on a night when Nunes became the first woman in the UFC to claim championships in two weight divisions simultaneously. It was a triumph for the ages.
Little wonder the fans of the sport voted for her. Now the No. 1-ranked female pound-for-pound fighter in the world, with 15 of 17 victories with a finish (12 KOs, 3 submission), she remains a dangerous foe due to her heavy-handedness and willingness to attack. It must be in bursts, and with care against Holm, who has clever, deft movement and dangerous counters of her own.
Having defeated Santos to become a double champion, Nunes has in her grasp the opportunity to go on and become the greatest female fighter of all-time in MMA. It is arguably still a year or two off, yet victory over Holm on Saturday would cap a period in which she has beaten the very best of this women’s era.
“I am the best MMA fighter of all time in general (male or female),” Nunes told the renowned Brazilian outlet Combate. “I’m going to keep on defending the featherweight title. I’m going to keep on making history.”
Nunes insisted that losses in her career had been learning stages. “All the things I went through, my losses, those really helped me. I’ve been through moments where I thought ‘I’m going to step in there and I’m going to crush her, you have no idea.’ Not today. I respect my opponents, I learned that from life. I used to think I would step in there, throw one punch and the other girl would go down and not get up again. Everytime I thought that, I lost. Fighting taught me, I learned from life. It’s a school, I’m still learning.”
That speaks volumes for the fighter who was deadly accurate and showed acuity under fire within her gameplan against the terror that Santos is in the combat arena. Tunes fought to perfection, brutally countering her Brazilian compatriot and dropping her four times in under a minute of mayhem. Defeats made her seek out a new way of expressing herself in fights. Less berserker, more considered, without losing the power in her hands, and in her kicks.
“Even when life was s—, when I lost, when I was supposed to be the next one to fight Ronda, and I lost to Cat Zingano. After many talks with Nina Ansaroff [her life partner], my coaches, and some changes, I started to look for answers to my questions. I did research, I looked for psychologists, too, I did many blood tests, I switched teams. I wanted to be a new athlete, erase everything that had happened in my life and start from scratch. It was surreal. Everything put me on my path, doors began to open. When me and Nina talk about it, it’s inexplicable.”
Nunes meets Holm at UFC 239, which is headlined by a light heavyweight title contest between champion Jon Jones and Brazilian challenger Thiago Santos, the No 2 ranked UFC fighter.