Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Spokane athlete Julianna Pena's victory at UFC 200 brings her closer to a title match

Posted By on Tue, Jul 12, 2016 at 12:55 PM

Spokane athlete Julianna Pena's victory at UFC 200 brings her closer to a title match
Spokane MMA figher Julianna Pena was victorious over her UFC 200 opponent Cat Zingano.

Before going into this weekend's landmark UFC 200 event, Spokane-based mixed martial arts fighter Julianna Pena was considered the underdog in her matchup against No. 4-ranked women's bantamweight Cat Zingano.

Yet the "Venezuelan Vixen" was able to dominate her opponent throughout the three-round fight, the main event on the Fox Sports 1 preliminary card airing before Saturday night's pay-per-view. Pena took control through a series of takedowns and strikes, and by keeping Zingano neutralized on the mat through skilled grappling. By the end of the 15-minute match, all three judges scored the contest unanimously in favor of Pena, who remains undefeated (8-2 career; 4-0 UFC) in her UFC career. Sweetening the deal for Pena was a $32,000 fight win bonus to add to her contracted $32,000 paycheck for the event.

The future for the 26-year-old Spokanite is looking bright, despite a few major setbacks she's faced in the past few years. The first was a devastating knee injury sustained during practice back in early 2014 that almost ended her career. More recently, Pena faced assault charges after a late-night bar brawl in downtown Spokane last December.

After Saturday's victory, and another major upset to the top of the UFC's women's bantamweight division, Pena is closer than ever to getting her long-dreamed title shot. She's now only four spots away from the champion's seat, currently held by feisty Brazilian Amanda Nunes.

Later that night during UFC 200's main event, former division champion Miesha Tate (who was also Pena's former coach when she competed in and won the UFC's TUF 18 season) was unable to defend her title against Nunes, tapping out during the first round to Nunes' chokehold. During the contest that only lasted 1 minute and 43 seconds, Tate took blow after blow to the head and face from Nunes. Sustaining a broken nose, Tate has since been placed on a medical suspension and can't participate in any events for six months unless cleared by a physician.

In the past nine months, the 135-lb. women's division has seen its fair share of shakeups, starting with longtime champ Ronda Rousey's defeat back in November, during UFC 193. Then, just months later, Holm was unable to defend her newly-won belt against Tate during a five-round fight that had otherwise been dominated by Holm, yet was taken by Tate through submission in the final moments.

Now that Tate has lost the belt to the division's newest champion — the third since last November — will Pena be next to take a jab at it?

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About The Author

Chey Scott

Chey Scott is the Inlander's Arts and Culture Editor and editor of the Inlander's yearly, glossy magazine, the Annual Manual. Chey (pronounced "Shay") is a lifelong resident of the Spokane area and a graduate of Washington State University. She's been on staff at the Inlander since 2012...