Friday, January 27, 2017

Spokane UFC fighter Julianna Peña faces biggest test yet this weekend

Ranked the No. 2 women's bantamweight, Peña stands to gain a title shot if victorious

Posted By on Fri, Jan 27, 2017 at 4:00 PM

Peña (left) won her last UFC match, against Cat Zingano, in July 2016.
  • Peña (left) won her last UFC match, against Cat Zingano, in July 2016.

If you're a follower of mixed martial arts and the UFC, you may know that Spokane's highest-ever ranked athlete in the organization is facing her next opponent Saturday night. If you're not a follower (or rather, more of a casual fan of the oft-bloody combat sport) we're here to fill you in on feisty Spokane daughter Julianna Peña's next turn in the octagon this weekend.

Currently ranked the No. 2 women's bantamweight (135 lbs.), Peña has been rising in the ranks since returning to the division in 2015 following a serious knee injury that was almost career-ending. As the main card event for this weekend's UFC Fight Night Denver, Pena faces the No. 1 Valentina Shevchenko of Kyrgyzstan. (In the UFC, each division's champion is at the "zero" spot; Brazil's Amanda Nunes is the current bantamweight champ.)

Though the odds favor Peña's opponent, they're very, very close odds, which means it stands to be a close five-round match with high potential to be quite exciting, considering Peña's early, aggressive bursts. And if she wins, and thereby moves into the No. 1 spot, Peña is almost ensured that her next fight will be against the champ Nunes.

Peña, the "Venezuelan Vixen," has been competing in the world's top MMA promotion since 2013, and has been undefeated since. After winning her last UFC match in July of last year, Peña put herself one step closer to a long-dreamed-of title shot for the bantamweight division, which has seen quite the upheaval since its stone-faced champion — and the undisputed face of women's mixed martial arts — Ronda Rousey was knocked off in December of 2015, losing to Holly Holm (Holm was then bested by Nunes, and Rousey just recently lost a shot at reclaiming the belt from Nunes at UFC 207 last month.)

Over the years, I've interviewed Peña several times, and the Spokane-based athlete is notably known by the media and fans for her no-nonsense, firebrand personality and secure sense of confidence as a serious contender in the first-ever women's division of the UFC. Here's what she recently said in regards to getting a chance at the belt, from USA Today's MMA Junkie.

Tune in this Saturday night, Jan. 28, to cheer on this Spokane star; UFC Fight Night Denver airs on Fox, with the prelims at 5 pm and the main card at 8 pm.
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