UFC 269 Takeaways: Pena is queen of the cage after shocking upset

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Danny Howard

December 13th, 2021

The Lioness was slain, the Diamond shattered, and Suga looked so sweet. Here’s what we learned this weekend from UFC 269 in Paradise, Nevada.

Pena pulls off shocker

UFC 269 was billed as the conclusion to the unofficial lightweight tournament that took place following Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement, but it will forever be remembered as the night Amanda Nunes lost to Julianna Pena. After looking like another routine Nunes beatdown after the first round, Pena somehow recovered from that battering to put Nunes down and choke her out.

Without a doubt, this has to be one of the biggest upsets in UFC history. After a long reign where Nunes seemingly was her own worst enemy, Pena proved she had the goods and ended one of the most dominant MMA runs ever. A rematch is all but guaranteed, but for now, Pena is the queen of the cage.

Charles Oliveira earns it

Once again, Charles Oliveira relied on his grit and submission skills to survive another beating and find victory on the mat. Oliveira managed to keep Poirier cautious enough to avoid tying him up in close range long enough to find an opening that led to the third round submission.

It was an impressive showing that will silence any doubters that Oliveira was holding on to Poirier’s belt, but challenges still remain. Rest will come in short supply for the champion, especially as Justin Gaethje and Islam Makhachev wait in the wings. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

Sean O’Malley and Dominic Cruz are on a collision course

Though O’Malley and Cruz haven’t traded shots in the octagon yet, O’Malley wasted no time prior to UFC 269 boasting his spot on the main event while Cruz lingered in the prelims. Both men emerged victorious on the card, with O’Malley destroying Raulian Paiva inside one round, and Cruz outpointing Pedro Munhoz after nearly getting finished in the first.

Though 36 and clearly a step slower than he used to be, Cruz is the kind of opponent O’Malley needs to face for some legitimacy. It might take some convincing for Cruz to face an unranked opponent at this stage of his career, but O’Malley vs. Cruz might be tantalizing enough to set as a main event.

Andre Muniz is emerging as a middleweight contender

The middleweight division is set to be bogged down by Israel Adesanya rematches for the immediate future, but Muniz is looking like a fresh challenger. Muniz is a versatile grappler who won his eighth fight in a row at the expense of Eryk Anders via armbar.

There’s a lot to like about Muniz, and he would be a decent addition to the middleweight rotation as Adesanya prepares to face Robert Whittaker once again at UFC 271. Whether he’ll get in Adesanya’s orbit is anyone’s guess. On paper, he’s a threat to anyone outside the very best the division has to offer.

Tuivasa stays relevant with Sakai win

The Tai Tuivasa vs. Augusto Sakai bout was a nothing-burger in regards to the heavyweight division, but it was a decent slugfest while it lasted. With both fighters clearly flawed and exposed in the past, this was more about who could be up for one last shot while the other serves as a doormat for emerging talent.

Tuivasa’s second round stoppage keeps his head above the water for now. This could secure Tuivasa additional filler fights in the future, but he’ll have a tough time breaking into the top 10.