The UFC women’s bantamweight title picture may be a bit messy due to the uncertain return of former champion Ronda Rousey, but current champion Miesha Tate will still defend her championship against Amanda Nunes on the main card of UFC 200 directly after quickly rising Julianna Pena faces off against Cat Zingano in the featured preliminary card bout.
The winner of three straight bouts capped off by a dominant decision win over Jessica Eye at last year’s UFC 192, the No. 5 Pena is now looking to burst into the upper echelon of women’s MMA by defeating former title contender Zingano, who’s been out of action for almost 15 months following her 14-second loss to Rousey at 2015’s UFC 184. If and when she does, Pena told FOX Sports she believes it should earn her a title shot:
“I definitely think so. I beat everybody that they put in front of me, from all those girls on “The Ultimate Fighter” to everybody they’ve put in front of me since. No one else has been on that big of a win streak besides Ronda (Rousey) and I think that I definitely have earned getting a title shot.”
While that could be the case, realistically there’s more of a chance for Rousey to get the next title shot when she decides to return, and if she doesn’t, No. 1-ranked Holly Holm, who infamously beat Rousey and recently lost her belt to Tate via fifth-round submission, will face Valentina Shevchenko at July’s UFC on FOX 20 from Chicago, where a win could see her vaulted back into her desired title rematch.
But Pena is still considered an eventual title contender at 135 pounds regardless, so “The Venezuelan Vixen” has already begun discussing a potential fight with her good friend and former TUF 18 coach Tate, and it’s a fight they’ll apparently both accept:
“Me and Miesha have discussed fighting each other. We said the only way we would fight each other is if her or I had the belt,” Pena said. “Now that she has the belt and I get my hand raised be it July 9, I will ask for a title shot. I only think that that’s right.
“I’m sure she will accept, be it that she wins, which I’m sure she will.”
It sounds a good plan, and four straight wins would be tough to deny. The shadow of Rousey and Holm will always loom large, however, so Pena will have to defeat Zingano very impressively to leapfrog the gargantuan contenders currently ahead of her on the 135-pound order.
With Rousey and Holm’s results and plans unknown, that may just be a distant possibility for the near future.