LAS VEGAS — Elevated to the main event just one day before Saturday’s UFC 200 card, Amanda Nunes proved more than comfortable in a headlining role.
Nunes (13-4) made an emphatic statement to the rest of the 135-pound division, scoring a first-round submission win over Miesha Tate to capture the UFC women’s bantamweight title at T-Mobile Arena.
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“I feel amazing,” said Nunes, who along with Tate replaced Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier in the main event after Jones was pulled for a doping violation Wednesday. “Every fighter has something to change [in order] to evolve. I am this kind of fighter. I always have to work to try to make things happen in my life. Everybody knows that I respect Miesha a lot, but I’m the new champion.”
A native of Brazil, Nunes was dominant on her feet with a flawless display of boxing.
Known for her explosive striking early in fights, Nunes was aggressive but never reckless. She bloodied Tate’s face with a series of stiff jabs and overhand rights before taking her back on the ground and securing a rear-naked choke.
Referee Herb Dean waved off the fight at three minutes, 16 seconds of Round 1 after Tate tapped out.
“We knew that she was a fast starter,” Tate said. “She caught me fair and square. This is what I have been saying about Amanda. She’s a dangerous fighter. I got careless, and it cost me really big.”
Nunes, who closed as a plus-250 underdog, continued the recent trend of upset wins in UFC title fights, specifically at women’s bantamweight. Tate (19-5) was making her first title defense after dramatically submitting Holly Holm late in Round 5 in March, only four months after Holm shocked Ronda Rousey.
Tate traded punches evenly with Nunes in the early going and was successful in her first takedown attempt less than one minute in. But Nunes was quickly able to reach her feet and, moments later, changed the tenor of the fight for good when she caught Tate with a short knee to the face.
Nunes was patient, however, and picked her spots with lead right hands and combinations. Soon enough, the body language of Tate, known for her ability to absorb punishment and keep fighting back, took a change for the worse.
One final knee to the face sent Tate to the canvas, where Nunes wasted little time going for the finish.
“The first time I saw that she was a little hurt, I controlled myself because I knew she would come back strong in the next round,” Nunes said. “But I kept coming, and eventually knew that this was happening.”
Nunes, 28, becomes the UFC’s first female Brazilian champion. She entered the bout as the hottest fighter in the division and the No. 4-ranked women’s bantamweight by ESPN.com. She won her fourth straight fight and improved to 6-1 since making her UFC debut in 2013.
The loss for Tate snapped a five-fight winning streak dating to her 2013 loss to Rousey in their rematch.
“Right now I’m going to go and get my thoughts back together and regroup before getting back to the gym,” Tate said. “I always come back stronger from these things. I will come back stronger, I promise you. I will come back strong from this.”