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 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 3 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.”
UFC president Dana White told SportsCenter after the fight that Nunes broke Tate’s nose before submitting her.
“I didn’t see that coming,” White said of Nunes’ victory. “Miesha Tate is well known for being tough, durable, having a great chin and taking punishment, but she couldn’t take the punishment Amanda Nunes brought out tonight.”
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 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.