While most of the UFC fanbase, media, and Las Vegas oddsmakers expect Julianna Pena to get crushed at UFC 269, Octagon veteran and ESPN broadcaster Chael Sonnen is one man who will not subscribe to such notions.
As of Wednesday, Amanda Nunes (21-4) is a -900 (via Draftkings) favorite to beat Pena (10-4) and defend her bantamweight title for a fourth straight time on Saturday night. To put that number in perspective, oddsmakers so feel strongly the Brazilian will win that gamblers would need to run the risk of losing US $900 dollars to earn an extra $100 if “The Lioness” was victorious in Las Vegas.
It is a massive number considering Pena, the season 18 winner of The Ultimate Fighter, is a talented competitor. However, the number is based on a dominant run for Nunes over the last six years. As she’s won 12 in a row and beat six former and current UFC champions. Pena is a +600 underdog currently.
Chael Sonnen makes a case for Julianna Pena at UFC 269
Yet Sonnen, a two-time UFC middleweight title challenger and tenured ESPN analyst feels that the UFC 269 co-main event is similar to other historic upsets in sports history. Because of the extreme self-belief “The Venezuelan Vixen” has just days away from the fight.
“I’m not ready to predict an upset for you yet. I am telling you this has all the makings of every sports upset we have ever seen,” Sonnen said in a video post on his YouTube channel. “This has all the makings of Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson. All the upsets of when the American Olympic [hockey] team took out the Russians [in 1980]. And what is that? What am I talking about? The mindset of the opponent. Who is not buying into the idea of the script. Who is not buying into the narrative that this is already a forecasted [and] predetermined outcome. I’m talking about confidence. I’m talking about believing in yourself. And Julianna Pena truly does.”
The Bellator veteran is confused by fan and media assumptions that Nunes will run right through her opponent inside the T-Mobile Arena. So to make fans see the threat Pena is from a new perspective, he asked viewers to ponder the idea of if she were booked against a different UFC women’s champion.
“Let me ask a different question. What would you say if I told you [Valentina Shevchenko] was going to fight Julianna? And the questions I asked you were can Julianna give her problems? Would it be a competitive match? Would it be close? Would it make you think for a minute? Would you want to see it, because you’re not positive of the outcome?” said Sonnen. “Yes, of course, you would. Many of you would pick Julianna over [Shevchenko]. I bring that to you because “Bullet” was as close to beating Amanda as anyone has been. If I just got you to agree that Julianna versus [Shevchenko] would make you pause for thought, I’ve now successfully proven Julianna versus Amanda makes sense.”
Is wrestling Amanda Nunes’ kryptonite?
The owner of popular grappling promotion Submission Underground then explained the specific reason why Pena would be a tough fight for the flyweight champion and should be given more respect in her matchup with the two-division queen Nunes. Because Pena offers a skill set that has been problematic for her opponent in the past: Wrestling.
“It’s important that you recognize Julianna; who is big, who is strong, who is not afraid, and who has great wrestling. Amanda has beaten every type of fighter there is. All of them, except the dominant wrestler,” he said. “The dominant wrestler early in Amanda’s career got her down and stole rounds and moments. Amanda had a hard time scrambling and getting back to her feet. She was lost just a little bit. Amanda’s always looking to prove something. This is her opportunity to prove that wrestlers are no problem for her. It is not a foregone conclusion Amanda is gonna win this fight.”
Although Sonnen feels confident Pena can give Nunes problems Saturday the defending champion told TMZ Sports on Wednesday her title challenger is “delusional” about her chances, and makes “many mistakes” she expects to take advantage of.
UFC 269 takes place on Saturday night and kicks off with preliminary action at 6:15 pm on ESPN+. The US $69.99 main card pay-per-view then follows at 10 pm. The event is headlined by a light title bout pitting champion Charles Oliveira versus top-contender Dustin Poirier.
Is Sonnen delusional too, or is he on to something?