Julianna Pena may have been out of the Octagon for nearly a year and a half, but she showed no signs of ring rust in her fight with Milana Dudieva at UFC Fight Night 63 on Saturday in Fairfax, Va. In fact, she looked as if she hadn’t skipped a beat.
Shortly after winning The Ultimate Fighter in 2013, Pena suffered a severe knee injury that sidelined her for the entirety of 2014, but she diligently worked her way back into form, and that showed in Saturday’s fight.
A short time later, Pena turned the tables and took Dudieva to the mat, quickly taking full mount and raining down an assortment of punches, elbows, and hammerfists.
Dudieva tried to punch back from the bottom, but couldn’t find a way to get out from under Pena. Relentless, Pena continued to drop bombs on Dudieva, maintaining mount for nearly two minutes, eventually unleashing a steady diet of elbows that forced the referee to stop the bout.
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After the fight, you couldn’t pry the smile off of Pena’s face. It certainly meant a lot to her to be successful after the journey she’s had since winning on TUF.
“It was a long and grueling road. I took a year off and I feel like if I wouldn’t had to take a year off, I’d be champ by now,” said Pena in the Octagon.
Although Pena wasn’t asking for champion Ronda Rousey just yet, UFC gold is her eventual goal, and she’s not shy about it.
“I’m a finisher guys, and I want the belt.”
(Follow @KenPishna on Twitter)