Julianna Peña, (aka “The Venezuelan Vixen”) was born on August 19, 1989 in Spokane, Washington, USA, and with a record of 10-4 is one of the most relentless fighters in MMA.
The 32 year-old is ranked 5th in the UFC women’s bantamweight category, and 15th pound-for-pound. With a ferocious pace and crushing style that has seen many of her opponents wilt, she has now made her way to a UFC Bantamweight title bout.
Peña competed in sports from an early age but at age 19, she began training martial arts by joining a cardio-kickboxing class, and found a new sense of purpose and self.
She was quickly encouraged to join the MMA and grappling classes due to her unusual drive and uncanny ability to quickly learn techniques.
Unable to afford gym membership at the time, she began competing in local amateur MMA shows to make up her contribution. Peña says that without this push it would have been unlikely that she would’ve begun in MMA.
When Peña heard that the UFC was launching an inaugural season of “The Ultimate Fighter” featuring women, she was determined to win it. She sought out Dana White and told him that he had to put her on the show and declared how intent she was on victory. The fact that many other candidates were older and more experienced was no deterrent to Peña.
Having got into a fight on the streets days earlier, Peña turned up to try-outs with a black eye and stitches. The sheer force of her conviction persuaded the UFC that she would make great television.
Peña shocked everyone by going on to win the show, beating fighters in their prime with a decade of experience over her while doing so.
Winning TUF 18 brought Peña to the world’s attention, yet the road after this wasn’t always easy. A catastrophic knee injury halted her initial UFC run, however, she came back stronger. Peña also took time out for the birth of her son.
Throughout, she has remained a top contender in one of the fastest-evolving divisions in all of MMA. Time after time, as the technical level of the division changed, Peña still found a way to take the fight to the mat and ferociously pursue the finish.
On December 11th, at UFC 269, she will finally have her long-overdue title fight against Amanda Nunes – the most dominant champion in women’s MMA, presenting a tall order task for anyone.
It is a reality of every one of Peña’s fights that she brings on a grinding, and incessant pressure. She will do her utmost to make history, and having already made the fight personal, you can bet she will do everything she can to shock the world.
Okay, now you’ve got the back story on “The Venezuelan Vixen”, let’s breakdown Julianna Peña’s Top 5 MMA Finishes! (in descending order)
5. Vs. Rachael Swatez – COTC 10 (Dec. 15, 2011)
Early in her career, Peña faced a tough challenge in an opponent with real finishing abilities. Swatez had finished four of her last five opponents so this was an important step up in competition for Peña.
In round 1, Peña begins with a flurry of aggressive punches that has Swatez rushing to safety by clinching.
As they break, Peña keeps coming forward again and Swatez stumbles to the canvas under the constant pressure. Peña maintains control from the back but is unable to work a submission.
Swatez gets free and Peña chases her down with constant punches. Peña gets another takedown and lands high-impact ground and pound from half guard.
Round 2 begins the same way, with Peña exerting the same incessant striking pressure which sees Swatez shoot for a single leg.
Peña gets control of her opponent’s neck and transitions into a mounted guillotine as they fall to the floor. The choke now cinched-in, has Swatez tapping immediately resulting in a solid submission win here for Peña.
4. Vs. Shayna Baszler – TUF 18 QF (June 6, 2013)
Shayna Baszler was a teammate of Ronda Rousey outside of TUF, and was picked as the best candidate to win the fight and give her team an advantage. Rousey looked to match her strongest fighter against one of Miesha Tate’s weakest.
In round 1, Peña opens with vicious intent, throwing a barrage of punches, backing Baszler up to the cage.
Baszler recovers and wrestles Peña down but is unable to establish a stable position. Peña keeps scrambling, but each time Baszler reverses the position and resumes control, she is unable to land any damage.
Peña gets top position with a minute remaining, and lands hard strikes before being taken down again.
As round 2 begins, Baszler is visibly breathing heavily whilst Peña quickly presses the action with her striking.
Peña prevents the clinch, keeping the fight standing to land a monstrous hook that buckles Baszler’s knees at 4:24.
While clinching, Peña lands a knee then gets a trip. Following Baszler as she attempts numerous escapes, Peña spins to the back then keeps rolling until she can get her hooks in.
Peña sneaks her arm under the chin, and while Baszler tries to fight this arm, Peña locks hands for a short choke to secure the tap at 1:58. This was a shock upset win that established Peña as one to watch in TUF 18.
3. Vs. Jessica Rakoczy – TUF 18 Finale (Nov. 30, 2013)
Rakoczy had 18 world boxing titles, thus had a huge experience advantage over Peña. However, Peña had the grappling advantage and had been the shock success story of the entire series.
In round 1, looking to establish her grappling early, Peña rushes to a body lock and gets an early takedown with an inside trip.
As Peña postures up to pass, Rakoczy kicks her away and stands. Peña clinches again, refusing to give even a moment’s thinking space.
An outside trip leads to another takedown at 3:16. Rakoczy is able to evade most of the ground and pound initially, and keeps her guard. Frustrated, Peña stands and executes a toreando guard pass to side control, then she feints arm control sliding into mount.
With just over a minute remaining, Peña postures up, looking to finish. She drops elbow after elbow and Rakoczy is unable to get free, covering up now, with seconds remaining.
The relentless barrage of unanswered strikes sees the referee call the fight for Peña by TKO at 4:59 of round 1. Peña becomes the TUF 18 winner.
2. Vs. Milana Dudieva – UFC FN 63 (April 4, 2015)
Milana Dudieva was riding a 3-fight win streak – a submission specialist that offered an unusual grappling threat. Peña was here returning from a long knee injury-induced layoff after her TUF victory.
In round 1, Peña comes forward swinging aggressively but Dudieva ducks under quickly for a high crotch takedown. Despite being elevated off her feet, Peña prevents the takedown through great balance.
Now from the clinch, Dudieva secures a judo outside trip at 4:15. Peña works back to standing but Dudieva has front, head lock control. Rather than fight the grip, Peña grabs a single leg, moving quickly from takedown to mount.
Peña then postures up to land heavy strikes. Dudieva is unable to bridge free. The strikes open up back control, then Peña works back to mount. Dudieva, by now looks exhausted. Here, Peña rains down with punches and elbows, and at 3:59 of round 1, the referee steps in to call the fight by TKO.
Peña convincingly won the ‘Performance of the Night’ having torn through a well-respected opponent after a long layoff.
1. Vs. Sara McMann – UFC 257 (Jan. 24, 2021)
Sara McMann is a highly experienced MMA fighter, and Olympic silver medallist in wrestling. It was thought that this match would negate Peña’s normal grappling advantage, the fight effectively being a title eliminator.
Round 1 saw Peña initially struggle to get into range, with the taller McMann landing several right hands while circling out.
McMann is then backed up to the fence but reacts with a sharp, single leg takedown, relieving the pressure at 2:57.
From side control, McMann moves to mount when Peña goes to all fours, patiently defending the choke attempt then twists free to stand. McMann goes back to the single leg and uses her wrestling to control the rest of the round.
In round 2, McMann goes back to wrestling, whilst Peña goes straight for a full guard guillotine, then a triangle attempt. Peña keeps looking to trap one of McMann’s arms. She has to give her back, to then escape, back to standing.
Peña now lands crushing knees to the gut as she is pressured against the cage. In the final 30 seconds, Peña lands a thudding left-hook, right-cross combo as they break. Peña’s relentless, scrapping-style is beginning to help her turn the tide.
Peña starts to take control, her right-hand landing blows which forces McMann to make more desperate takedown attempts. When they clinch, Peña executes a perfect outside trip at 3:55.
As McMann tries to posture up, Peña lands heavy hammer fists. Now riding the back, Peña strikes to create openings for her hooks, and then quickly switches to a body triangle.
She slides her arm under the neck as McMann continues to fight the second arm to prevent the rear naked. However, Peña is relentless and is able to finish the choke with one arm forcing McMann to tap out, by 3:39 of round 3.