Kayla Harrison no longer trains with Amanda Nunes on a daily basis, but she knows her former teammate well enough to admit that Nunes’ performance against Julianna Peña in their first encounter was completely out of character.
While Nunes had her moments, she started to run out of steam after the first round and Peña’s persistence allowed Ultimate Fighter champion weather an early storm and then turn the tide in their favor in the second round. The end result was that Peña defeated Nunes to become the UFC bantamweight champion.
Now they’ll meet again in Saturday’s UFC 277 main event, with Harrison expecting a very different rematch outcome.
“Of course I don’t train with Amanda anymore, so I don’t know how the camp went, I don’t know what she does, but she is so talented, she is so hardened,” Harrison told MMA Fighting.
“I think she is learning from this mistake. I think it was just an accident, to be honest. I can’t imagine everything going the same way again. I cant. Now I don’t know how she trains, I don’t know her cardio. I don’t know, but if I was going to bet, I would bet on Amanda.
Before Nunez parted ways with American Top Team after losing to Peña last year, Harrison spent a lot of time in the gym with the Brazilian. She understands how good Nunes is at her best.
Harrison has also had some heated exchanges with Peña in the past, but that won’t stop the two-time PFL champion from praising her for a job well done.
“I have nothing against Julianna,” Harrison said. “She is another one of those who talk a lot of nonsense, and something needs to be done to sell her, I understand. But let’s see. That’s why we have fights. You are right, you can become a victim of your own success. [when it comes to Amanda].
“I think what also happened was that she came in and put a lot of pressure on Amanda and Amanda said, ‘I’m just going to knock her out’ and Julianne was tough. She can’t take that away from her. She is tough. I respect it. I like that about her.”
Ultimately, Harrison believes this likely led to Nunes’ downfall in the first fight because Peña simply refused to leave even when faced with adversity.
Prior to the loss, Nunes had pretty much beaten her previous 12 opponents in a row, with the exception of a couple of fights with Valentina Shevchenko. Harrison believes it may have come back to bite her when Peña didn’t disappear during those early exchanges.
And Harrison doesn’t expect Nunez to make the same mistake again.
“When [Peña] didn’t fall, I think that may have surprised Amanda a bit,” Harrison said. “When she kept coming, I think it surprised Amanda a little. But this time she won’t be surprised.
“She won’t make that mistake again. She’s not going to take it lightly. It will be interesting to see how they both adapt. I’m very excited about this fight.”