Amanda Nunes is not like the other bantamweights in the UFC. And as warm as her smile may be outside the Octagon, when it’s time to go to work, whether in the Octagon or at the American Top Team gym in South Florida, she's a whole different person.
“Amanda's definitely a special athlete,” her coach, UFC vet and former WEC champion Mike Brown, said. “Not only does she have great technique and is very athletic on the feet and on the ground, but she has that killer instinct. At times she can be mean and even in the training room, she's a monster. She's always looking to put the person away.”
That’s something you can’t teach, says Brown.
“I think you're born with it, and she has that in her. She can be mean at times.”
He chuckles, knowing that now in Las Vegas, shortly before she steps into the Octagon to face Valentina Shevchenko in a UFC 196 bout on Saturday, it’s Shevchenko who has to deal with the ferocity of “The Lioness,” and not the ATT squad.
And Shevchenko’s a formidable fighter with a lot of experience and talent, but it did raise some eyebrows when she agreed to take on the No. 4-ranked Nunes in only her second UFC bout. One person who wasn’t taken aback was Nunes.
“No, I'm not surprised,” she said. “Every girl who wants to be in the top five has to expect a harder fight, so I think she's very intelligent to take this fight.”
Does she have the tools to win it, though? Brown sees some good qualities in “Bullet,” but also sees areas where Nunes can take advantage.
“(Shevchenko) has solid kickboxing, is southpaw, she throws a whole lot of volume but is a slower paced fighter. She's also tough in the clinch, and she's got a lot of experience, both in MMA and kickboxing. So she's got some dangerous tricks, but I see a lot of holes in the wrestling and the ground.”
And Nunes has shown that if she can get her opponent to the mat and start unleashing her ground-and-pound assault, it’s game over more often than not. And that’s the beauty of Nunes’ game and what separates her from most of her peers. All fighters talk about finishing their opponents, but Nunes puts a target on their head and goes for it.
In five UFC bouts, she has won four, all by knockout or submission. And in her lone loss against Cat Zingano, she had the former world title challenger on the brink of defeat before succumbing to a third-round TKO defeat. It’s a risky way to conduct your career, but it’s oh so exciting to watch.
“When I step into the cage, my goal is to finish the fight as fast as I can,” she said. “And this is always what I'm gonna do.”
That way of thinking has obviously worked, as the 27-year-old has to be in the conversation for a world title shot should she win on Saturday. And Nunes wants next.
“Yes, for sure,” she said. “After Saturday, there's gonna be big news after that.”
But soes Coach Brown have a preference when it comes to facing champion Holly Holm or her UFC 196 challenger Miesha Tate? Nope.
“I don't think it really matters,” he smiles. “She has one goal, and that's the gold.”