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UFC 184 fight card: Holly Holm vs Raquel Pennington fight preview

Holly Holm and Raquel Pennington will collide in a high-profile women's bantamweight bout this Saturday (Feb. 28, 2015) at UFC 184 inside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Between an experienced boxer and gritty veteran, what adjustments must be made for either woman in order to claim victory? Find out below!

Pictured: Raquel Pennington
Pictured: Raquel Pennington
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweights Holly Holm and Raquel Pennington will scrap this Saturday night (Feb. 28, 2015) at UFC 184 inside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.

There is a ton of hype behind Holly Holm. Should Cat ZIngano fail in her attempt to usurp Ronda Rousey, many view Holm as the last remaining challenge. However, the former boxing champion has to get through "Rocky" first.

Though her record is less than pretty, Pennington has fought some of the toughest women in the sport. She'll need that grit here if she's to get through her opponent's dangerous kickboxing repertoire and pull off the upset.

Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both fighters.

Holly Holm

Record: 7-0

Key Wins: Julianna Werner (Legacy FC 30)

Key Losses: None

Keys to Victory: While Holm's "Key Wins" section and record may not inspire a ton of confidence, it's definitely worth noting that she has over 30 victories in professional boxing. Clearly, a great deal of those skills have carried into the cage, as she's scored six knockout victories in her young career.

However, it's also more than clear that Holm is a talented kicker as well. It makes sense, considering that her first and current striking coach is Mike Winkeljohn, one of the finest kickboxing coaches in the sport.

Since Holm's goal -- both in this bout and in a potential match up with Rousey -- is maintaining the distance and avoiding any grappling exchanges, kicks can be very useful here. In particular, Holm should look to fire off teep kicks if Pennington comes straight toward her.

Additionally, Holm likes to step into punches, allowing her to close the range quickly. If she's maintaining a kickboxing range, it will be easier for her to attack with these strikes without the risk of getting taken down.

Holm has been given a favorable match up here. If she sticks to her usual game plan of distance striking, this is her fight to lose.

Raquel Pennington

Record: 5-4

Key Wins: Ashlee Evans-Smith (UFC 181), Roxanne Modafferi (TUF 18 Finale)

Key Losses: Cat Zingano (Invicta FC 3), Jessica Andrade (UFC 171), Leslie Smith (Invicta FC 4)

Keys to Victory: Pennington is a fairly talented boxer, but she commonly relies on toughness and aggression to get her through tough brawls. Unlike her opponent, she's also proven on the ground, which she established in her last fight with a nasty bulldog choke.

In the lead up to this fight, Pennington spoke about potentially out-boxing or knocking out her opponent; however, history proves that to be a fairly terrible idea. On The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18, she squared off with Jessica Rakoczy, another former boxing champion.

She was soundly beaten up to a unanimous decision loss.

Hopefully, Pennington has learned from that loss and realized that her best chance against Holm is to drag her opponent to the mat. With her back on the canvas, Holm's crisp punches are suddenly much less relevant.

To that end, Pennington needs to rely on her toughness and boxing technique to pressure Holm into the fence. Pennington is not an incredible athlete, which means a lightning-fast double in the center of the Octagon is more than unlikely, but a nice trip from inside the clinch would not be impossible.

From the top, Pennington has proven to be dangerous with her chokes. She cannot attempt to fight patiently here and she needs to hop onto the neck as soon as possible, especially when Holm looks to stand up.

Should she fight with a smart game plan, Pennington is a live dog in this fight.

Bottom Line: Few women could debut with as much as hype as Holm.

At this point, very few contenders remain for Rousey. If the 10-1 favorite does her bone-snapping thing against Cat Zingano, she'll have demolished most of the division. Since there's not a lot of interest in rematches, Holm has a major opportunity to quickly jump to the top of the division and earn her shot at the title with a victory here.

On the other hand, a loss here would be devastating to both Holm and UFC. Pennington is tough, but she's far from unbeatable. If Holm should lose to "Rocky," very few believers would stick around come Sunday morning.

Pennington has almost nothing to lose here. She's a massive underdog and seen as a cannon fodder for Holm to build up her name. Even if she loses in dramatic fashion, it's no big deal.

It's expected.

Should Pennington win, she's suddenly in the mix for a title shot. It likely wouldn't go well for her, but opportunity is opportunity.

At UFC 184, Holly Holm will make her heavily-anticipated debut against Raquel Pennington. Which woman will have her hand raised?

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