Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight boxers Amanda Nunes and Raquel Pennington clashed last night (May 12, 2018) at UFC 224 from inside Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
A pair of brutal first round stoppages of Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey saw Nunes capture and defend the title, as well as drastically change the division’s makeup. Last night, she walked to the cage a massive favorite intent of scoring her third title defense in front of her the Brazilian fans. Meanwhile, Pennington hoped to live up to her “Rocky” moniker. The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran has been around the division for a few years now, and her four-fight win streak managed to prove worthy of a title shot despite her recent layoff, largely because few other Bantamweights look like potential title contenders.
Nunes opened the bout with some hard low kicks, but Pennington adjusted and began to pull her leg out of range. Regardless, Nunes continued to land the occasional kick, and she used the threat of the kick to set up her punches. Meanwhile, Nunes was very much in the fight, looking to counter each time Nunes fired.
On the whole, Pennington did a good job of avoiding the most major strikes of her opponent. The low kicks didn’t feel good, but a fair few of them missed, and most of Nunes’ true power punches were deflected.
Several of Pennington’s counter shots got through, but Nunes dominated large portions of the round.
Pennington was a bit more proactive in round two, but Nunes’ kicks were still the difference maker. The Brazilian continued to pressure, something Pennington attempted to answer with reactive double leg takedowns. Pennington’s biggest issue was consistent volume, as she would alternate between throwing lots of punches and waiting for too long.
With a minute remaining, Pennington caught a single leg and finished a takedown from the clinch. She didn’t do all that much with her top position, but the grappling definitely slowed the Brazilian, as she looked a bit awkward moving in the final 10 seconds of the round.
Things were getting interesting.
Nunes controlled the early exchanges of the third round with more low kicks, and she scored a double leg takedown when Pennington got a bit too aggressive. Almost nothing happened with her top position though, resulting in a stand up at the two minute mark. The exchanges on the feet showed the fatigue of both women. They were noticeably less fast and both were more hittable overall. For a moment, it seemed like Pennington would score a takedown, but Nunes defended and answered with some heavy knees.
Nunes did not dominate, but she won the third round.
Despite her fatigue, Nunes was sharp to start the fourth as well. Her kicks continued to interrupt Pennington’s rhythm, and the punches she threw to follow up the kicks generally landed in a big way. When Pennington tried to drive into a double leg, Nunes reversed with a clinch trip. Once again, Nunes did little with top position, but she did burn out a large amount of the clock.
When Pennington eventually got back up, Nunes smashed her with some heavy knees to end the round.
Despite Pennington essentially admitting defeat to her corner, the fight continued into the fifth. Pennington still threw some decent punches but ate better ones, and Nunes completed a pretty easy takedown into the full guard. This time, Nunes actually tried to hurt her opponent, dropping elbows and moving to take the back.
Pennington did little to defend, resulting in a TKO stoppage for “The Lioness.”
Nunes dominated the vast majority of this fight. Outside of the second round — when the potential for a Pennington rally seemed somewhat realistic — Nunes landed the heavier shots in most exchanges, continued to brutalize the lead leg, and won the wrestling game as well.
Nunes conditioning was genuinely impressive in this bout. She pushed a hard pace, and she was tired at times as a result. Historically, fatigue ends her effectiveness. In this bout, Nunes persevered and recovered, allowing her to stay dangerous deep into the fight. A fifth round stoppage pretty definitively proves that Nunes has fixed what was once considered her greatest weakness.
Cris Cyborg is next.
Pennington fought through a lot of adversity, and at times it seemed like she had a chance to build momentum. Unfortunately, she just never found a way to score consistent offense. She worked in small bursts, which allowed Nunes to recover and fire punches back that were far more dangerous. The low kicks are also responsible for this issue, as that’s a weapon Pennington has always struggled opposite and was unable to provide an answer for.
Last night, Amanda Nunes dominated another title contender. How long will Nunes reign over the division?
For complete UFC 224: “Nunes vs. Pennington” results and play-by-play, click HERE!