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Keys to Victory! Who will win Amanda Nunes vs. Raquel Pennington UFC 224 main event fight tonight

Reigning UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes will look to secure her third-straight title defense later tonight (Sat., May 12, 2018) at UFC 224 live on pay-per-view (PPV) from inside Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when she takes on gritty veteran Raquel Pennington.

It will be Pennington’s first Octagon action since defeating Miesha Tate back at UFC 205. Her previous scheduled title fight with Nunes was cancelled after “Rocky” suffered a leg injury during a car accident, so this matchup has been a long time coming.

In order to prepare ourselves for the main event clash later this evening in Brazil, we take a closer look at what both Nunes and Pennington need to do to leave UFC 224 victorious.

Amanda Nunes

1. Land early...

Nunes is one of the most complete fighters in women’s mixed martial arts (MMA) today, but she’s at her most dangerous in the beginning rounds. She likes to come out fast, hard, aggressive, and quickly put her opponents back on their toes.

In the past, Nunes has utilized her quick action gameplan to disrupt the likes of Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Sara McMann, and Germaine de Randmie, which are all matchups that resulted in first-round finishes for the Brazilian.

At UFC 224, against a challenger who hasn’t fought in 18 months, “Lioness” would be foolish not to pounce early and try to pressure Pennington into difficult situations. The more damage she can do in the first two rounds the less of a chance “Rocky” has of pulling off a comeback in the championship frames.

2. Control the range...

As the longer and more versatile striker of the two, Nunes must be in control on the feet. This includes distance, footwork, shot selection, counter punches, and overall damage.

While “Rocky” is one tough cookie who has never been finished by strikes in her entire career, she has shown a susceptibility to eating big shots. Her gritty nature and hard chin usually get her out of serious trouble, but that may not always work.

In order to take advantage of her tools on the feet and prevent Pennington from coming inside for some clinch work and dirty boxing, Nunes must control her range, play the angles, create and close gaps when needed, and circle away from counter shots after throwing combinations.

Raquel Pennington

1. Drag the champ to deep water ...

Despite not competing inside of the Octagon since late 2016, Pennington remains one of the most durable fighters in the division, especially when it comes to the in-cage stuff. The 29-year-old has never gone more than three rounds in her carrer, but six of her eight UFC appearances have gone the distance.

What does that mean?

It means “Rocky” has grown accustomed to maintaining her gas tank and ability to inflict damage late into fights. That’s the perfect recipe for a champion like Nunes, who oftens gasses out in the later frames following a barrage of offensive outbursts in the earlier rounds.

Nunes has tried to work hard on her in-fight durability but it remains one of her weak points. If Pennington can lean on Nunes for the first two rounds, score some points in the process, and drag this fight out, she could set herself up for a big reward in the fourth or fifth.

2. Trust in her ground game ...

While Pennington has gone to war with respected strikes like Holly Holm, Jessica Andrade, and Tate, she shouldn’t be looking to trade with Nunes on the feet at UFC 224. That’s not to say that “Rocky” can’t land some good counter punches and short combinations inside, she just can’t get mixed up in a kickboxing affair.

Instead, Pennington must flip the script at every possible turn. When Nunes looks to strike, which she will almost the entire fight, “Rocky” should aim to push the champ along the cage, sap her energy, and create a takedown whichever way possible.

If Pennington can get Nunes to the ground and keep her there, the heavy ground-and-pound will follow. That will eventually lead to a window of opportunity for Pennington to go for a finish, or at least win some rounds.

Prediction: Nunes via unanimous decision will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 224 fight card below, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FX at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

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