The main event at UFC 224 saw women’s bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes put her belt on the line against American Raquel Pennington in front of a packed Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
After a successful fight camp with American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, Nunes made her way to Rio but it wasn’t all smooth sailing; her flight down was marred by a farty, unanimous co-passenger.
— Amanda Nunes (@Amanda_Leoa) May 6, 2018
Besides that unfortunate incident, Nunes arrived without a hitch, ready to defend her belt for third time in a row.
After winning the women’s bantamweight title from Miesha Tate at UFC 200, Nunes destroyed Ronda Rousey at UFC 207 and had a razor-close split decision win over Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 215.
Her opponent for this one, the feisty Colarado native Raquel ‘Rocky’ Pennington, had taken a completely different route to the Octagon in Rio.
Before this one, she recounted a memory from the beginning of her MMA career, 11 years ago.
“I told my coach, ‘I’m going to fight one day for the UFC world championship,’” Pennington said. “And he laughed, ‘That’s not even possible. How are you going to do that?’ ‘I have no clue, but I’m going to make it happen.’”
Pennington (9-5 before this fight) came into this, one agonising step away from her lofty goal.
After losing to Holly Holm at UFC 184 in Feb 2015, Rocky went on a four-fight winning streak, putting away the like of Jéssica Andrade, Bethe Correia, Elizabeth Phillips, and Miesha Tate.
Since then, she has battled through several injuries and undergone surgery on her shoulder, wrist and mouth.
After making a full recovery, Pennington was scheduled to face Nunes for the title in December but a freak accident on a hunting trip nearly forced her to retire from the sport altogether.
Just getting back into the Octagon was an achievement in itself but taking on arguably the best ever women’s bantamweight for her first fight back seemed like madness to many fans.
The bookmakers agreed and installed Nunes as the biggest favourite on the card at $1.10 while Pennington was paying $7.00 to stun the MMA world and get the win.
Nune started the fight brightly, backing up Pennington and chopping at her lead leg with some hard kicks.
Once the damage was done downstairs, she began to go upstairs, landing some big shots. Pennington proved a tough nut to crack, however, and connected with a few shots of her own.
— UFC (@ufc) May 13, 2018
Round two was a lot more even as both women stood and traded. Pennington even managed to get a takedown towards the end of the round but was unable to do much damage.
Nunes began to pour on the pressure in the third and fourth with Pennington’s toughness the only thing keeping her in the fight.
With a suspected broken nose, Rocky was about ready to chuck it in at the end of the fourth but she battled on. It came to little avail, however, as Nunes piled on the pressure in the fifth, eventually getting the stoppage by way of a bloody TKO.
Afterwards, the Brazilian paid respect to her opponent, calling her the toughest fighter she had ever faced but in reality, the pair were worlds apart.
What’s next for the champ? Who do you think represents the biggest to Nunes at bantamweight? Let us know in the comments!
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