Saturday, May 12 – 11:55 am (ET) / 3:55am (GMT)
After a lengthy break, the UFC returns to action with a pay-per-view card in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Topping the bill is a UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship clash between Amanda Nunes and Raquel Pennington. This title fight is just one of five very important matchups that will occur at UFC 224.
Amanda Nunes might just be one of the very best women to have ever competed in mixed martial arts – yet, she is incredibly underrated. Nunes won the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship when she stormed past Miesha Tate in terrifying style at UFC 200. The win was her fourth consecutive victory and she was now sitting at the top of the table in this division. In her first title defense, Nunes crushed Ronda Rousey in just 48 seconds to defend her title successfully. After these two incredible performances, many fans believed that only Valentina Shevchenko could take the title away from the Brazilian. However, Nunes marginally worked past Shevchenko to win a split decision at UFC 215 last year. As it stands, it looks like Nunes could be sitting at the top of this division for a very long time.
Raquel Pennington is the next challenger to step up and face the Brazilian. However, it’s going to be no easy task to take down the champion over there in front of her fans in Brazil. Pennington steps in on a four-fight winning streak in which she most recently defeated Miesha Tate. Despite mixed results in her career, her most recent two losses were only marginal. She was defeated by Holly Holm and Jessica Andrade by way of split decision.
For the most part, this fight will take place standing up. Amanda Nunes is a talented striker and is also relatively active when the fight hits the mat. She’ll be looking to keep this standing so that she can land her ferocious straight punches on the nose and chin of Raquel Pennington over and over again.
For Pennington, she typically likes to keep the fight on the feet, as well. She worked Miesha Tate while standing up and even hung in there with Holly Holm at stages. Pennington has some power in her hands, but she lacks the creative ability to set up her strikes in the same way that Nunes can.
See, Nunes is powerful and sharp. Sharp enough to beat Valentina Shevchenko in a five-round war. For reference, Shevchenko is one of the very best strikers in women’s mixed martial arts. Nunes can flow together strikes seamlessly and land with maximum power at every chance. She’s also fixed some of the greatest weaknesses in her game. In particular, it now seems that Nunes’ gas tank isn’t the problem that it once was.
It’s hard to see Pennington outworking Nunes on the feet. Pennington is a little too flat-footed to be truly effective in a stand-up war with Nunes. At times, she looks a little lazy. She’ll drift back and forth and sometimes lean back before attempting a counter strike. All of these movements look rigid and stiff, and now ‘flowy’ as we have come to expect from the best martial artists today. She’s certainly tough and can defend takedowns with ease, but that’s not going to be a factor here against the champion.
As expected, Amanda Nunes is a heavy favorite in this contest. She’s currently sitting at -667 while Pennington can be found upwards of +500 .
Vegas has set the Total Rounds line at 2.5 and is clearly expecting Nunes to steamroll Pennington early.
I’m usually tempted by the underdog bet in scenarios like this, but this is not one to take the challenger. Pennington won’t be able to match the output of Nunes over the course of the fight, but her durability and toughness will see her hang in there deep into the fight. She might even make it five rounds.
Amanda Nunes by unanimous decision
Best Bet: Total Rounds – Over 2.5: +125 at BetOnline.
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