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This Saturday night on the main card of UFC Fight Night 139 in Denver, Colorado a pair of top five bantamweights will square off in an effort to creep toward another title shot. Pennington was last seen being dominated by Amanda Nunes in her title shot. de Randamie has been out for over a year and most recently defeated Holly Holm in a controversial bout to secure the inaugural featherweight title. She was later stripped for refusing to fight current champion, Cris Cyborg. A win on Saturday night will put one of these women right back in the mix for another shot at a belt.
How will Pennington bounce back?
The last time we saw Raquel Pennington, it was not pretty. She gave all she had in her title fight against Amanda Nunes but was beaten badly in a bloody beat down. At one point, she even told he coach she was done before going getting knocked out in the fifth round. A huge part of this fight will depend on how Pennington bounces back from such a physically and mentally painful fight. She is matched up with yet another elite striker and will have to solve the puzzle much better than she did against Nunes.
When Pennington fought Nunes, the difference in the level of striking was clear. She could not answer the pressure Nunes poured on and struggled for all five rounds. She is facing a kickboxing world champion so she should not expect to get the better of the striking exchanges in this one. Raquel Pennington needs to utilize her well-rounded background to have any chance of winning this one. Getting into a kickboxing match with the woman who arguably outstruck Holly Holm is a huge mistake.
If Pennington can get this fight to the mat, her chances to win skyrocket. She holds a submission win over Jessica Andrade so we know that her grappling is no joke. With three submission wins on her record, Pennington is easily the better grappler. She needs to make sure this fight takes place in a phone booth or on the floor. Keeping her distance will open up the kicks of de Randamie which have ended many kickboxing matches. We will find out in the first round if Pennington has what it takes to pressure her opponent and use her wrestling to grind out a decision victory or sink in a submission.
An elite striker returns
Germaine de Randamie earned hear featherweight belt early in 2017 in controversial fashion and certainly didn’t earn many fans in doing so but what we did learn is that she is an elite striker who had no issues going toe to toe with Holly Holm. Landing 144 strikes on a boxer like Holm is no joke. She worked the body all fight and came out with the win. A similar strategy against Pennington could be key. We saw Pennington fade against Nunes so working her body would expedite that process.
Utilizing a push kick to the body would achieve this effect while also helping keep distance. As a professional kickboxer, de Randamie went 37-0 so it is no secret what her game plan is. That push kick will help keep Pennington from smothering her and turning this into a brawl. Keeping her at a distance will let de Randamie strike from the outside where she can use her technical striking to come out on top.
Staying on the feet is a huge key to victory, especially in a three round fight. Throughout her UFC career, de Randamie has accumulated a solid 86 percent takedown defense. Pennington has landed 11 takedowns so wrestling defense is certainly something that de Randamie should be ready for. If she can fend off a few takedowns and dominate the striking, we may see Pennington become desperate and shoot a sloppy takedown. For a precise striker with two knockouts in her last three fights, that could signal the end of the fight.
Raquel Pennington is certainly an excellent grappler but getting de Randamie down could be a huge hurdle. Germaine de Randamie has excellent takedown defense and as the former featherweight champion, is the larger fighter. With how much Pennington struggled with the striking of Nunes, it is hard to see it going much differently in this fight. As long as de Randamie is healthy and patient she should be able to pick her shots, stay on the feet, and come out with a win.
Pick: Germaine de Randamie -162
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