UFC 224 Betting Breakdown: Amanda Nunes vs Raquel Pennington
Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the main event of UFC 224 as Amanda Nunes defends her UFC Bantamweight Title against Raquel Pennington.
Amanda Nunes (Record: 15-4, -1000 Favorite, Power Ranking: A+)
The 29-year-old Salvador, Bahia, Brazil born bantamweight enters her third title defense on a six fight winning streak. Nunes last fought in September 2017 when she headlined UFC 215 and defeated Valentina Shevchenko by split decision to hold on to the championship.
In the women’s bantamweight division, there are very few knockout threats. With that said, Amanda Nunes may be the most feared striker in the division. Of her 15 career wins, 10 of them have come by knockout. She’s big for the weight class with a 69 inch reach and uses her size well to wind up and land heavy strikes. She can absolutely knockout an opponent on the feet, but where she does her best work is on the ground from top control. Nunes averages nearly two takedowns per 15 minutes in the octagon and succeeds in scoring takedowns at a 34% clip. From her solid wrestling game, she has excellent ground and pound. She does a very good job at advancing positions to allow herself an opportunity to wail down on her opponent from top control to have an opportunity at a stoppage win due to strikes. Nunes is also a high level jiu jitsu black belt. Her skill set was on display in her title fight with Tate when she quickly latched on a submission to beat her opponent. Nunes is excellent in the first round of fights and is typically able to start off with a lead in her bouts. What has been the biggest hole in her game in the past has been conditioning, but in the Shevchenko fight she showed improved cardio and an ability to fight for 25 minutes.
Raquel Pennington (Record: 9-5, +650 Underdog, Power Ranking: B-)
An Ultimate Fighter Season 18 semifinalist, Raquel Pennington was one of the first female fighters signed to the UFC. In the three years she’s been in the organization, she’s fought eight times in the UFC amassing a 6-2 record. She’s been in the best form of her career winning her last four fights submitting Jessica Andrade and earning a decision over former champion Miesha Tate.
A high school sports standout, Pennington was a well-rounded athlete before getting her start training in MMA at 19 years of age. Pennington has a balanced skill set. She averages 3.80 significant strikes per minute in the cage and successfully scoring on 51% of those strikes. She does well to combine punches and kicks for a varied striking attack. Her wrestling ability is underrated having scored takedowns in six of her eight UFC bouts. While Pennington is no stranger to a good stand up exchange, perhaps where she is most dangerous is in transitions in and out of the clinch. She does extremely well to find the neck and work in submission attempts. She’s earned submission victories against Jessica Andrade and Ashlee Evans-Smith in that fashion. Pennington, at times, can be a bit stagnant in the standing exchanges allowing her opponent back into rounds. Otherwise, she’s a very capable of fighter and a bit underrated against comparable competition.
Amanda Nunes enters UFC 224 a 10 to 1 favorite over her opponent Raquel Pennington. In Nunes last five fights overall, she’s finshed Sara McMann, Ronda Rousey, and Miesha Tate plus two decision victories over Valentina Shevchenko. It is as good of a five fight run as anybody has had in the women’s bantamweight division. At the beginning of that run, Nunes was known only for her big power and ability to earn quick victories. That has changed with her victory over Shevchenko as she learned to pace herself better and fight a more consistent bout. Nunes will need to employ that Shevchenko strategy in her bout with Raquel Pennington. While Pennington may not be as offensively gifted as some of the recent Nunes opponents I mentioned, she’s got good size for the division and won’t be afraid of Nunes. Pennington gives up an inch in height and 1.5 inches in reach, so not much of a difference overall to Nunes. What Pennington brings to this bout is durability. She’s only been finished once in her career and tends to make her bouts competitive even if she is losing. Pennington is a savvy fighter that has an underrated submission game. If Pennington is able to upset Nunes, I’d expect it to come from a bulldog choke or guillotine choke against the run of action against the cage.
Expect Amanda Nunes to control the action in this fight as her power will force Pennington to fight off her back foot and counter. Statistically, these fighters have similar outputs and absorb similar punch counts in their fights which could lead to a much closer fight than the numbers indicate. The key variable in this fight is differentiation and that’s what Amanda Nunes brings to the table. Her fight ending power is real and her ability to change fights with that power is the difference in this fight. Nunes will be motivated to show off her set of skills in front of her home Brazilian crowd as champion for the first time. I don’t see it being as easy as the odds indicate, but Nunes will ultimately get her hand raised and retain her title at UFC 224.
In terms of the odds, the total is currently lined at 2.5 rounds. Given Pennington’s durability over 2.5 rounds appears to be the best opportunity available. Over 2.5 rounds (+115) is worth a small bet at UFC 224.
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