Kicking off the main card of UFC 192 is a women’s bantamweight contest between the #6 ranked Jessica “Evil” Eye and the #12 ranked Julianna “The Venezuelan Vixen” Pena.” Eye is coming off a convincing loss to Miesha Tate, while Pena is one of the top prospects in the division and already has her eyes set on longtime champion Ronda Rousey. Jessica Eye (11-3 (1 NC) MMA, 1-2 (1 NC) UFC, +205 underdog) Eye, an Ohio native, has long established herself as one of the top female fighters in the world. For a lengthy period of time she was considered the number one female fighter at 125 pounds. However, the UFC does not have a women’s flyweight division so she is forced to fight in a weight class that is ten pounds above her optimal fighting weight. Eye is primarily a boxer that features a stiff jab and crisp straight right hand, which she throws well in combinations. The 29-year old can fight going forward, but her best work often comes from her counter-punching. Excellent movement and footwork are hallmarks of Eye’s boxing attack, which is among the best in the division. She would likely benefit from using more kicks, as her offense is pretty one-dimensional. Grappling is not a core aspect of Eye’s game either, though she has competent submission and takedown defense. Her defense often allows her to keep her fights on the feet, where she has the advantage against most opponents in the division. However, Eye has struggled against some of the bigger bantamweight grapplers. She does not offer any offense from her back and often struggles with retaining her guard and scrambling back to her feet. Additionally, there are some concerns about Eye’s chin, as she was dropped several times by Miesha Tate in her last fight. Julianna Pena (6-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC, -245 favorite) The talented Pena has long been considered the top prospect in the women’s bantamweight division. She burst onto the UFC scene as a competitor on season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter, which was the first season of the show that featured female competitors. Pena is an athletic, super aggressive fighter that puts a tremendous amount of pressure on her opponents. Her best asset is her grappling game, as she has sneaky good wrestling and a devastating top game. Pena passes well and has relentless ground and pound, especially when she achieves a dominant position. Further, she also has solid chokes, including a slick guillotine and rear-naked. While Pena’s takedown defense is not elite, she scrambles back to her feet well and is active from her back. The Washington native also has excellent conditioning and works at a blistering pace. Striking is not Pena’s best attribute, but she has been making steady strides since her time on The Ultimate Fighter. She features wild, looping punches that are powerful when they connect, but easy to see coming and counter. As of now, Pena’s striking is more of a means to set up her takedowns so she can work her top game. Additionally, she is strong in the clinch and likes to hold her opponents against the cage and throw hard knees to their body and legs. It should be noted that the 26-year old recently returned from a lengthy hiatus from the sport that was the result of a major knee injury. She was out of action for 17 months, but returned with a vengeance in April when she stopped Milana Dudieva in the very first round with vicious ground and pound. Thoughts This is a big step up in competition for Pena, who has faced relatively weak opposition up to this point in her UFC career. Eye is an experienced veteran that will hold an edge on the feet because of her slick boxing and footwork. Pena will undoubtedly use her trademark toughness, aggression, and tenacity in this one, as she needs to get Eye to the mat as fast as possible. She will have a big edge on the ground if she is able to drag Eye to the canvas and keep her there. I think that is the more likely scenario here, as Pena’s athleticism, size, and grappling will be too much for Eye to overcome. I believe Pena will likely find a stoppage before the final bell, either from a choke or her trademark ground and pound. The Prediction: Julianna Pena defeats Jessica Eye by submission (rear-naked choke, round 2)
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