UFC 224 Preview

Can Amanda Nunes Overcome Raquel Pennington’s Grappling To Remain Champion?

UFC 224 takes place this Saturday, April 12 from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The event is a title fight between bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes and #2 Raquel Pennington.  The co-main event features a top-five middleweight matchup between #2 Jacaré Souza and #5 Kelvin Gastelum.

In the main event, Nunes looks to become only the second fighter in UFC woman’s bantamweight history to defend her belt at least three times.  Former bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey defended her belt six times, a record for a woman fighter.

Nunes (15-4) is currently on a six fight win streak, which includes two submissions and two TKO’s.  Nunes hasn’t fought since UFC 215 in September when she defeated Valentina Shevchenko via split-decision.  In her fight before that, Nunes knocked out Rousey in just 48-seconds.

Photo: John Locher/AP Photo

Pennington (9-5) is on a four fight win streak, but has only one finish in those four fights.  Pennington hasn’t fought since UFC 205 back in November 2016.  In that fight, she defeated former bantamweight champion Miesha Tate.  Pennington hasn’t lost since a decision loss to former bantamweight champion Holly Holm at UFC 184 in February 2015.

Photo: Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo

Both fighters haven’t been active as of late, with Nunes fighting only one time in 2017 and Pennington didn’t fight at all in that year.  Nunes likes to come forward and strike and Pennington is known for utilizing her wrestling to grind out victories.  With both fighters being inactive lately, look for the first round or two being a feeling out process.  But Nunes is the better fighter and has the power to give Pennington her first knockout loss.

In the co-main event, the winner of this fight could earn themselves a title shot against the winner of champion Robert Whittaker and #1 Yoel Romero who fight next month at UFC 225.

Gastelum has excellent wrestling but will he being willing to go to the ground with submission specialist Souza?  Gastelum’s (14-3-1) striking has improved as of late, knocking out former champion Michael Bisping back in November just 2:30 into the fight.  The UFC tweeted Gastelum celebrating after the knockout.

Souza (25-5-1) has home field advantage fighting in his country of origin.  Look for Souza to bait Gastelum to taking the fight to the ground and getting a submission later in the fight.

Photo: John Locher/AP Photo

Another big fight on the card is a fight long overdue between #9 Vitor Belfort and #12 Lyoto Machida.  Both fighters are former champions, from Brazil and are at the tail end of their careers.  Machida, 39, is coming off an impressive decision win over up-and-coming prospect Eryk Anders, giving him his first loss.  Belfort, 41, won his last fight as well when he beat Nate Marquardt via decision back in June.  This fight could be the last scrap for the fighter who doesn’t get their hand raised Saturday night.

Photo: Leo Correa/AP Photo

Belfort is still dangerous, but only for the first few minutes of the fight.  Expect Machida to weather the storm and use his awkward style to win the fight via decision.