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The UFC passed along some of the highlights from Nunes’ dominant victory:
Nunes had the clear advantage from the outset of the first round. A lead leg kick took Pennington’s legs right from under her, allowing the Lioness to be the aggressor and back her against the cage.
Nunes was more than happy to oblige, and the notoriously fast starter immediately fell into a rhythm that was aggressive, yet controlled.
Anton Tabuena of Bloody Elbow nicely summed up the first round:
Anton Tabuena @antontabuena
Pennington isn’t moving and is content to stand by the fence. Weird game plan. She’s basically being turned into a human heavybag now.
Pennington lacked aggression until the end of the round. Rocky secured a takedown, but otherwise it was more of Nunes picking the challenger apart with leg kicks and combinations.
Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful noted that the takedown did little more than give Pennington some time to rest her lead leg:
Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com @SeanRossSapp
Pennington scores a waistlock takedown, but only has 40 seconds to work. Perhaps most importantly, she’s off that leg briefly.
The UFC passed along what little aggression Pennington did show in the second frame:
From there, Nunes went into cruise control. Pennington attempted takedowns to challenge the champion somewhere other than the stand-up, but the Lioness started scoring takedowns of her own, where she once again proved to be the better fighter.
Even when the champion looked tired, she was still clearly superior:
Bloody Elbow @BloodyElbow
Nunes starting to look a little more wild, less composed, but even then I don’t know that Pennington is dangerous enough to take over this fight. Getting outstruck 2-1 all night so far. #UFC224
After the fourth round, Pennington told her corner that she was done, but they sent her back out to face Nunes one last time. The decision had a predictable ending. MMA analyst Patrick Wyman rightly questioned the corner:
Patrick Wyman @Patrick_Wyman
Pennington’s corner sending her back out there after she said she was done for another vicious beating is criminal.
The successful title defense is Nunes’ third consecutive one. Since prying the title from Miesha Tate at UFC 200, she now holds victories over Ronda Rousey, Valentina Shevchenko and Pennington.
It’s hard to deny Nunes’ place among the likes of Rousey and Cris “Cyborg” Justino. Her win streak now goes all the way back to March 2015, and she is arguably the reason that the Rowdy one now works for WWE.
The 29-year-old might have her opportunity to show that she can compete with Cyborg in the cage. According to Nunes, a fight with Cyborg was in the works, but it didn’t work out this time around, so she turned her focus to Pennington.
“We tried to make that fight happen because it’s a big fight and the fans wanted it, but it couldn’t happen at the time so I moved on,” she said, per Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports. “I am excited for this fight, for sure, because I know how tough Raquel is. This is not an easy fight. I am always motivated for every fight and I promise you I will be motivated for this one, too.”
Now that she’s cleared out Pennington, it feels like she’s cleaned out the shallow bantamweight division.
Julianna Pena is the No. 3 fighter in the division but just lost to Shevchenko, who just lost to Nunes. Ketlen Vieira is the next fighter in the rankings but has even fewer credentials for the title shot than Pennington had, and she was riding a four-fight win streak.
In a potential fight against Cyborg, the constant question of weight will be an issue, as the 32-year-old will struggle to get any lower than 145 pounds and Nunes will be giving up a lot of size. But the time is now to make the fight that Rousey never could.