Raquel Pennington is an underdog in the eyes of most. Having said that, Nunes is a tremendous fighter and if she can perform at the level we know she can, I expect her to retain the title at home. Nunes will be more than happy to oblige. The Brazilian does to a pretty good job of mixing in body shots and not simply head-hunting, which makes him even more risky. There has been a great deal of speculation about her work ethic considering she is already famous and successful in the jiu-jitsu world and has expressed a desire to make a big splash and retire young now that she is in MMA full-time.
That's because it is a strikingly similar build-up to the Ronda Rousey fight at the end of 2016 that saw Nunes crush the returning American and effectively end her MMA career. That layoff was due to a brutal loss to Holly Holm. He will get a chance to put together back-to-back wins for the first time since 2014 against Belfort, who once again says he will retire after this fight.
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Malta has failed to reach the final twice in the past three years, but she'll still be hoping for a golden ticket. Today's first semi-final sent home nine countries: Azerbaijan, Iceland, Belgium, Belarus, F.Y.R.
I was really impressed with Nunes' performance against Valentina Shevchenko last time out as she showed much more patience and poise, proved she can go 25 minutes and emerged victorious in a tough fight against an equally talented opponent. With this fight in Brazil, I think Pennington will be overwhelmed. While Pennington defeated a seemingly unmotivated Miesha Tate, that is not what she's getting here. She also scored three takedowns and floored Pennington twice. Raquel Pennington is a puncher with a strong chin. Nunes likes to come forward and strike and Pennington is known for utilizing her wrestling to grind out victories. Nunes is unsafe on the feet and has done away with her cardio issues.
Ahead of this weekend's event, the UFC uploaded its behind-the-scenes YouTube series "UFC Embedded" to give you an up-close look at what the fighters go through on fight week as they make their final preparations for Saturday night. Nunes won by submission (rear-naked choke) in the first round to become the first openly gay champion in UFC. That the competitors are the primary story, not the history they are making, is a true sign of progress.
Can Pennington pull off a massive upset?