After that opening session, we are introduced to Pannie Kianzad and her No. 1 fan, a pug named “Biggie,”who is without a doubt her power animal. Leaving her birth country of Iran at a young age, she resettled with her family in Sweden and proudly represents both countries in competition. Despite living in Sweden, she travels to neighboring Denmark to train each day, showing a high level of dedication to her craft.
On the other team, Katharina Lehner represents Germany and has a furry fan of her own: her Pomeranian “Toffee.” Although not the first German woman to compete inside the Octagon, she is dead set on becoming the first German female fighter to win in it. Very receptive and happy to listen to her coach, Lehner absorbs everything Whittaker has to teach her in this short time to best utilize her abilities.
Jumping back to Kianzad’s history, we learn she was the first female Cage Warriors champion, and we also see some of her handiwork inside the Invicta Fighting Championships cage. Identified as an aggressive boxer that applies a lot of pressure, her solid wrestling base gives her a well-rounded approach to fighting that will give many fighters problems. Throughout her fighting past, she had her sights set on Lehner while in earlier promotions and is thrilled to finally get to test herself against her.
Unfortunately for Kianzad, her style even in training led her to requiring medical treatment often on the episode, first needing her cauliflower ear drained by Gastelum, and then breaking her front tooth while trying to pull on some headgear. The damage was significant enough where she would need to get the tooth extracted and replaced with an implant, but she will still be cleared for combat.
A fear that many people have, her anxiety for getting her teeth worked on actually caused her to flee from the dentist’s office. Later on, she came back, overcoming her fear and getting it done once and for all. After watching a little dental work, which may make a good percentage of the audience cringe, Kianzad seems happy with her tooth implant and we can move on to the weigh-ins. Each fighter makes weight without issue, and Maurice Greene expresses his excitement for this bout. With both fighters official, we know what’s next.
Tale of the TapeTeam Gastelum: Kianzad is 5’7” 145 pounds, has a 68” reach and a record of 10-3.
Team Whittaker: Lehner is 5’6” 145.75 pounds, has a 67” reach and a record of 7-1.
It’s fight time! Both women are amped up and ready to go, with Kianzad remarking that if she can get through the dentist, she can get through the fight. Referee Mark Smith oversees the action of this featherweight bout, and we are underway. Both women lead off landing left hands, and they continue to trade with Kianzad looking loose and Lehner seeming a bit stiff. Lehner initiates the clinch and gets reversed, and for the good part of a minute Whittaker channels his inner Dominick Cruz and repeatedly calls for underhooks. They break and continue to trade leather, going punch for punch with a kick or two interspersed for good measure. This time, Kianzad goes for the clinch and lands some good knees, until they break and Kianzad launches a head kick. With the two women slugging it out until the last 30 seconds, Kianzad drops levels and scores a takedown, jumping into half guard and likely taking the round.
The second period starts quite the opposite, when “Banzai” immediately shoots for a takedown and puts Lehner on her back in less than 10 seconds. Passing to half guard instantly, Pannie thwarts Katharina’s many attempts to scramble and maintains position while landing shots for over a minute, until Whittaker shouts for his fighter to get her back against the fence. Lehner listens to his wise instruction and walks her way up the cage. Kianzad keeps pressing the clinch, staying active with shots for a bit until they break and then re-engage. After throwing a few knees, Lehner trips her opponent to the canvas but the slick Kianzad reverses position and ends up on top. After a few more scrambles, Kianzad takes Lehner’s back and ends up in full mount, landing some powerful strikes to her opponent’s visage. With about 10 seconds left, Lehner finally sweeps her opponent, but it’s too little too late, ending on top but most likely losing the fight. The judges see it the same, awarding the decision to Kianzad.
Kianzad and her teammates are elated for her victory, but on the other side, Lehner and her team remain positive and take the loss in stride, knowing Team Gastelum may have won this battle but the war is far from over. In the next fight announcement, Whittaker picks heavyweights: from his team, Anderson da Silva, against Gastelum’s Justin Frazier.