Rivalries: Raquel Pennington

By: Brian Knapp
Sep 15, 2021

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Raquel Pennington by most reasonable accounts has exceeded the expectations that were set for her when she joined the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster in 2013.

The Altitude MMA rep and onetime title challenger will look to get back into the matchmakers’ good graces when she takes on Pannie Kianzad in a UFC Fight Night 192 prelim this Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Pennington has put together six victories across her past nine appearances. She last competed at UFC on ESPN 11, where she laid claim to a unanimous verdict over Marion Reneau on June 20, 2020 and improved to 8-5 inside the Octagon.

As Pennington closes in on her confrontation with Kianzad, a look at some of the rivalries that have helped shape her career:

Holly Holm

The Jackson-Wink MMA representative walked away from her much-hyped organizational debut with a split decision over Pennington in the UFC 184 co-main event on Feb. 28, 2015 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Judges Ron McCarthy and Wade Vierra struck 30-27 and 29-28 scorecards for Holm, while Derek Cleary saw it 29-28 for Pennington. Holm worked well at range, applying pressure with accurate punches to the head and a steady diet of kicks to the body. The former Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder shut down Pennington’s takedown attempts and piled up points on the feet, firing the occasional head kick with ill intent. A graduate of Season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Pennington landed sporadically throughout the first 10 minutes but saved her best effort for Round 3. There, she drew Holm into more of a firefight, negated her footwork, briefly floored her with a right hand to the chest and bloodied her nose. Still, “The Preacher’s Daughter” steered clear of real danger and exited the cage with her hand raised. The two women met again some five years later, as Holm took a unanimous verdict in their January 2020 rematch at UFC 246.

Jessica Andrade

Pennington submitted the Brazilian dynamo with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their UFC 191 prelim on Sept. 5, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. A short-notice fill-in for the injured Liz Carmouche, Andrade conceded defeat 4:58 into Round 2. Pennington answered multiple first-round takedowns from her counterpart with jarring knee strikes to the body and standing elbows in close quarters. The blows appeared to rob Andrade of some her steam, as she slowed noticeably. Still, she cracked Pennington with a clean left hook in the second round and snatched a guillotine choke in full guard. “Rocky” kept her cool, freed herself and then stacked Andrade beneath her, dropping punches along the way. Pennington scrambled to her opponent’s back and cinched the fight-ending choke, avenging a March 2014 decision loss to the Parana Vale Tudo standout in decisive fashion.

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Miesha Tate

When you “retire” Tate, even for a few years, you tend to draw attention to yourself. Pennington took a unanimous decision from the former women’s bantamweight champion in a three-round UFC 205 showcase on Nov. 12, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Scores were 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27. Tate announced her retirement soon after. Pennington beat the Tacoma, Washington, native in every phase of the game, as she battered her with a wicked jab and combination punching on the feet, frustrated her in the clinch and surprised her in the grappling exchanges with repeated passes at guillotine chokes. Pennington outlanded “Cupcake” by wide margins in total strikes (111-48) and significant strikes (43-21), matched her in the takedown department and piled up nearly seven minutes of control time, as she emerged as an unlikely No. 1 contender at 135 pounds.

Amanda Nunes

Nunes retained the undisputed women’s bantamweight crown with yet another one-sided performance, as she disposed of Pennington with punches in the fifth round of their UFC 224 headliner on May 12, 2018 at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro. Her nose mangled by an earlier knee strike from the clinch, Pennington succumbed to blows 2:36 into Round 5. It was as if the Octagon had become a crime scene, lacking only the yellow tape. Nunes was in complete control for most of the fight, slowly walking her game but outmatched challenger into a trap from which there was no escape. The champion nearly doubled Pennington in terms of significant strikes, 124-64, answered a takedown with three of her own and outperformed “The Ultimate Fighter 18” semifinalist in the following categories: head strikes (72-49), body strikes (31-10), leg strikes (21-5), strikes from distance (96-56), clinch strikes (15-7) and ground strikes (13-1). Pooled blood on the canvas told the story: The title was going nowhere. Advertisement
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