The final episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate aired on Wednesday night and featured the final fight of the season between Team Rousey’s Jessica Rakoczy and Team Tate’s Raquel Pennington setting the stage for the first female Ultimate Fighter finals in the series’ eight-year history.
Both women had fought twice heading into the semi-final round and carried with them nagging injuries.
While preparing for the Rakoczy bout, Pennington was working with teammate Louis Fisette and injured her right hand.
“Just working on some technique getting ready for the fight and took a takedown and threw him completely on me. It messed up my hand a little bit,” said Pennington. “And it hurts.”
“My forearm is still a little messed from mine and Jessamyn (Duke’s) fight, blocking her kicks and stuff. My shin hurts pretty bad. I thought I’d be worried about my stitches, but it’s my hand. I thought I broke it,” she explained. “The doc seen it and said my bone was popped out of place. So when he put it back in place it hurt so bad. It’s been swollen. It hurts to grip and everything. That makes me kind of nervous.”
Rakoczy was also feeling the effects of the grueling tournament prior to the fight. While sparring with Chris Beal, reinjured her shoulder, which has been bothering her all season.
“Today we went to spar and I get in there with Chris, strong Chris, and he hit me so hard with the right hand,” said Rakoczy. “Coming in, the first fight I hurt my shoulder. So I’ve been trying to ease it back but my shoulder just wasn’t a 100-percent. It just like shot through my arm all the way down to my fingers and it was just numb.
“That is just really frustrating when you can’t give a 100-percent. I need to be healed up,” she added. “You do what you can with what you have, so I’m making the best out of it.”
The Fight: Jessica Rakoczy vs. Raquel Pennington
Stylistically, Pennington is the bigger and stronger lady, but Rakoczy has a better boxing background and a speed advantage.
Rakoczy drew on her eight-world title boxing pedigree and stuck and moved. She used her jab to keep Pennington at distance and began mixing in combinations. Pennington secured a late takedown in the opening roun,d but Rakoczy landed elbows from the bottom.
As the fight wore on, Rakoczy’s speed and footwork began to take over. She moved in and out landing shots and outworked Pennington. When it was all said and done, it was clear who had won. As the last pick for Team Rousey, Rakoczy advanced to the finals by unanimous decision with all three judges scoring the fight 30-27.
“This has been one of the greatest camps I’ve ever been to and this experience has made me a better fighter,” said the single mom following the win. “I’m very happy and very pleased with everything that has happened. Even though I miss my son incredibly, it feels really great right now. I can’t even put it into words.
Coach Ronda Rousey said Rakoczy was the most improved fighter on the show.
“All I can say is that I pretty much beat myself before I even stepped foot in that cage. That wasn’t me out there,” said Pennington in defeat. “I just didn’t perform. I completely had a mental block going on. This sport constantly throws curve balls at you. Right when you think you have everything figured out, you really don’t.”
Rakoczy faces Julianna Pena in the finals on Nov. 30 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas to crown the first ever women’s The Ultimate Fighter winner.