Amanda Nunes roared to another victory as women’s bantamweight champion with a punishing performance to stop Raquel Pennington in the fifth round in the UFC 224 main event on Saturday night in Brazil.
While Nunes won the title with a devastating finish over Miesha Tate and then sent Ronda Rousey packing to WWE with a 48 second knockout back at UFC 217, the reigning women’s bantamweight queen has shown off more of her arsenal in her past two title defenses while going deep into the championship rounds.
Nunes is best known for her blistering starts and this fight was no different except she was looking to punish Pennington’s lead leg as the challenger was standing directly in front of her during the early exchanges.
Nunes battered Pennington’s leg with kicks and twice she dropped the former “Ultimate Fighter” competitor to the mat with those clubbing shots. Still, Pennington stuck in the pocket and started firing back with her punches whenever the champion would move forward.
As the round moved forward, Nunes continued to land those kicks with Pennington’s leg turning different multiple shades of purple and red as a result.
Nunes kept up the pressure in the second round as she continuously pushed Pennington back against the cage before opening up with her punching combinations. Nunes was consistently able to use her long reach and power advantage to do damage to her opponent.
While Nunes maintained control for the majority of the second round, Pennington was finally able to drag the fight to the ground with about a minute to go, although she didn’t do much with it except maintain the position before the fighters worked their way back to the feet a few seconds remaining.
After being taken down in the second, Nunes returned the favor in the third as she slammed Pennington down to the mat. Unfortunately, Nunes wasn’t able to do much with the position and referee Marc Goddard was forced to stand them back up again.
Nunes was still landing the better strikes on the feet but Pennington hung tough during all of the exchanges despite some swelling starting to emerge on her right eye.
As time ticked away, Nunes continued to punish Pennington before trapping her against the cage with the clinch as she unloaded a barrage of knee strikes. At least one of those got through clean as Pennington’s nose was twisted sideways as a result of the knee strikes as she was definitely going into survival mode.
The champ is in rare form tonight.@Amanda_Leoa #UFC224 pic.twitter.com/mrkFZ5Zpdp
— UFC (@ufc) May 13, 2018
At the end of the fourth round, Pennington turned to her corner and said ‘I’m done’ but her coaches refused to allow her to quit. Instead, they implored her to go back out and leave it all in the Octagon rather than stopping the fight at her request.
That cost her in the fifth round as Nunes took the fight to the ground and immediately began bludgeoning Pennington as her nose absolutely exploded with blood gushing out onto the mat with the champion just brutalizing her without pause.
Pennington finally rolled over with Nunes just pouring on the punishment as the canvas was painted red with blood until the referee saw enough to step into stop the carnage.
Nunes threw her hands up in celebration as she earned the TKO stoppage at 2:36 into the fifth and final round. The win also serves as Nunes’ third consecutive title defense since winning the belt in 2016.
Once the fight was over, Nunes called Pennington and her fiancée Tecia Torres to join her in the Octagon where she addressed how difficult this fight was for her. Prior to Torres relocating to Colorado, she was a close friend and teammate with Nunes and her fiancée Nina Ansaroff so the champion admitted afterwards that this was arguably her toughest fight to date because she was facing someone she considered a friend.
“I never fight nobody as a friend, this is the first time ever,” Nunes said. “It was very hard for me. It was very hard for me this fight. It was the most hard fight in my career to fight this girl.”
Respect & friendship between two competitors.
? @Amanda_Leoa & @RockyPMMA #UFC224 pic.twitter.com/6MMnfTnB6M
— UFC (@ufc) May 13, 2018
Ultimately, Nunes said that she had a job to do to defend her belt and that’s exactly what she accomplished on Saturday night. The win also leaves Nunes with a tough decision for what comes next as she could potentially look for a fourth straight defense of her belt against fellow Brazilian Ketlen Vieira or hold out for a super fight against women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg instead.
As for Pennington, she showed incredible toughness throughout the fight, although her corner didn’t do her any favors by not stopping the contest when their athlete said she was done. Whether or not there will be fallout from that situation remains to be seen.