Head coach Miesha Tate believes Pennington’s size and grappling experience will be a key factor in earning a victory against a former professional boxer in Rakoczy.
At a Team Tate training session, Pennington hurts her hand while training for her upcoming fight and must adjust her game plan to avoid causing further damage to the hand.
Unfortunately, the problems don’t stop there as the days wind down to the final fight of the season.
At the next Team Rousey training session, Rakoczy finalizes her preparation and game plan for the fight, which is obviously to keep the fight standing and use her years of striking experience.
Rakoczy is a former eight-time world champion in boxing and says she made the transition to MMA to take on new challenges in a new sport.
In one of the final sparring sessions before the fight, Rakoczy takes a big punch from her teammate Chris Beal that aggravates an existing shoulder injury.
At the official weigh-in, both women successfully tip the scale under the bantamweight limit, making the final semifinal contest official.
TEAM TATE’S RAQUEL PENNINGTON (3-3) VS. TEAM ROUSEY’S JESSICA RAKOCZY (1-3-1)
Round 1 – The fighters touch gloves to begin the match. Rakoczy pumps her jab to keep Pennington at a distance. Pennington lands a few leg kicks and Rakoczy continues to throw the jab. Pennington owns the center of the cage, but isn’t throwing much in the way of strikes. Pennington lands a straight right hand and a hard leg kick. Rakoczy answers with a leg kick. Rakoczy is getting more comfortable on the feet and tees off with a combination that forces Pennington to shoot for a takedown. Rakoczy stuffs the takedown and answers with a knee to the face. Pennington follows up with a second takedown attempt from the body clinch and after a few seconds of resistance, finally drags Rakoczy to the mat with a double leg takedown. Pennington advances to side control quickly, but Rakoczy is able to use the fence to get back to her feet. Pennington is on Rakoczy’s back looking for a takedown and finally gets it. After a quick scramble, Pennington ends up in Rakoczy’s guard where the round comes to an end.
Round 2 – Rakoczy is active with punching combinations and kicks to the leg that are finding a home. Pennington stands right in front of Rakoczy throwing her own strikes but nothing significant gets through. Rakoczy is gaining confidence on the feet and is countering Pennington’s strikes. Both women appear content in the standup, but it is clear Rakoczy is getting the better of a tentative Pennington, whose corner is screaming at her to follow the game plan. Pennington charges forward with a takedown that Rakoczy defends well. The round ends with Pennington pressing Rakoczy against the fence.
Round 3 – Rakoczy goes back to what has been successful so far in the fight, throwing a lot of jabs to the head and body as well as some leg kicks. Rakoczy is very active and is teeing off on a clearly frustrated Pennington. Pennington shoots for a takedown that is easily avoided by Rakoczy. Rakoczy lands a hard right hand that briefly backs up Pennington. Striking exchanges continue but neither woman can land a fight-altering shot. Rakoczy continues to implement effective foot movement and a high striking output. Pennington appears to have no answers. Pennington shoots for another takedown and after a brief struggle, gets the fight to the ground. Pennington attacks with a relentless flurry of ground-and-pound, but it’s too little too late and the final bell sounds.
Jessica Rakoczy def. Raquel Pennington via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
An ecstatic coach Ronda Rousey celebrates Rakoczy’s victory with the team and praises her for being one of, if not the most improved fighters of the season, regardless of gender.
Pennington admits to hitting a mental wall during the fight and believes she did not display the best of her skills.
With the season at an end, UFC President Dana White voices his excitement about the two tournament finals and how each coach got one male and one female fighter all the way through.
In the men’s bracket, Team Tate’s Chris Holdsworth will battle Team Rousey’s Davey Grant. On the women’s side of things, Team Rousey’s Rakoczy will take on Team Tate’s Julianna Pena.
The two winners will be determined at “The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale” this Saturday from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The main card will air on FOX Sports 1 with preliminary-card action streaming on MMAjunkie.
Coaches Rousey and Tate square off one final time before their bantamweight championship rematch at UFC 168 on Dec. 28.
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