UFC Denver: Former Champion Germaine de Randamie Makes Return Against Raquel Pennington

UFC Denver Germaine De Randamie Raquel Pennington
Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Polarizing former featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie returns this Saturday to take on Raquel Pennington at UFC Denver in a fight with major title implications.

Germaine de Randamie will be making her return this Saturday at UFC Denver more than a year after she was stripped of the featherweight championship. However, former title challenger Raquel Pennington is hoping to regain momentum following her own return to competition earlier this year.

Germaine de Randamie made the most of her title opportunity back in February of 2017. Cris Cyborg was under suspension, and the UFC granted “The Iron Lady” a chance to fight for the inaugural featherweight championship against Holly Holm. She defeated Holm in an impressive five-round effort, and the fight with Cyborg was the only fight that could happen next. However,  Randamie reneged on previous comments that she would face the Brazilian and instead said that she would not fight her on the principle that Cyborg had a reputation as a dirty fighter after coming off a failed drug test for the second time in her career.

The UFC elected to strip de Randamie, and Cyborg has been featherweight champion since last July. For de Randamie, planned returns last September and this past February were canceled when the Dutch kickboxer suffered another injury. The blow to de Randamie’s reputation may be permanent, but circumstances at bantamweight could give her as much redemption as she may ever get in the UFC. The bantamweight division has struggled to build contenders in the last year, and de Randamie’s presence could be the jolt that the weight class desperately needs.

Standing in her way will be the exciting and durable Raquel Pennington. Pennington returned from a year and a half absence in May when she fought current champion Amanda Nunes in her native Brazil. The fight was controversial after Pennington told her corner she felt she was done before the fifth round and her coaches sent her back out to get stopped by strikes minutes later. Pennington defended her coaches and the decision to go back out there, although it didn’t change the unceremonious finish to the fight after the numerous injuries Pennington overcame to return to action.

Prior to her absence, Pennington had put together an impressive four-fight win streak that included wins over former title challengers Jessica Andrade and Bethe Correia as well as former champion Miesha Tate. While the champion Nunes is set to face Cyborg at featherweight, a win for Pennington keeps her in title contention going into 2019.

Stylistically, de Randamie is an explosive striker and is arguably the only woman at bantamweight who hits with more power than the champion. “The Iron Lady” will look to keep the fight standing in the center of the Octagon where she can use a diversified attack of punches and kicks to break down Pennington. While she did slow down against Holm late in their fight, the contest at UFC Denver is three rounds and her cardio shouldn’t be a factor in the contest.

“Rocky” uses a multi-faceted attack and is known for being able to put pressure on opponents at a relentless pace. Pennington should use feints to hide attempts to get inside as well as hide takedown attempts. Her best route to victory is to get de Randamie to the ground where she can overwhelm her with strikes and submission attempts, leaving the Dutchwoman’s vaunted striking neutralized. One of the biggest threats to Pennington will be getting countered as she tries to close the distance, so footwork, feints, and head-movement will be paramount.

As it stands, Holly Holm figures to be the most logical choice for a bantamweight title fight first in 2019. However, it is not out of the question that Holm goes back up to featherweight which could serve to muddle the 135 title picture. What this means is that Germaine de Randamie with could be set up for a title eliminator against Ketlen Vieira or even a title shot with a victory. For Raquel Pennington, a victory keeps her in title contention and likely a top-three opponent in her next outing.