A division whose champion is set for a hiatus, women’s bantamweight is in an interesting spot right now. There’s little need for an interim title, as the UFC’s 135lb champ Amanda Nunes fought earlier this month — only at featherweight, putting her other title on the line. Still, a placeholder belt would be a hard sell even if she stays gone until 2021, which seems to be the plan with her first child on the way.
If nothing else, Nunes’ absence should allow for some contenders to emerge. Having decimated the weight class, a cease-fire with “The Lioness” might actually be for the best. With that in mind, a few big fights were coming up for the division: Holly Holm vs. Irene Aldana in August. And to a lesser extent, Raquel Pennington vs. Marion Reneau at UFC on ESPN 11 on Saturday.
— Tecia Torres (@TeciaTorres) June 21, 2020
Pennington’s partner, Tecia Torres, had won earlier on the card, paving the way for a big win from Pennington.
Marion Reneau was not shy about attacking early, putting together her hands and kicks. Pennington would answer back with a hook. That would lead to a clinch, but Pennington couldn’t make anything happen there. Back in the open, Reneau connecetd with a crisp right hand. Pennington went back to the clinch, firing short punches and a knee. However, Reneau would eventually take the back standing, then work for a trip/takedown.
Pennington and Reneau both got their hands going early in round two, turning up the volume a little. Reneau was doing some good work in the clinch, but Pennington was threatening with knees. With two minutes remaining in the frame, Reneau landed a takedown, pulling her opponent’s legs out from under her. But Reneau couldn’t keep her there, and gave up position in the process. That allowed Pennington to get on top, with Reneau looking for a triangle off the bottom. Pennington eventually let her oppnent up, snapping off a kick to the thigh before she did. She’d later press for a takedown, eating some elbows for her troubles, before the end of the frame.
Reneau hunted for a takedown early in round three, imposing her will against the fence. Pennington used an overhook to make her way up, then locked on the Thai clinch and fired off a knee. They’d break, Pennington would attack, and do more damage in the Thai clinch, adding elbows and knees. The third was unquestionably Pennington’s round, with her elbows in the clinch a huge, huge factor. If there had been any question before the third round, there wasn’t by the time it came to a close.
Where the win leaves Pennington will be unclear. She’ll need a few more wins like that to make it back to contention. But at the least, the foundation has been laid.
Official Result: Raquel Pennington def. Marion Reneau by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)