The two strawweights competing on the UFC Vegas 24 card on Saturday night could not have been more of a contrast. In terms of their careers, Jessica Penne and Lupita Godinez were miles apart, on very different trajectories.
Penne, for her part, was returning from a four-year layoff that saw the embattled former title challenger duking it out with USADA, rather than an actual opponent inside the octagon. With the absence factoring in, Penne’s one and only UFC win had come over six years ago, in December 2014 against Randa Markos. From there, she had lost her title bid, two additional bouts, and most of the remainder of her career.
Godinez, meanwhile, was an up-and-comer, fresh off a huge LFA title fight win over Vanessa Demopoulos. That title victory had put her on the map, but a strong showing Saturday could make “Loopy,” a Mexican fighting out of Canada, a real player at 115lbs.
Early in the opening round, Godinez had her hands going, landing flush on the returning Penne. Godinez then closed the distance, initiating a clinch while Penne attempted to step over onto her back. Godinez would get the fight to the ground, but Penne immediately threatened with an arm-bar, and the newcomer backed off.
As the round progressed, Godinez landed a right hand, then picked Penne up and threw her down in an impressive slam. Incredibly, it was literally a slam — not a takedown, as Godinez chose to stay standing. For good reason, as a short time later, Penne proved that she still had top-notch grappling skills, taking Godinez’s back, and working on a standing rear-naked choke with a body triangle locked in. That took things to the end of the opening five minutes.
Round two saw Jessica Penne pick up where she had left off. She worked to take the back standing, forcing Godinez to play the grappling game — not where she wanted to be. Once again, Penne would take the back and sink in a body triangle, but this time Godinez would escape. Still, the message had been delivered. Godinez clearly wanted to avoid the grappling realm with Penne, as evidenced by her refusal to go the ground a short time later after dumping Penne on her back off a caught kick.
The third around saw more clinch work, with Godinez pressing Penne into the fence early. After returning to center, “Loopy” fired a combo, landing upstairs and to the body. That forced Penne to take things back into the clinch, only to be reversed by Godinez. Penne then climbed her opponent — only for Godinez to push her off, sending Penne sailing. That was followed by a brief exchange on the feet, but Godinez was frustratingly hesitant to really let her combinations go. Instead, she continued to engage Penne in the grappling department far more than she should have.
Four years away didn’t seem to have detracted from Penne’s grappling ability, and in the end, her skill in that area took her to a split decision win.
Official Result: Jessica Penne def. Lupita Godinez by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)