UFC 224: Nunes vs. Pennington was electric, a great card from top to bottom, and it delivered. Amanda Nunes successfully defended her UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship with a fifth-round TKO over Raquel Pennington in the main event.
Pennington was a game opponent, and she landed some good shots, but Nunes used huge leg kicks and takedowns to definitively win the first four rounds. Before the fifth round, Pennington appeared to tell her corner she was done, but they sent her out anyway. She ended up being TKO’d and took a lot of damage she didn’t need to take, and hopefully that is addressed in the future.
It was the first UFC title fight featuring openly LGBT fighters. Nunes is engaged to fellow fighter Nina Ansaroff, and Pennington’s partner, Tecia Torres, is a gym mate of Nunes’. In the post-fight interview, Nunes called Pennington and Torres her friends and acknowledged the difficulty of fighting them.
“I never fight a friend before,” Nunes said. “It was very hard for me to fight a friend, I like these girls for so long.”
The co-main event was a good one, a back-and-forth battle between Ronaldo Souza and Kelvin Gastelum. Souza controlled the first round easily, but he came out in the second gassed, and Gastelum definitely took the round with effective striking, though Souza came back near the end of it and started landing some big counters.
SB Nation had Souza winning the first and third rounds thanks to his counters late, but it was extremely close, hence the split decision victory for Gastelum. Still, it’s likely about time for a title shot for Gastelum, who remarked after the bout that he thought he was ready, but that he’ll face anybody they put in front of him.
It was a night full of finishes. There was only a single decision win on the preliminary card, with the biggest wins being Jack Hermansson’s second-round knockout of Thales Leites and Oleksiy Oliynyk’s submission victory over Júnior Albini.
On the main card, it was all fireworks for the most part. Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort opened up the hostilities, and while the crowd was usual MMA crowd levels of terrible — booing fighters who aren’t immediately engaging, they got what they wanted in the end when Machida hit Belfort with a massive front kick for an instant knockout.
After that bout, John Lineker and Brian Kelleher threw heavy punches for the better part of three rounds before the former landed flush with a nasty left hook for his own knockout win. Mackenzie Dern was next, and her fight ended in the first round after she hit Amanda Cooper with a big right hook that dropped her, and finished it off with a rear-naked choke submission.
Dern, notably, missed weight by a whole lot — seven pounds over the limit — and a portion of her fight purse is going to Cooper. The co-main and main were discussed above. It will be interesting to see where Souza goes from here. His gas tank is not what it used to be, and while he’s far from unworthy to compete in the UFC — he entered this fight as the No. 2-ranked middleweight in the UFC — he has to be nearing the end of his long and decorated career.
Below, you can see the round-by-round action for the main card as we covered it, and below that is a full list of results from UFC 224.
Amanda Nunes def. Raquel Pennington via TKO at 1:58 in Round 5
Round 1: Nunes connects with a big leg kick early and it actually drops Pennington, but she bounces back to her feet. Another hard leg kick from Nunes as Pennington is up against the fence. Pennington misses with a counter right as Nunes spins her entire body around with a missed leg kick. She throws another vicious leg kick that makes PEnnington drop to one knee. Pennington’s leg is already very damaged. She lands a right straight in a flurry after eating another big leg kick. Hook to the body from Nunes. Pennington explodes off the fence and tries for a flurry, but nothing significant lands. Nunes is just walking her down. She’s slowed it down a bit — she’s already done a ton of damage and this is af ive-round fight. Nunes lands a leg kick of her own, and a good push kick. She shoots for a takedown and Nunes shrugs it off.
Round 2: Nunes comes out throwing, as expected. She lands several nice body kicks in the opening minute. She aets a hard straight right from Pennington, but she responds with another brutal leg kick. Pennington goes for a takedown, and Nunes gives her a big knee for her troubles. She gets the takedown briefly, but Nunes pops back up and gets to the fence, with Pennington on her back. Pennington manages to spin her into a takedown with under a minute to go. Pennington is on top in side control, but she doesn’t have enough time to get anything done.
Round 3: Nunes is slightly less aggressive in the opening of this round. She lands some leg kicks, and generally keeps out of danger but throwing nothing big. She ducks under an overhand from Pennington, grabs her, and slams her down for an easy takedown. She’s in half guard and really wants the mount, but loses half guard. Pennington gets to her feet. She lands a nice shot to the jaw over the top, but no follow-up for it. Pennington tries for a takedown, but she can’t get it. She eats a big right hand coming in for a combo. Nunes clinches with her, and lands a knee right before the bell.
Round 4: Right hand from Pennington lands hard in an exchange. She also lands a good left straight as Nunes grazes her with another leg kick. Pennington actually throws a leg kick with her hurt leg and it’s obvious there’s no power behind it. She’s still in this though, throwing punch combos that Nunes is returning. The striking in this round has been about even. Nunes scores a trip in the clinch though and is back on top halfway through the round. Pennington is doing a good job preventing Nunes from getting any offense from the top position. They get back standing. Pennington against the fence. Nunes clinches, and lands a knee, but Pennington gets out of it. One-two combo from Nunes against the fence, then a big overhand right. She clinches again and tries for two more knees, but it’s unclear if either landed.
Round 5: Nunes looks like she wants the finish. Big hook to the body then an overhand right. Pennington is dropping blood from her nose, probably from a knee. Pennington actually lands a nice one-two over the top, but Nunes easily grabs her, and drops her down with 3:30 to go in the round. She’s on top in full guard. She starts raining down the ground-and-pound after taking Pennington’s back, and the referee steps in to stop it. Between rounds, Pennington seemed to tell her corner that she was done, but her corner sent her back out there anyway. Seems like a very unnecessary TKO, and it’s the corner’s fault.
Kelvin Gastelum def. Ronaldo Souza via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Round 1: Souza shoots right out of the gate, and Gastelum sprawls. They remain tied up, as Souza is trying to drag him down. Big knee to the body from Souza while tied up. He drops again going for the takedown. He gets one of Gastelum’s legs, and Gastelum is punching him hard while he’s holding the leg. Souza drops down into a leg lock attempt. He doesn’t have it, but he got Gastelum to the ground, and he moved to side control. Souza manages to transfer to mound with over a minutes to go. He rains down some hard strikes. As Gastelum tries to move out of the way, Souza rolls into an armbar attempt, but he’s running out of time. Gastelum is holding on with 10 seconds to go, Souza lands several hard shots to the face and the round comes to an end.
Round 2: Gastelum comes out throwing, he lands some light shots to the jaw, and Souza is forced to back up. Souza shoots for a takedown and doesn’t get it. He throws a head kick that Gastelum blocks. Souza is walking through the punches to try and get the clinch, so he can drag Gastelum down. Souza, though, is getting hit. He eats a heavy shot from Gastelum and he’s stunned. He goes down, but seems to have recovered, and Gastelum backs up, not wanting to deal with Souza, even when on top. Straight right from Souza lands hard, but he’s tired, and breathing heavy. Gastelum is looking for the moment he can throw heavy. Gastelum lands a nice left straight, but his follow-up right hook is blocked. Huge left hand from Souza lands, but Gastelum eats it and responds with two big body shots. Souza lands another right hook, and it does some damage, but Gastelum connects with a big left cross of his own near the end of the round. That’s a hard one to score!
Round 3: Gastelum, again, is coming out fast. He misses with an overhand, and Souza lands a good right hand. Aborted takedown attempt for Souza. Big right counter to the cheek, then an uppercut from Souza, and a failed takedown attempt after that. Souza lands another hard punch to the face. Gastelum has abandoned his defense here. Head kick from Souza connects, and it does some damage, but he attempts a a single leg. He gets it, briefly, but Gastelum is right back up to his feet. Souza may have just accused Gastelum of being greased to the referee. Short right from Gastelum lands as he blcoks two of Souza’s shots. Both fighters are tired with 1:30 to go. Telegraphed head kick from Souza misses, but a follow-up body kick connects. Gastelumlands aquick right jab, and a hard left when they clinch briefly. Souza wants a takedown, and he doesn’t quite get it. They both swing for the fences in the final seconds. That was a tough fight to score. Very tough. Wow.
Mackenzie Dern def. Amanda Cooper via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:27 of Round 1
Round 1: Counter left jab lands for Dern. Dern is throwing heavy, heavy shots over the top. They aren’t landing yet, but she’s looking for the power punch. She just misses with a big overhand right. Left hook followed by a big leg kick both land for Cooper. Dern swings wildly with a left that clips Cooper and sends her down. Dern falls with her, they scramble, and Dern locks in a rear-naked choke after Cooper gave up her back to avoid the mount. It’s in tight, and Cooper taps!
John Lineker def. Brian Kelleher via KO (punch) at 3:43 of Round 3
Round 1: Lineker with a beautiful three-punch combo to the body after some polite back-and-forth to start the round. He eats a nice uppercut during a scramble though. Lineker wings a huge two-punch combo to the body, and then clips him big on the chin, knocking him down. He swarms and tries to finish, but Kelleher seems recovered. Kellerher gets to the fence and walks up it. Not much else happening in the first.
Round 2: Lineker is landing heavy shots. Kelleher is getting his in there, especially when he switches up his stances, but Lineker is handling his business, and has a much larger output. He eats an overhand, but connects with a jab and a short uppercut. Lineker wants the knockout bad, and he’s not afraid of KElleher’s power at this point. Big left to the body from Lineker. And now a big right to the body, that hurts Kelleher, who misses with a spinning back fists and is grabbed around the waist by Kelleher.
Round 3: Kelleher needs a finish here to get the win. Lineker is slowing down and Kelleher is coming out throwing, he hits three consecutive jabs on Lineker, and lands a good hook to the body too. He also had a takedown in there, but it was very brief. Lineker though, comes back with a fury and he gets Kelleher running backwards with a flurry of heavy shots. He stalks Kelleher down and levels him with a huge left! Kelleher goes down and it’s a knockout!
Lyoto Machida def. Vitor Belfort via KO (front head kick) at 1:00 of Round 2
Round 2: Belfort tries to get away with a quick power punch and he doesn’t get it, Machida is out of the way. The crowd starts booing because they’re not throwing caution to the wind. But Machida shuts them up with a massive front kick to the face that puts Belfort to sleep! WOW! Instant knockout! Belfort is done. Machida gets the win.
Round 1: Both fighters are very patient to start this bout — both have suffered bad knockouts in recent years so it’s not surprising. Leg kick from Machida, well over a minute into the bout. Belfort throws the first heavy punch, running in with a left that misses. Machida clips Belfort with a head kick and it does some damage, but Belfort recovers. Back to the standoff approach, and nothing really lands.
Women’s Bantamweight: Amanda Nunes def. Raquel Pennington via TKO at 1:58 in Round 5
Middleweight: Kelvin Gastelum def. Ronaldo Souza via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Women’s Strawweight: Mackenzie Dern def. Amanda Cooper via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:27 of Round 1
Bantamweight: John Lineker def. Brian Kelleher via KO (punch) at 3:43 of Round 3
Middleweight: Lyoto Machida def. Vitor Belfort via KO (front head kick) at 1:00 of Round 2
Middleweight: Cezar Ferreira def. Karl Roberson via technical submission (arm-triangle choke) at 4:45 of Round 1
Heavyweight: Oleksiy Oliynyk def. Júnior Albini vis submission (Ezekiel choke) at 1:45 of Round 1
Lightweight: Davi Ramos def. Nick Hein via submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:15 of Round 1
Welterweight: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos def. Sean Strickland via TKO (spinning wheel kick & punches) at 3:40 of Round 1
Welterweight: Warlley Alves def. Sultan Aliev via TKO (doctor stoppage) at 5:00 of Round 2
Middleweight: Jack Hermansson def. Thales Leites via TKO (punches) at 2:10 of Round 3
Welterweight: Ramazan Emeev def. Alberto Mina vs. unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Middleweight: Markus Perez def. James Bochnovic via submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:28 of Round 1