This weekend we see two dominant Bantamweight fighters square off to see who takes another step towards the gold when Germaine De Randamie (9-4) takes on Julianna Pena (9-3).
Germaine de Randamie is perhaps one of the most dominant fighters in the UFC’s Bantamweight division. While her MMA record is quite modest at 9-4, her UFC record stands at 6-2 with both of those losses handed to her by WMMA great, Amanda Nunes. De Randamie squeezed out a split decision win in her promotional debut and, after the hiccup of losing to Nunes the first time, went on to win another two fights by stoppage. De Randamie then fought Holly Holm for the inaugural women’s Featherweight belt, despite the match being showered in controversy, De Randamie came away victorious. The controversy followed De Randamie in this division, she refused to defend her belt against the woman the division was made for, Cris Cyborg, citing Cyborg’s previous issues with banned substances. De Randamie was stripped of the belt and went back to Bantamweight where she won two more fights including a finish over prospect Aspen Ladd. The only thing left for De Randamie was a title shot and the chance to avenge her loss against Amanda Nunes. Many people counted De Randamie out of this fight but she held her own against Amanda, however, she ultimately came up short.
Julianna Pena really looked like a future star in the making when she appeared on The Ultimate Fighter in 2013. Unfortunately immediately after winning the show, she suffered a severe knee injury which kept her out of action until 2015. When she eventually returned she managed to increase her win streak to four. This streak included wins over former title challenger Cat Zingano and Jessica Eye. Pena went on to lose to Flyweight Queen Valentina Shevchenko and shortly after announced she was pregnant and would be taking an indefinite hiatus from the sport. Upon her return in 2019, Pena secured a decision victory over fellow TUF winner Nicco Montano.
In her last fight against Amanda Nunes, De Randamie did much better than many critics thought she would. She survived a tough first-round where it really looked like she could be finished at multiple points and looked much better in the second. She even managed to use her elite kickboxing to land effectively on Nunes and wobble her. Unfortunately for De Randamie, despite showing how she’s improved since their first fight, she was ultimately outworked and lost the decision. In order to win this fight with Pena, De Randamie needs to use her kickboxing skill to pepper her with strikes and keep the distance to avoid falling victim to Pena’s takedowns. De Randamie has a large advantage on the feet but she has been getting better at stuffing takedowns and bringing the fight back standing.
Pena struggled to get off a lot of momentum in her last fight against former Flyweight champion, Nicco Montano. She managed to get back into the swing of things in the second round and used her superior wrestling to take the fight to the ground and stay busy with multiple submission attempts and strikes. Pena continued to best Montano on the feet and ground in the third round and secured a hard-fought decision victory. Coming off of her second long layoff, Pena did not look like the same person who won The Ultimate Fighter so Octagon jitters could have been an issue in this fight. In order to stand victorious over De Randamie, Pena needs to set up her takedowns and use her head movement and footwork to avoid letting De Randamie land combinations. Pena is a strong woman and she needs to use that to her advantage, holding De Randamie on the ground and allowing her to really tee off with strikes and submission attempts.
After the Cris Cyborg fiasco, people forgot how good Germaine De Randamie really is. She has a huge kickboxing record of 46-0 and only has two losses in the UFC, both to one of the greatest to ever do it, Amanda Nunes. If De Randamie is successful this weekend she should rematch Holly Holm. The controversial nature of the last fight (the strikes after the bell, the decision which itself) means that it absolutely has to be run back again at some point so both women can put the nail in the coffin once and for all. If she comes up short this weekend and so does Irene Aldana in the main event, a fight between the two ladies could be extremely fun to watch.
Once thought of as a really hot prospect in the Bantamweight division, she was even calling out Ronda Rousey at the height of her success, Pena’s momentum has slowed down significantly thanks to long periods of inactivity. Pena should still be held in high regard, her only loss is to the great Valentina Shevchenko after all. If Pena can get the win this weekend she should fight Ketlen Vieira in a bout that would have definite title implications. If she suffers a loss, a match against Aspen Ladd makes a lot of sense. It will be interesting to see which version of Pena shows up this weekend and if she can turn into the fighter many people predicted she would become after her win on The Ultimate Fighter.
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