Roxanne Modafferi (10-15 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Raquel Pennington (3-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC)

As we wrapped up season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter on Wednesday, we saw Jessica Rakoczy beat Raquel Pennington to move on to the finals to take on Julianna Pena. Earlier in the season, the men’s bantamweight was decided as Davey Grant takes on Chris Holdsworth. Following the episode, the rest of the The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale card was revealed and scheduled to fight in the first fight of the main card is Raquel Pennington and Roxanne Modafferi.

Pennington made it to the semi finals of TUF 18 but fell  short in her most recent fight against Rakoczy where Pennington never seemed to find her range or rhythm and seemed gun shy, putting on a disappointing performance to both herself and her fans. To get to the semi finals, Pennington put on one of the best fights in women’s MMA history against Jessamyn Duke taking a unanimous decision. Outside of TUF, Pennington holds wins over Sarah Moras and Kim Couture inside of her 3-3 record but also has a loss to previous UFC contender Cat  Zingano, three of those fights taking place in the Invicta organization. Her experience in The Ultimate Fighter house has  given her invaluable cage experience – do not expect her to be the same fighter she was before entering the house.

Modafferi didn’t have the same success in the house losing in her first bout against Rakoczy by second round knock out, but her involvement before TUF is what makes this fight intriguing. Modafferi is considered to be one of the pioneers of women’s MMA having shared the stage with fellow contestant Shayna Baszler, Marloes Coenen, Tara LaRosa, Sarah Kaufman, Rosi Sexton, and many of the Japanese women’s MMA stars. While Pennington experienced a lot during TUF,her experience still does not compare to  Modafferi.

Known for her grappling, Modafferi sports a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and a brown belt in Judo – while she only has four wins by way of submission, she has earned ten hard fought decisions in which she uses her experience on the mat and ability to take the fight there to smother her opponents. Her striking is generally used either defensively or to set up level changes and her striking defense, despite losing by knock out to Rakoczy (though Rakoczy is an eight-time world boxing champion), has been good enough to avoid being knocked out prior to the show – she was knocked out by Kaufman but it was the result of a slam. For Modafferi, her key to winning this fight is to do anything necessary to get the fight to the ground where she can use her superior (on paper) Jiu-jitsu and hunt for submissions or top position.

Her opponent, however, is no slouch on the ground either as was displayed in her performances during TUF 18. When Pennington defeated Moras back in 2012, we saw that she has very powerful wrestling and has a formidable level of grappling to last with submission experts like Moras and potentially Modafferi. While Pennington showcases a willingness to brawl, she also has the ability to utilize her powerful wrestling and heavy top control where she actively looks to land strikes and do damage. However, Pennington’s key to victory should be to sprawl and brawl with Modafferi. While her ground game is effective, we saw in her fight with Rakoczy that Modafferi leaves herself open and can be punished on the feet – something that a brawler like Pennington could be able to capitalize on.

@MikalMMA ‘s Prediction: Raquel Pennington defeats Roxanne Modafferi via unanimous decision

While Modafferi is certainly one of the pioneers of women’s mixed martial arts, her time in the game appears to be catching up to her as in her last five fights she is winless – six if you count her fight against Rakoczy as an official fight. Modafferi doesn’t have much left to prove in the sport where as Pennington appears to be a very hungry and emerging fighter who has a lot to prove after not pulling the trigger in her fight inside the house against Rakoczy. Pennington should look to avoid grappling with Modafferi, punishing her take downs while landing hard elbows during sprawls and then brawling with Modafferi where she should be able to land the harder shots.