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UFC 246, McGregor vs. Cowboy: Predictions and picks

Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Preview
Modified 13 Jan 2020, 22:03 IST

#2 Holly Holm vs. Raquel Pennington

Holly Holm first clashed with Raquel Pennington in 2015
Holly Holm first clashed with Raquel Pennington in 2015

I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t expect to see Holly Holm return so quickly following her TKO loss to Amanda Nunes last summer. After that loss – her 5th in seven fights – she’s miles away from the title picture and so I fully expected her to sit out until perhaps 2021. Instead, ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ is returning to action to take on Raquel Pennington – who she defeated by decision in her UFC debut back in 2015.

Pennington returned from two straight losses in July to outpoint Irene Aldana, but despite that big win – Aldana is near a title shot herself after her KO of Ketlen Vieira – it’s unlikely that ‘Rocky’ will get another shot at Nunes herself given her loss to the champ in the summer of 2018.

Therefore, the winner of this one simply remains relevant in the division, rather than moving forward per se. But who picks up the win? Well, their first fight was an interesting one in that Holm took a decision based on essentially two rounds of kickboxing at range more than anything truly damaging.

Pennington basically couldn’t get inside the kicking range of ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’, who was quite content to simply snipe away – until the third round, when ‘Rocky’ threw caution to the wind and began to walk Holm down, throwing wild combinations.

That had Holm rattled, and while she did enough to win, it wasn’t a truly impressive showing. However, it must be aid that the fight was Holm’s Octagon debut – she never looked truly comfortable and really, only found her groove in her famous fight with Ronda Rousey later that year.

Even now, though, she can still struggle against fighters who don’t allow her to remain at range and snipe with her kicks. So can Pennington be that fighter? I’m not convinced she can. Despite her massive improvements over the years, ‘Rocky’ still isn’t a great fighter from range; she’s much better inside the clinch or on the ground.

That should prove a problem for her here, as the opponents that defeated Holm – Cris Cyborg, Germaine de Randamie, Valentina Shevchenko – were all excellent kickboxers in their own right, capable of cutting off Holm’s movements.

Unless Pennington can draw Holm into a brawl – and I don’t think she can – I don’t see how she can stop Holm from simply sniping at her for three rounds as she did in their first fight. And given Holm’s experience since then, the smart money has to be on her.

The Pick: Holm via unanimous decision

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Published 13 Jan 2020, 22:03 IST
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