As the former Invicta FC atomweight champion, Jessica Penne still had to audition to get on the show. If not for Michelle Waterson’s Gumby arm, Penne would have retained her atomweight title. The armbar Penne had Waterson in was one of the deepest that did not force a tap or cause major trauma. Penne, showing championship heart bounced back from that loss with a first round submission win over Nicdali Rivera-Calanoc at Invicta FC 6. She is moving up in weight class to compete on the show and is a threat to win it. The UFC apparently thought the same thing as they seeded her fourth for the season. They also did her a favor by feeding her Lisa Ellis for her first round fight.
Sequels are Tough
We seem to love rematches and sequels. Even though most of the sequels in Hollywood suck compared to the first movie it does not stop them from cranking them out. This is due in part to the fact that they know we will go see them, at least the for opening weekend. They know there will be a core fan base that want the sequel to be good. Sometimes they are and you get something that equals, or in the case of The Godfather 2 exceeds the original. More often than not though you just get The Godfather 3 instead.
It is the same for rematches in combat sports. Sometimes you get one of those classic rematches like the Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard battles. More often than not they underwhelm and you get Edgar versus Penn 3. The rematches that work the best are the ones that are naturally warranted. Much like the successful sequels in Hollywood are the ones where there is a story to be told and they are not just trying to cash in on the first movies popularity. It is the same for fights. The best rematches are the ones that should happen.
An easy win for Penne
The rematch was not a classic fight but more what you would expect when the number four seed faces the number thirteen seed. During the two years since their first fight Penne has become one of the best fighters in world and one of the favorites to win the show.
The fight with Ellis was a brutal, methodical beat down that ended up with Penne getting the win via a rear naked choke. Penne used her footwork and striking to force Ellis into trying to get the fight to the ground. Instead they ended up in a clinch and Penne did some damage with her knees. This led to Ellis attempting a toss and instead she ended up on the bottom.
On the ground Ellis had one moment where she was able to sweep but it did not last long as Penne swept right back only seconds later and took Ellis’ back in the process. From her back Penne was able to work for the choke. It was a quick and easy win for Penne leaving her in good shape going into the next round.
The Crazy Eyes
Like the other three winners so far on the season Penne is one of those fighters that is different in the octagon. You see it in her eyes – they are burning with intensity and focus. They reflect a dark place that not every fighter can access. Penne is very nice outside of the cage but becomes a different person when she steps in to fight. It was something that Ellis had problems accessing and she talked about it on the show that she had lost “her meanness” and she never did find it during the fight.
The meanness is something that every fighter has to have to some degree during the fight. It is a fight after all and not a lazy Sunday drive through the countryside. A fight is a struggle between two people who want the same thing, in this case they all are battling to be the first UFC strawweight champion. We have seen the intensity from all four winners so far.
Why she can win
One of the keys to taking TUF is getting through the fights injury free and of course winning them. Penne did exactly that with her easy first round win over Ellis. It also helps her that she in one of the smaller fighters on the show and has to cut very little weight. This all means that she should be in great shape for her second round fight with either Aisling Daly or Angela Magana.
Both fighters would provide tough challenges for her but ones she is capable of overcoming. Whoever wins will be a tougher challenge for her but the Daly and Magana fight will most likely be a war and it is difficult to see either of them winning as easily as Penne defeated Ellis. If that is the case it will give Penne an advantage going into the second round. She already has one by getting her fight over early she has a little more time before her next fight.
It also helps Penne slightly that she holds a win over Magana, if she is able to defeat Daly, from back in 2009. Both fighters have evolved a lot since that fight but there is always that little thought in the back of someone’s head when they have lost to someone. It can make the difference in those key moments of a fight.
The other reason she could win the show is her all around skill sets allow her to matchup well with the other fighters on the show. So often in MMA we hear that styles make fights because it is true. A fighter’s style can negate one opponent but play right into another’s strengths. By being well-rounded and able to fight multiple styles effectively gives a fighter the best chance to win a tournament like this where they could face four different styles in four fights. Penne is equipped to do that with ever improving standup and strong submission game. Factor in her championship heart and strong will to win and you have one of the favorites to become the first UFC strawweight champion.
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