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TUF S18:E6 Rewind: Duke and Pennington’s War

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This past week on TUF we saw Raquel “Rocky” Pennington and Jessamyn “The Gun” Duke put on the fight of the season. This fight was extremely close and could have gone either way. It was a fight that almost happened in July of 2012 but instead it was destined for TUF and a national televised audience. It was the perfect fight to help the women’s division grow. It had all the elements of a great fight with the ebb and flow of each fighter digging deep and finding another level. It was compared to Bonnar and Griffin during the episode and in many ways it will be similar for these two fighters. They came together and gave us something special, something truly great , and being apart of a fight like that is rare. Before we get to the fight here is a brief recap of the earlier shenanigan part of episode.

Juliana Pena is girly and Sara Moras and Raquel were lucky to not break an ankle trying to walk in stripper heels as Pena’s “little princesses.” Miesha and Ronda can co-exist at a party as long as they maintain a restraining order distance kind of relationship. Weight-cutting sucks. It sucks more when you are at a party with teammates gorging themselves on food catered by Hooters. It sucks even more when you have a drunken annoying Anthony in the house after the party. Ronda hates Miesha. Miesha hates Ronda. A lot of people hate Bryan Caraway. Edmund is probably pissed off about something right now.

It was nice to see the coaches coaching. By that I mean that they actually showed us footage of it. Seeing the fighters prepare for each other was nice. Now, it may have something to do with the fact that these two fighters are familiar with each other. They almost fought back in July of 2012 for Jessamyn’s pro debut but her coach did want her to be the underdog in her first fight. They have seen each other fight and are familiar with their respective strengths and styles. Miesha had Raquel working with Muay Thai instructor Thonglor “Master Thong” Armatsena because of Jessamyn’s strong clinch and Muay Thai background. Over on Team Rousey, Jessamyn worked with Edmund on utilizing her reach to its fullest, something she has only used sporadically in her career.

The key for me regarding coaching on this show again comes down to how much effort they put into it. Do they care about their fighters? It is difficult to evaluate this until we are several episodes into the season because they do not give us enough footage of it. They like the drama on TUF and it works for them. They give us little glimpses that start to add up as the season progresses. You can also read their body language and get some insight to whether or not they want to be there. There is no doubt this season that these two coaches care and are invested in their fighters. It is not just the joy when their fighter wins but the pain they feel when they lose. When you watch them working with their fighters, both coaches are there in the moment. All shenanigans aside Ronda and Miesha have done an excellent job of coaching their respective teams this season.

They are also an example of two people who want to fight each other because they really do not like each other, and that can make for a great fight. Raquel and Jessamyn also wanted to fight each other, not because of a hatred. Instead it is more out of respect for the skill, heart and toughness of the other fighter. It is about the challenge of trying to beat a great fighter. As Jessamyn said, “To beat Raquel I have to be the better fighter in every possible way.” She knew it would take the best of herself to do it.

Did she do it? The fight was that close and there is not controversy over this decision. All three judges had it the same. It was just even enough where the decision could have gone either way. The nice thing about the format and this fight is that it really came down to the third round. We knew that it was even after two rounds to force the third one. It was also the closest round of the fight and was a display of pure guts, heart and that warrior spirit.

The first round was Jessamyn’s with her mixing in some strikes from the outside and using her knees from the clinch. Raquel countered effectively with her hands and used a solid teep to help offset the reach disadvantage. Both fighters used leg kicks as well to chop away at each other’s base. It was a back and forth round that set the tone for the rest of the fight. Just when it looked like one was starting to take control the other fighter would respond. Neither fighter could seize control of the momentum, it was like they were trying to catch the Golden Snitch and it just kept eluding them. Jessamyn won the round but Raquel jacked up her nose and her corner worked on it between rounds. It bled the rest of the fight and definitely affected her breathing but she fought through it. Edmund urged Jessamyn to kick more as Raquel could not match her there and Miesha urged Raquel to go forward and press the action.

In the second round Raquel came back when she heeded Miesha’s advice and went forward. She did a good job of controlling the distance of the fight in this round getting in to land combos and then out not allowing herself to get caught in the clinch too often. Several times in the round Raquel would land a barrage of punches and it looked like two or three times she had Jessamyn in serious trouble. Each time Jessamyn responded and came back landing her own flurries. Raquel landed more of them in the round, they were cleaner and had more power. At the 1:29 mark in the round she unleashed a flurry that would have ended a lot of fights, Raquel had Jessamyn against the cage and as Raquel threw a right hand Jessamyn launched a left knee to the body. Raquel’s got there quicker and cleaner right to the jaw and it snapped Jessamyn’s head around. Raquel pulled back and Jessamyn bounced back against the cage and again they both threw punches simultaneously, and again Raquel was first. This time a left hand that was the start of her landing seven or eight unanswered strikes. At least four or five were clean and powerful. Jessamyn responded with a knee and survived the onslaught. Her face was bloodied but she kept coming at Raquel. The round ended with Jessamyn landing three or four straight knees but it was clearly Raquel’s round. Sure enough the fight went to a third sudden victory round.

All this fight needed to make it a classic was an epic third round and it delivered. To start the round they both were breathing deeply and Jessamyn’s face bore the marks of Raquel’s handiwork in the first two rounds. It would have been easy for some fighters to have folded in the last round but Jessamyn is a warrior. In this fight she faced another warrior in Raquel who also did not quit but somehow found something  inside to win the last round. It can be frustrating to a fighter when they are blasting away at an opponent and they still keep coming at you. It can awaken those doubts inside your head, which can lead to defeat. Instead, Raquel kept believing and throwing bombs.

The third round started and Raquel was tired but looked fresher than Jessamyn. Despite the obvious weariness they were both focused on each other. There was no looking at the clock in this round like many tired fighters will do just trying to endure. These two were both trying to win this fight searching for any opening. Raquel took the first minute of the round, she landed the more powerful strikes and was busier. Jessamyn landed a couple of clean shots as the first minute winded down. As it progressed into the next minute she was now asserting her will. Then as that minute entered its last ten seconds Raquel landed a thudding right hand that was preceded by a double jab. Now was Raquel regaining the slippery momentum. The next minute might have been the pivotal minute of the round. Raquel landed several strong combinations that Jessamyn responded with just enough to escape, but could not mount much offense of her own. She just missed landing a clean head-kick. At the 1:45 point they exchange clean powers shots to the head. A few moments later Jessamyn again landed a glancing head-kick that almost changed the fight. With one minute left in the round it seemed like Raquel had taken control of the round. Jessamyn was relentless and continued to launch head-kicks and punches while Raquel kept landing solid shots to the head. With thirty seconds left in the fight Jessamyn feinted a right and left then rushed forward momentarily getting a clinch. She landed a solid left knee to the right side of Raquel’s head. The knee opened up a cut on Raquel’s right eye. Jessamyn has one last flurry left in her and she landed several clean strikes in the final fifteen seconds of the round. Raquel was also throwing until the bell sounded. It was a great fight and Raquel did just enough to eek out the UD win to advance.

Everyone is blown away by their fight. Dana loved it and you can tell he likes both of these fighters a lot. He is obviously impressed with Raquel digging deep for the win. Jessamyn was understandably disappointed by the decision, and she pointed the finger at herself for not finishing the fight. Ronda consoled her after the loss and helped her try to put the loss in perspective. It was a great moment and it is good to accept responsibility for your losses, but she did everything she could to finish this fight. Raquel has been impossible to stop with strikes so far in her career. Still, losses hurt, especially the close ones and especially when you fight with the passion that these two women did inside of the octagon. This fight will be apart of their careers and has become the seminal moment of the season so far. It will mean more to them and the sport than any one win or loss will to their careers. At the end of the day it was a heartbreakingly tough loss for Jessamyn and an equally elating, great and tough win for Raquel. You have to like her chances to make the finals at this point. She has been under the radar so far due in part to her quiet nature. As we have seen on previous seasons sometimes that is the path to winning the whole thing.

Team Tate regains control and chooses Josh Hill to take on Team Rousey’s Michael Wooten. This should be a good fight. It also looks like Miesha and her minions engage in some more shenanigans and daddy Dana has to step in restore some order. Apparently Miesha and Bryan aka the Bonnie and Clyde of making themselves look stupid just can’t help themselves. It should be another fun one.

An avid lifetime fight fan who loves to write about it. So kick back, get comfortable and let's have some fun! "Wants me to tell him something pretty." Al Sweargen "Going wrong is not the end of fucking things, Johnny. Fuck no! I have comeback from plenty of shit that looked like it was going wrong." Dan Dority "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it." Bill Munny

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