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UFC 200 Fight Preview: Cat Zingano vs. Julianna Pena

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When “Alpha” Cat Zingano enters the octagon to take on Juilanna Pena on the main event preliminary bout of UFC 200, it’ll be for the first time since she was submitted by Ronda Rousey in 14-seconds almost a year and half ago. While it may have been a tough pill to swallow for Zingano, it’s really not that big of a roadblock when you consider Rousey’s past of submitting opponents early and often. Fighting Pena is the first step for Zingano on the road to getting back to that title shot. And with a new queen sitting atop the division that she already holds a win over, a convincing win on Saturday could be more than enough to get her that shot sooner rather than later.

While Pena’s path has been different from Zingano’s, they have faced a similar roadblock. After winning the TUF 18 tournament in late 2013, Pena immediately looked to be one of the toughest and hungriest competitors in a very shallow and new women’s bantamweight division. While training for a bout against Jessica Andrade just months later, Pena suffered a severe knee injury that would sideline her until April of 2015.

Zingano also took an extended break from the sport due to issues with both of her knees before ultimately coming back to TKO Amanda Nunes to earn that title bout with Rousey for the second time in her career. The first time around she’d defeat Miesha Tate in a title eliminator but would be replaced by Tate due to the knee issues we just mentioned.

Cat Zingano
UFC Record: 2-1
MMA Record: 9-1

Noteable Wins:
Amanda Nunes (TKO, strikes – 9.27.14)
Miesha Tate (TKO, strikes – 4.13.13)
Barb Honchak (UD – 1.30.10)

Also of Note:
First fight since 14-second submission loss to Ronda Rousey at UFC 184
Holds victories over women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate and UFC 200 title challenger Amanda Nunes

Julianna Pena
UFC Record: 3-0
MMA Record: 7-2

Noteable Wins:
Jessica Eye (UD – 10.3.15)
Milana Dudeva (TKO, strikes – 4.4.15)

Also of Note:
TUF 18 Women’s Bantamweight Tournament Winner

Zingano does have a bad reputation as a slow starter which is not going to do her any favors against a proven finisher in Pena who can either submit you or end your night with strikes depending on her mood and what kind of mistakes you’re willing to make. Zingano’s biggest weapons are the very things that have kept her out of the cage over the recent years – her knees. Her Muay Thai is some of the best in the division and if she can fight smart and keep her distance she should be able to pick Pena apart and frustrate her – forcing her to rely on her takedowns which have been her bread and butter during her UFC career thus far. That’s where Zingano, if she’s fully recovered, will look to catch Pena and possibly even clinch with her and that’s where she’s far more dangerous that anyone in the division.

Counting out Pena would be silly, her most recent win over Jessica Eye proved to us that she needs to be taken seriously and her perfect fight against Milena Dudieva still gives us nightmares. I just don’t believe she has the skill set to hang with the top-tier of a division, a division that just isn’t as shallow as when she won TUF a few years back, just yet.

At 26-years-old, Pena still has plenty of time to grow into a championship caliber fighter. At 34, Zingano knows this is a must win if she ever wants another shot at the strap. She’s a crafty vet who has what it takes to finish this fight wherever it goes and on the biggest card in the history of the sport – you can count on her to make a statement by finishing the ultra tough Pena via TKO in the 3rd round.

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