Raquel Pennington hopes to shock the world when UFC 224 touches down at the Rio Olympic Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Saturday night.
Her bout with women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes is about as high profile as it gets, with the one known as The Lioness coming in as a massive -1000 favorite at Bovada and other UFC betting websites.
Nunes is the obvious favorite, as she won the title from Miesha Tate back in 2016 and hasn’t looked back since. Her impressive six-fight winning streak includes a demolition of former superstar Ronda Rousey, as well as victories over big names like Valentina Shevchenko (twice).
Along the way, the vicious Nunes has proven herself to be a brutal stand-up brawler and she’s appeared to be very much on a mission. Her path has been one of individual accomplishment and dominance, but also one of pride for herself and her family.
While it’s been one heck of a ride, Nunes is too big of a favorite to not at least consider betting against heading into UFC 224.
The question, of course, is if a big wager against Nunes is actually worth bettors’ time. Let’s go over a few reasons why it just might be:
1. The Odds Demand It
First off, the upside here is absurd. Nunes is a ridiculous -1000 favorite and if you bet even a small amount of money on Pennington (+600!) you’re getting a big return on your investment.
If you’re going small ($100), you’re getting $600 back. If you go big at $1,000 the math says it’s $6,000 and it only gets bigger the hard you go after this upset.
That’s just at Bovada. There are a lot of MMA betting sites online and there are probably a few that offer even better odds for taking the risk in backing Pennington.
Huge odds don’t equate to a win. In fact, Vegas is clearly screaming to the top of their lungs that Pennington won’t win here. However, underdogs of this stature are immediately worth a cursory glance based on price alone.
2. Upsets Happen All the Time
The money is good, so I’m sure I’ve got your attention. History doesn’t hurt bettors here, either, as big upsets happen all the time in sports and honestly quite a bit in MMA fights.
Those crazy upsets don’t happen so much in high profile boxing matches, but you’re dealing with so many different variables in mixed martial arts.
Big upsets happen for a litany of reasons:
- Poor endurance/stamina
- Even matchup
- Out of weight class
- Momentum and narrative
There is a lot to shrug your shoulders about when it comes to Raquel Pennington. She has just one knockout loss on her resume and she’s allowed 9 of her 14 career MMA fights to go the distance.
That can be looked at two ways, though.
On one hand, she hasn’t really exhibited a quick-strike offense to end fights early via KO or submission and she hasn’t been able to finish them late in the clutch, either.
On the other hand, she’s only been submitted once in 14 fights and nobody has KO’d her in any fashion.
She may have lost five fights be Decision, but she won four more than way. In those five Decision defeats, she at least went wall to wall with her opponent.
There’s something to be said of that, as it showcases Pennington’s toughness, grit and overall skill-set.
Pennington is not going to just lie down and get beat to a pulp. She knows how to defend herself, she has the ability to turn the fight in her favor and she has proven over time she can handle a beating as well.
It’s probably worth pointing out that, while Pennington’s record and finishing ability haven’t looked amazing, her resume is loaded with high profile bouts.
Cat Zingano (who TKO’s Nunes, by the way) is Pennington’s one and only non-Decision loss in her professional career.
She’s otherwise fared favorably, win or lose, in tough showdowns with huge names like Miesha Tate, Bethe Correia, Holly Holm and Jessica Andrade.
Holm and Andrade are arguably the two matchups that should give bettors some hope here.
A champion kickboxer and elite striker, Holm is probably one of the more versatile stand-up fighters in the UFC. Holm easily took down Rousey, yet Pennington battled her way to a Split Decision.
Pennington took Andrade on twice. She dropped another Split Decision to her but avoided her lethal combination of power and groundwork. She later returned the favor, earning his first career submission via a rear-naked choke.
4. Redemption, Pride, and Glory
Pennington doesn’t have much to lose. After previously losing a title fight due to an untimely injury, this is probably her last crack at glory.
While pride and success previously drove Nunes, it could be the deciding factor for Pennington on Saturday night, just as easily.
These are the types of narratives and intangibles bettors need to consider.
Placing big money down on a gut feel or somebody’s story isn’t really the way to go on a regular basis, but in a volatile sport like mixed martial arts, it’s an aspect you can’t completely ignore, either.
Pennington has worked her way back from injury and an inner darkness and she has a shot at lifting her fighting career to new heights.
She’s also fighting for family and love, so Nunes isn’t the only one hinging her accomplishments on narratives anymore.
5. Rust vs. Freshness
Many think a long layoff will be a major negative for Pennington. She hasn’t fought in the UFC since winning back in 2016 and I’m not sure you can easily brush off the logic.
It’s a valid point, but being away from the grind for almost two years also means a few things; she’s fresh and she’s healthy.
Pennington’s fighting style has her taking on beatings and grinding out tough bouts, whether they lead to a win or loss. Not putting her body through that since November of 2016 actually might help her out here.
Nunes, on the other hand, is heading into her third title defense and it’s not like a September 2017 bout was yesterday. Nunes will also be pretty fresh, but the rust factor could prove to be just as problematic.
I’m opting to be optimistic here for Pennington. She’ll come in fresh and at 100%, which isn’t ideal for Nunes trying to beat her out of this one.
6. Nobody is Backing Pennington
Everything here is valid and at least worth looking at.
Pennington should be fresh, she brings in really attractive odds, there is a ton on the line here and her fighting style sets her up to withstand whatever beating Nunes plans on dishing out.
This isn’t just about attacking crazy odds or cheering on the underdog, though. Despite a few things propping Pennington up here, nobody is calling for her to steal this win.
Nunes is the bigger, longer, stronger fighter. She physically overpowers anyone she faces and in theory, should be able to do the same this weekend.
In addition, this fight is in Nunes’ own backyard.
7. It’s a Fun Story
Literally, everything is going against Pennington in this one, yet I can’t quite the idea that it’s kind of playing right into her hands, too.
Nunes doesn’t want to lose this fight and she’s going to be dialed in with her hometown fans in Brazil cheering her on. She really is the superior fighting talent and should win as well.
But things don’t always go as planned in the UFC. As I touched on, big upsets happen all the time and bettors often scoff at how they should have seen them coming but didn’t.
I’m not saying to go hard after Pennington here. She’s the underdog for a reason.
However, there is clearly a lot of logic behind her pulling off the impossible here. And like most underdog wins, it’d make for one heck of a story.