Jessica Rakoczy is a decorated boxer. | Photo: Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
“The Ultimate Fighter 18” Women’s Bantamweight FinalJulianna Pena (4-2, 0-0 UFC) vs. Jessica Rakoczy (1-3, 0-0 UFC)
The Matchup: Pena was responsible for one of the most memorable moments on Season 18, shocking show favorite Shayna Baszler via second-round submission on Episode 2. The upset and coach Ronda Rousey’s over-the-top reaction to Team Tate’s post-fight celebration generated plenty of Internet buzz.
Meanwhile, Rakoczy was the last pick on the show and, despite her pedigree as a world champion boxer, was a considerable underdog throughout the season. Rakoczy entered the show with just one professional win to her credit, but she was able to raise her stock considerably heading into the final.
Pena has displayed an aggressive, well-rounded approach during her reality TV tenure. “The Venezuelan Vixen” relied on heavy ground-and-pound throughout but also showcased power standing on at least a couple of occasions, dropping Gina Mazany in a preliminary matchup and stunning Baszler with a left hook en route to a second-round submission triumph. Even more impressive was her ability to reverse and escape from bad predicaments against Baszler, a noted submission specialist. Pena uses her relentless barrage of punches and elbows from top position to soften up her opponents for submissions. She is willing to brawl and is effective at bullying foes against the fence while landing knees.
Rakoczy’s MMA record is mediocre, but do not discount the improvement she displayed during the course of the show. Rakoczy scored a surprising submission of Revelina Berto to get into the house and then held her own on the ground with seasoned veteran Roxanne Modafferi before winning via TKO to advance to the semifinals. Finally, she utilized superior hand speed and movement to outpoint the larger Raquel Pennington, earning a spot opposite Pena.
In the long run, Pena would be better off taking down Rakoczy and imposing her will through ground-and-pound. On the feet, Rakoczy has crisp punching combinations and is particularly effective landing her jab while moving in and out of danger. The Canadian’s takedown defense and ability to return to her feet will be crucial against Pena’s top game.
The Pick: Pena will try to wear down Rackozy with relentless pressure and top control. After some spirited exchanges early, Pena gradually takes control to capture a decision.
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