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The curtain jerker comes in the Women’s Strawweight division, as former title challenger Jessica Penne takes on newcomer Emily Ducote. Since returning to the octagon after a lengthy suspension, Penne, in the midst of seven fight cancellations, has rattled off two consecutive wins. Number fourteen in the Strawweight rankings, Penne at 39 years old, comes into this fight presumably on her last title run. Meanwhile, after fighting for the likes of Bellator and Invicta FC, Ducote will try and test her metal with the best in the UFC. Currently a winner of three straight, two of which came inside the distance, Ducote is coming into her UFC debut with excellent momentum.

The last seven years have been rough for Penne. After losing three straight fights, Penne was hit with a four-year ban (reduced to 20 months), after a second drug test infraction with USADA. Upon her return, she has faced seven fight cancellations. Throughout all that, she won her first fight in over six years and followed that up with a submission victory over Karolina Kowalkiewicz. A known grappler, who’s lengthy and has excellent submissions, Penne is a dangerous fighter to grapple with. On the feet is a different story, as she is vulnerable to getting pieced up. However, to Penne’s credit, her scrappiness and toughness have aided her in edging out fights. Maybe not the best strategy in this particular fight though, as Ducote has some legitimate power in her hands. An excellent signing by the UFC, the former collegiate wrestler has the abilities and finishing prowess that will give a lot of Strawweight’s fits. A name to watch, the former Invicta FC Champion has a huge opportunity to crack the division’s top fifteen with only one victory.

A fun fight to open the card, I believe that Ducote will prevail in her UFC debut. While I am concerned about the size and grappling of Penne, her window of opportunity has usually come early in the fight. Sporting a 20% takedown accuracy in the UFC, Penne has scored five takedowns in fourteen attempts in round one. After that, she has only landed two takedowns in twenty-one attempts. In brief, as long as Ducote can avoid danger in round one, her striking and power will take over the fight. In the end, I foresee a knockout victory for Ducote.

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