UFC 224 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, saw the first event to be headlined by two fighters from the LGBT community. Just as Ronda Rousey headlining events when she was in the company became landmark moments, so will this main event between Brazilian bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes and contender Raquel Pennington. Both are openly gay and having such a prominent place on a pay-per-view event should hopefully be a watershed moment for such communities. Whilst that may have dominated the background of the fight, the contest itself reminded everyone of Nunes’ undeniable qualities as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
After dominating the early rounds and doing brutal damage to Pennington’s face, Nunes smelt blood, literally, and aimed for the finish. Though her opponent seemed to have survived the onslaught, the beating she took saw her dazed and walk to her corner at the end of round 4 and breathe ‘I’m done.’ To any responsible coach or trainer that in no uncertain terms would have been the point to throw in the towel. Yet, in a ridiculous move at best, and quite frankly negligent and disgraceful at worst, her corner convinced to back out there with possibly a broken nose and fight. Nunes mauled her to the point Pennington’s face began leaking blood profusely and the referee had no choice but to spare her any more damage. Nunes won and retained her title, but the aftermath of Pennington’s coaches decision took the limelight and served as a cautionary tale to those trainers who push their fighters too hard.
On the undercard, Lyoto Machida brutally ended the career of the Phenom, Vitor Belfort with a trademark vicious front kick to the chin. Both Brazilians, and in front of their home crowd, seemed to bring a real energy into the octagon and neither fighter disappointed. But whilst Machida looked unnervingly composed his compatriot seemed to be more lead-footed and was slower, with age seemingly catching up with the veteran. The Karate Kid Machida took advantage of Belfort’s poor form to set up a front kick that pierced through a non-existent barrier and landed flush on his chin rendering him cold and out for the count. It was later revealed Belfort was suffering from a knee injury but it will be very difficult to envisage him returning again.