This weekend’s UFC fight night will feature a match between UFC veteran Jessica Penne and the debuting Emily Ducote. A member of The Ultimate Fighter all the way back in 2014, Penne has been a staple in the division since its creation. Having gone to battle with then-champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2015, Penne is also a former belt challenger and is currently ranked #14 in the world. Having a number next to her name is significant as it may offer Ducote a chance with just one bout to enter the top #15 should she win impressively.
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Ducote, Invicta FC’s most recent strawweight champion, both won and defended her title before making the move over to the UFC. On a three-fight winning streak, the 28-year-old looks to be a promising talent entering the 115lb pool. With records between both Bellator and Invicta, she has shown an ability to compete in the largest organizations in women’s MMA, however, as she enters the biggest stage of all, it will be on her shoulders to prove she can perform at the pinnacle of the sport.
Emily Ducote will enter her debut as a slight favorite at -150 over Jessica Penne.
Jessica Penne is a long, rangy fighter and primarily does her work with her hands when standing. She also has a nice teep kick and leg kicks, but in general her kicking game is usually used to set up her hands which is where she really looks to create damage. She is great at keeping her opponent on the end of her shots, especially her stiff jab. It’s important to note that she will enjoy a 3 inch reach advantage over Ducote. However, where she lacks is in her movement, she is not especially quick for the division and she can tend to be a bit flat-footed or even awkward when pushed to keep up with a lot of movement, she is not quick at avoiding trips and sweeps, especially if one of her kicks are caught however, she isnt in a rush to avoid playing guard anyway.
Off of her back, she has great transitional abilities and submissions, and she tends to utilize sweeps and get ups often so as to then chain a takedown and end up on top where she floats and looks for openings to the neck or a limb. Her submission defense is extremely high and often she will demonstrate tight fundamentals and dexterity, able to deny leg locks and other attacks in order to stay on top in dominant position and pass.
Ducote will evidently be smaller in frame and reach but she will have a speed advantage. It is in her best interest to find her way in the box in the pocket, electing rather to chew up Penne’s legs when on the outside instead of engaging in a long-range boxing match. She has tight fundamentals in both her striking and grappling and her stance leaves little to be desired. She stands in a general striker’s stance, neither a traditional boxer’s nor kickboxer’s; instead, she stays relatively centered in her balance and keeps a highly protected guard.
One of the biggest downfalls of Penne earlier in her career is a lack of aggression, unable to let her hands go when she was faltering in output. However, this seems to have gradually been minimized over the years as she is far more eager to keep pressure going in her last few fights. That being said her deficit in speed still allows faster fighters to land higher volume combinations to her couple at a time. Ducote, may have a similar issue, being overly cautious in many of her fights, however on the occasions where she does get aggressive, she gets extremely aggressive. She should look to be the latter if she intends to work her way into the pocket, stuff Penne’s reach and avoid her clinch.
Ducote has a black belt in jiu-jitsu, and her style is typically characterized by tight basics. She has good takedowns and top control and her submissions make up half of her wins. However, the diversity in technique that Penne offers and the more intricate experience with her more unorthodox grappling styles leads me to believe that Penne has the edge in this realm. Ducote’s takedown defense is one of the most impressive aspects of her grappling as she is great at framing, using whizzers and sprawls to deny shots, but Penne’s preferred method of takedowns tend to involve lacing the lags from a clinch and dragging her opponent down, a far different scenario than what we have seen Ducote typically defend.
Ducote probably has the technical skill to win in this fight; she is riding a more busy winning streak and is the more athletic and fast fighter. However, there are so many potential mistakes she has to avoid, she has to consistently get in and out without meeting Penne’s shots from the outside, and when she is inside she has to avoid the clinch. I believe that Penne will likely go to a largely grappling-heavy gameplan and force Ducote’s pressure to play into her clinch entries.
Prediction: Jessica Penne to win (+120 odds at MyBookie)
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.