Openly gay UFC fighter, Raquel "Rocky" Pennington returned to action Saturday night at UFC on FOX 19 (aka UFC on FOX: Teixeira vs. Evans), which was held at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
Pennington, who is currently ranked 11th in the UFC women's bantamweight rankings, returned to action after a six month lay-off to take on Bethe ‘Pitbull' Correia, who is ranked 8th and last fought in August vs. then-champion Ronda Rousey.
Both Pennington and Correia are known for brawling, so it was no surprise that the entire bout took place on the feet. The entertaining and closely fought contest ended in a split decision victory for Pennington (29-28, 29-28, 28-29).
Pennington, who fights out of Colorado Springs, Colo., entered the contest as a slight betting favorite.
In the first round, Pennington controlled the center of the cage and landed the cleaner and stiffer blows, despite Correia opening a cut above Pennington's right eye with a left hook. In the second round Correia surged back, enticing Pennington into some wild exchanges. In the third, Pennington again dictated the pace, though both fighters had their moments. In the fight's final 10 seconds, both women threw caution to the wind, treating the audience to an enthralling slugfest.
Two out of the three cageside judges sided with Pennington, possibly due to the former "Ultimate Fighter" contestant's improved — yet sporadic — patience and more varied arsenal (which featured kicks, knees, and Muay Thai clinch work).
With the hard-earned win, Pennington's record climbs to 7-6. In her post-fight comments Pennington revealed that she was disappointed with her performance, upset that she did not finish Correia before the final bell.
In speaking with Ariel Helwani of "MMAFighting," Pennington announced her desire for another Top 10 opponent and possibly a second crack at one of the division's elites.
"I want a rematch against Holly Holm [or] Cat Zingano", Pennington told Helwani, and the other reporters who were gathered. "I have a lot more that I want to prove, and that in those fights I was the better fighter."