When we last left our heroes...Some people just have those effervescent personalities that restores your faith in humanity, and Roxanne Modafferi is one of those people. In other words, she's a strange paradox given the fact that she's a professional fighter.
She's also a throwback, and an artifact of women's MMA history. Japan was the only place you could digest female MMA over a decade ago, and in 2001 Smackgirl promotions became the only fixture for women's competition. Modafferi debuted for Smackgirl in 2003 and now here she is, in another historical first as The Ultimate Fighter finally allowed women into its fratboy fold.
She's had a tough last three years. She's officially winless in her last five, and after experiencing victory to get into the TUF house with a RNC win over Valeri Latourneau, she fell once again to defeat against TUF finalist (and future winner in my opinion) Jessica Rakoczy. It was a tough loss that mirrored her Sarah Kaufman moment, where a slam became her undoing.
Raquel Pennington began her career in March of last year; a certified neophyte. It's weird to reflect on that because she debuted last year with a win over Kim Couture; a name I thought was retired when Randy Couture still had hair.
She also lost on the show to Jessica Rakoczy. Instead of getting TKO'ed on the ground, however, she proved to be the lesser dancer.
What both women can do: Roxanne has always been that meat and potatoes grappler. Her wrestling isn't quite sufficient to make her truly dangerous, but she's persistent, and her Judo background makes her extra effective in the clinch. She's what you call a 'go getter' on the ground. While she doesn't have a ton of submissions finishes (4 of her 15 victories are by submission), she's positionally sound.
Pennington does her work on the feet, which makes this bout the typical 'clash of styles'. She has a heavy right hand, and as she proved against Jessamyn Duke, she's willing to throw it with reckless abandon.
What both women can't do: Both fighters have some glaring flaws however. Pennington gets plain befuddled against someone that will move around. Modafferi's striking is still very rudimentary. She's prone to some eccentric moves (her attempt at a spinning backfist against Rakoczy was noble, but mistaken on the replay), but an aggressive fighter can punish her on the feet if she can't get the takedown.
I expect her to get that takedown here. It's hard to pick Roxanne with confidence here because she's lost the great majority of her fights recently, but I think she's got the ability and mentality to pull this one off over a fighter who I think needs more seasoning before overcoming the "veteranness" of Modafferi. In addition, Pennington is all about her punching, and Modafferi has only been knocked out once by brutal ESPN reel slam. Roxanne should grind out a decision with submission attempts and takedowns.
X-Factor: Modafferi's chin. Despite what I just said, she lost on the show via TKO. With 25 total bouts spanning a 10 year career, a fighter's chin is always the one thing you can't count on after a certain point.
In-Fight Soundtrack: Skeletons by Stevie Wonder. I fully intend these songs to be thematically relevant, but I've got GTA 5 on my mind, and this song was on when I destroyed a hot dog stand.
Prediction: Roxanne Modafferi by RNC, round 3.