TUF 18 Finale Fight Breakdown: Julianna Pena (-260) vs. Jessica Rakoczy (+200)

julianna-pena The finale of the TUF 18 women’s bantamweight season is a three-round fight between Julianna Pena and Jessica Rakoczy. The current betting line for the bout at 5Dimes Sportsbook has Pena pegged as a -260 favorite (bet $260 to win $100), while Rakoczy is a +200 dog (bet $100 to win $200). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas originally opened up Pena as a -305 favorite and Rakoczy as a +225 dog, meaning the betting public so far is favoring Rakoczy. I disagree with the initial action, as I am going with Pena for the win. Here’s why. Pena (4-2) came into the TUF house an an unknown to many fans, but she was shockingly Team Tate’s first pick, ahead of all the other veteran fighters in the house. That surprised me quite a bit, but after watching the way the 24-year-old performed in the house, I am now a believer. In the quarterfinals, Pena took on veteran Shayna Baszler, and despite being a massive underdog going into the fight, she emerged as the victor with a beautiful second round rear-naked choke submission. She then followed it up with a guillotine choke win over Sarah Moras to make the finale. To me, no other fighter in the house — male or female — improved as much as Pena did and I think of all the fighters in the house, Pena has the best chance to eventually compete for a UFC title because of her dominant wrestling and ground game. Rakoczy (1-3, 1 NC) was the last overall pick for Team Rousey, having been selected behind all seven other females that made it into the house. That makes sense if you look at her poor MMA record, but forget that record for just a minute because she came over from boxing and is still relatively new to mixed martial arts. The 36-year-old Canadian actually has a 33-3 (1 NC) boxing record, and even had a pro boxing match earlier this year. So obviously her strength is her stand-up. However, she is improving her ground game, as in the very first fight to get into the house she defeated Revelina Berto via a rare omoplata submission. She then showed her power with a knockout win over Roxanne Modafferi and a decision win over Raquel Pennington to make the finale, where her takedown defence and ground game will be put to the test against a dominant grappler in Pena. Although I think Rakoczy’s ground game has improved very much over the last few years, and particularly during her time in the house, I don’t think it will be enough to stop Pena’s takedowns and/or her submission attempts. I had Pena around -300 in my head, which is near the opener, so considering the price has dropped to -260 now, I like her in a two-team parlay as I believe she will defeat Rakoczy via submission to win TUF season 18.

Written by Adam Martin.

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