Saturday’s bantamweight world title bout between champion Amanda Nunes (18-4) and challenger Germaine de Randamie (9-3) might be the most fascinating match up on paper of all the evening’s three championship contests at UFC 245. Nunes is a two-division world champ, at both 135lbs and 145lbs, and hasn’t lost in over five years.
The Dutchwoman de Randamie has not lost in over six years, since she was stopped by Nunes herself back in 2013.
All these years later and both women have now held MMA gold and are vastly improved from their former selves. De Randamie has battled back after reportedly being nearly blinded and other injuries while Nunes feels like she’s in her prime and simply unstoppable after stopping some of the best women to ever fight in the sport. Nunes’ last conquest — Holly Holm — was also beaten by de Randamie so this fight is a possible legacy-builder for both women.
In their first fight, Nunes was ready to time de Randamie’s roundhouse kicks and caught one, using it to set up a clinch and subsequent takedown of the former champion kickboxer. Once on the mat, Nunes dominated from the mount with positional control, punches and elbows. De Randamie is a much improved defensive wrestler since then, as she displayed in nimbly and consistently defending Holly Holm’s good takedown attempts in 2017.
She’s doubtless improved on the ground as well, but whereas she may have improved in wrestling sufficiently to make it difficult for Nunes to take her down again, I’m willing to bet that things still won’t go well for her if she manages to allow the Brazilian to get on top.
That is to say that Nunes likely won’t have as easy of a time taking de Randamie down again as she did in their first tilt, but if and when she does manage to do so, she’ll probably be just as much of a problem on the mat as she was the first time around. Nunes has more than likely improved her takedowns as well, however.
The first time she and de Randamie fought, Nunes was on the MMA Masters team. She’s now years into her membership on the American Top Team, and is coached by a crew of elite teachers including former WEC champion Mike Brown.
Nunes will need more options to set up her takedown attempts and a wider arsenal of takedown finishes to get de Randamie down, but she might just have both in her back pocket at this point. If she doesn’t, and she gives de Randamie any space in the clinch, she will be susceptible to elbows and knees.
Nunes’ long arm reach helps her on the outside but de Randamie might have the advantage on the inside from the clinch in terms of speed of strikes with her knees to the body should Nunes give her any space or allow her to whip her around and reverse positions.
In the free-standing range both women possess one-strike knockout power. De Randamie is a skilled counter-puncher and she’ll need that set to be sharp against the aggressive Nunes.
Nunes’ punches are long and fast, and she throws them in combination with deadly accuracy. Her right overhand and left hook in conjunction with one another are capable of hurting anyone. She also isn’t afraid of fire-fights and seems content to take shots to give hers back out. De Randamie has similar calm and will theoretically have space to counter Nunes’ usually wide punches.
Whether or not her own will have the speed or timing to interrupt Nunes will be the question. When Nunes gets to winging, her hands may come down and her elbows will flare.
No one has been able to make her pay for it or survive long enough absorbing her punches to have it matter, but de Randamie with all her professional kickboxing experience may very well have the durability and poise to make things interesting in that regard.
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