‘UFC 224: Nunes vs. Pennington’ lineup official with Mackenzie Dern PPV debut, solid main card
By: MMAjunkie Staff | April 12, 2018
The UFC women’s bantamweight division rolls on, a promising strawweight contender makes her pay-per-view debut, and Vitor Belfort (possibly) fights for the final time.
The lineup for UFC 224 is official with a stacked pay-per-view lineup atop a 12-bout fight card. The event takes place May 12 at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro. Preliminary bouts air on FX and stream on UFC Fight Pass.
Women’s bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes (15-4 MMA, 8-1 UFC) gets back to the business of defending her belt after a superfight with featherweight titleholder Cris Cyborg (20-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) failed to materialize for UFC 226. She is attempting her third title defense when she meets “The Ultimate Fighter 18” veteran Raquel Pennington (9-5 MMA, 6-2 UFC), who returns to the cage after a broken leg delayed her title aspirations. The challenger comes into the title bout on a four-fight winning streak. Nunes is the No. 1 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA women’s bantamweight rankings while Pennington stands at No. 4.
In the co-headliner, “TUF 17” winner Kelvin Gastelum (14-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) goes back to the country he swore off to convince UFC brass he’s ready for a middleweight title shot. Fresh off a knockout of ex-champ Michael Bisping, he faces Ronaldo Souza (25-5 MMA, 8-2 UFC), who’s building momentum for his own title opportunity after a knockout of Derek Brunson. “Jacare” is ranked No. 5 while Gastelum is No. 8.
Also featured on the main card is the quick return of grappling sensation turned MMA fighter Mackenzie Dern (6-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC). In a big step up in visibility, she tries for her second octagon win following a debut decision victory over Ashley Yoder in March. Amanda Cooper (3-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC) hopes to deflate the hype bubble after trouncing Angela Magana this past December.
And opening up the main card is a middleweight matchup between Brazilian ex-champs Vitor Belfort (26-13 MMA, 15-10 UFC) and Lyoto Machida (23-8 MMA, 15-8 UFC). Belfort, a former light heavyweight champ and tournament winner, swears the fight with his friend and former training partner is his last. The 41-year-old is the only active link to MMA’s no holds barred past and has several times walked back retirement proclamations. Machida, a former light heavyweight champ, delayed his own trip into the sunset with a February decision over Eryk Anders, which snapped a three-fight skid.
In the featured prelim of the night, Dana White’s Contender Series veteran Karl Roberson (6-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) tries to extend a five-fight streak of first-round finishes as he takes on middleweight Cezar Ferreira (12-6 MMA, 8-4 UFC), a Brazilian vet who outpointed Nate Marquardt in November to get back into the win column after a decision setback against Elias Theodorou.
Featured on the UFC Fight Pass-streamed prelims is a welterweight bout between Warlley Alves (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) and Sultan Aliev (14-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC). Alves, once a red-hot Brazilian prospect, is working his way back up after a pair of losses. He outpointed Salim Touahri in October to get back to the winner’s circle. Aliev is still trying to build critical mass after a knockout loss in his debut and a split-call win in a follow up.
The full UFC 224 lineup includes:
MAIN CARD (PPV, 7 p.m. PT)
- Amanda Nunes vs. Raquel Pennington – for women’s bantamweight title
- Kelvin Gastelum vs. Ronaldo Souza
- Amanda Cooper vs. Mackenzie Dern
- John Lineker vs. Brian Kelleher
- Vitor Belfort vs. Lyoto Machida
PRELIMINARY CARD (FX, 5 p.m. PT)
- Cezar Ferreira vs. Karl Roberson
- Junior Albini vs. Aleksei Oleinik
- Davi Ramos vs. Nick Hein
- Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Sean Strickland
PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 3:30 p.m. PT)
- Warlley Alves vs. Sultan Aliev
- Thales Leites vs. Jack Hermansson
- Alberto Mina vs. Ramazan Emeev
For more on UFC 224, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.