Amanda Nunes vs. Raquel Pennington to headline UFC 224

Amanda Nunes celebrates after defeating Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 215 in Edmonton. (Jason Franson/CP)

UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanada Nunes is set to defend her title against Raquel Pennington in the main event of UFC 224.

The UFC made an official announcement Thursday.

Nunes (15-4) is coming off a narrow split-decision victory over Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 215 in Edmonton back in September. The Brazilian also has victories over former champions Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, plus Sara McMann and Shayne Baszler on her current winning streak that dates back to March 2015.

Pennington (9-5) earned her title shot by winning four in a row, including beating Tate by unanimous decision at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. That was her most recent victory and it occurred in November 2016, but due to a lack of viable contenders in the 135-pound division, the 29-year-old moved to the top of the list. Pennington’s only two losses in the UFC were split decisions to Jessica Andrade in 2013 — a loss she avenged with a submission win two years later — and to Holly Holm in 2015.

The UFC had been looking at setting up a champion versus champion match between Nunes and women’s featherweight titleholder Cris “Cyborg” Justino following Cyborg’s recent short-notice technical knockout win over Yana Kunitskaya at UFC 222.

“I just think her and Nunes is the fight that needs to happen,” UFC president Dana White said at the UFC 222 post-fight press conference before mentioning he thought it could’ve potentially taken place at UFC 224.

However, it was too quick a turnaround for Cyborg. She cuts a tremendous amount of weight to make the featherweight limit of 145 pounds, so the UFC decided on Nunes-Pennington.

If Nunes can beat Pennington and defend her belt for a third straight time it will in all likelihood set up a superfight with her compatriot, Cyborg.

“[Nunes will] defend her belt in May, I think, and then probably I’m going to fight in July if she wins and is the champion,” Cyborg said after beating Kunitskaya and improving to 5-0 in the UFC. “I’m not calling [Nunes] out. She’s calling me out, and I can fight her in July. … For me, I think [UFC 224 will] be too soon.”

UFC 224 takes place May 12 at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A pair of middleweight bouts — Vitor Belfort versus Lyoto Machida and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza versus Kelvin Gastelum — are also slated to take place at the event.

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