The UFC returns for their latest pay-per-view offering as UFC 224 takes place on Saturday from the Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The main event features Amanda Nunes defending her UFC women's bantamweight championship battling No. 2 ranked Raquel Pennington. In the co-main event, in middleweight action, No. 2 ranked Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza takes on No. 5 ranked Kelvin Gastelum.
Nunes (15-4) comes in on a tear. She's won six consecutive fights including wins over Miesha Tate and sending Ronda Rousey packing to the WWE.
This will be Pennington's first bout in 18 months. After her career-defining win over Tate at UFC 205 in Nov. 2016, Pennington underwent a litany of surgeries to her right shoulder. She had verbally agreed to face Nunes at UFC 219 in December. But near the end of October, Pennington suffered a broken leg and a smashed-in calf in an ATV accident.
The champion has the advantage due to having a better-all around game and the fact she's been active in making two more title defenses in Pennington's absence. Pennington comes in with everything to gain and nothing to lose. She vows to go in there and just have fun and let the chips fall where they may.
Will Nunes be able to walk out of her home country with the belt or does Pennington pull off the upset?
(All times Eastern.)
UFC 224 results
8:45: Coming up next at UFC 224, in heavyweight action, No. 10 ranked Aleksei Oleinik battles No. 14 ranked Júnior Albini. Oleinik's (52-11-1) won two of his last three fights. Albini (14-3) comes into his first UFC pay-per-view on a losing note to former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski by unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night 120 in November. Can the 40-year-old Oleinik continue his career resurgence or does the young guard eliminate the veteran from title contention?
8:36: Ramos def. Hein by submission (rear-naked choke) at. Surprise performance by Ramos. Didn't see it in him. He executed a great feint to score the takedown. After that, Hein didn't stand a chance. A very good transition to Hein's back sealed his fate, as he tapped out instantly. We have a new prospect in the lightweight division, who also has one of the best nicknames in MMA, "The Tasmanian Devil".
8:23: Up next at UFC 224, in lightweight action, Davi Ramos faces Nick Hein. Ramos (7-2) in his last outing, gained his first UFC victory over Chris Gruetzemacher at UFC Fight Night 123 in December. Hein (14-2) returns from a 20-month layoff, after winning his first three fights in the UFC. Hein was someone to watch out before his time off. Been an interesting night so far with four fighters having extended breaks.
8:11: dos Santos def. Strickland by knockout at 3:12 of the first round. We said he needed to start quick. His team must have read what said. While tentative in the opening 90 seconds, dos Santos started to let his hands and feet go. He saw Strickland with his hands down and connected on a beautiful spinning back head kick, which knocked out Strickland instantly. Great showing by dos Santos. He's now won five consecutive fights.
8:02: Continuing on at UFC 224, in welterweight action, Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos takes on Sean Strickland. dos Santos (18-5) is on a run, having won four consecutive fights. Strickland (19-2) is also on a roll, winning four of his last five. dos Santos has the power advantage, having won 12 of his 18 wins come by knockout. He needs to start quick though as he's fallen behind in his last two fights, as Strickland is an outstanding finisher.
7:53: Alves def. Aliev by TKO at 5:00 of the second round. Very smart move by the doctor to stop it. You cannot have fighters continuing when they cannot see out of one eye. Alves is now 6-2 in the UFC and won back-to-back fights. A rising prospect in a talent-rich welterweight division.
7:47: This is all Alves. He's controlled every second of the first 10 minutes of action, which has been contested on the feet. Aliev's right eye is swollen like a 16-inch softball and is completely shut. Wouldn't be shocked if the fight is stopped here.
7:36: Up next at UFC 224, in welterweight action, Warlley Alves fights Sultan Aliev. Alves (11-2), who won the third season of 'The Ultimate Fighter Brazil' returns from an 18-month layoff. Aliev (14-2) lost his most recent outing to Bojan Velickovic via a narrow split decision at UFC on Fox 22 in Dec. 2016. Both fighters are coming off lengthy absences so expect it to be a battle of attrition.
7:28: Hermansson def. Leites by TKO at 2:10 of the third round. We said it would come to the final round and it did. Having a sense of urgency, Hermansson quickly secured a takedown. Leites reversed it but Hermansson swept him right back. Leites tried to reverse position again but Hermansson shifted his body to get into full mount. Wincing in pain, Hermansson threw every shot with everything he had. Referee Marc Goddard had seen enough of Leites getting battered and stopped the action.
What a gutsy performance by Hermansson. He said in his post-fight interview that he felt like he broke a bone in his leg. The native of Sweden has now won three of his last four fights.
7:19: Hard fight to score after two rounds. Hermansson looked to have controlled the opening round and Leites used his ground work to likely win the second. Whoever wins the final round should get the nod. Giver Hermansson credit for surviving the second after getting his leg battered by Leites.
7:09: Coming up at UFC 224, in middleweight action, Thales Leites goes up against Jack Hermansson. Leites (27-8) is a former middleweight title challenger to Anderson Silva, comes in 2-3 in his last five fights. Hermansson's (16-4) been a mixed bag in his UFC tenure, going 2-2. Something has to give here between two fighters at different crossroads of their careers.
7:04: Emeev def. Mina by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27). Dominant performance by Emeev, who controlled the action with his wrestling. You could tell Mena was off for almost two years. Emeev runs his winning streak to six.
6:54: Emeev controlling the first two rounds. He's continuously taking Mina to the ground much to the dismay of the sparse crowd. Time for Mena to go for broke in the final round.
6:39: Up next at UFC 224, in welterweight action, Alberto Mina battles Ramazan Emeev. Mina (13-0) hasn't competed in 22 months after a spectacular knockout over Mike Pyle at UFC Fight Night 90 due to injury. Emeev (16-3) rides a five-fight winning streak including an impressive UFC debut over Sam Alvey at UFC Fight Night 118 in October. He's won seven fights by submission, four via rear-naked choke.
Before his injury, Mina was one of the most exciting prospects in the sport, winning 12 of his 13 bouts due to stoppage. Will Mina be able shake the rust off? More often than not, being off for that amount of time spells disaster.
6:33: Perez def. Bochnovic by submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:28 of the first round. Perez did exactly what he needed to do to win. He took Bochnovic to the ground and went to work. Perez slowly transitioned to Bochnovic's back and locked in the choke and Bochnovic tapped out. Great way to start the card and setting the tone for the Brazilian fighters.
6:20: The opening bout of UFC 224, in middleweight action, Markus Perez faces James Bochnovic. Perez (9-1) made his UFC debut back in December at UFC Fight Night 123, losing to Eryk Anders by unanimous decision. Out of those nine victories, Perez's won four of them in the first round. Bochnovic (9-2) makes his octagon debut at middleweight after unsuccessful first outing against Trevin Giles at UFC 213. Can Perez set the trend for the Brazilian fighters?
6:18: Hello, fight fans, I'm Steven Muehlhausen of Sporting News. UFC 224 is about begin from the Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The main event features Amanda Nunes looking to defend her UFC women's bantamweight title for the fourth time, as she battle Raquel Pennington. Grab some drinks and food and stay locked in to our UFC 224 live coverage all night long.
6:00: UFC 224 begins in 15 minutes. Interesting video sent out here by the UFC of Nunes pummeling Ronda Rousey back at UFC 207. Will "The Lioness" be able to do the same thing to Pennington later this evening?
3:27 p.m.: We are inching closer to UFC 224. Here is the final episode of UFC 224 video series, Embedded with all of they key players on Saturday's show.
This section will be updated closer to the opening bout at 6:15 p.m.
UFC fight card
- Amanda Nunes (c) vs. Raquel Pennington for Nunes' UFC Women's Bantamweight championship
- Ronaldo Souza vs. Kelvin Gastelum; Middleweight
- Mackenzie Dern vs. Amanda Cooper; Women's Catchweight (123 lbs)
- John Lineker vs. Brian Kelleher; Bantamweight
- Vitor Belfort vs. Lyoto Machida; Middleweight
- Cezar Ferreira vs. Karl Roberson; Middleweight
- Oleksiy Oliynyk vs. Júnior Albini; Heavyweight
- Davi Ramos vs. Nick Hein; Lightweight
- Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Sean Strickland; Welterweight
- Warlley Alves vs. Sultan Aliev; Welterweight
- Thales Leites vs. Jack Hermansson; Middleweight
- Alberto Mina vs. Ramazan Emeev; Welterweight
- Markus Perez vs. James Bochnovic; Middleweight
UFC 224 latest news
- Raquel Pennington explains to SN why she felt she would no longer get to fight for the title after accident.
- Kelvin Gastelum tells SN he knew he had to grow up if he wants to become a UFC champion.
- What's on the line at UFC 224? We breakdown the main card.
- Who will emerge victorious at UFC 224? Our SN MMA experts give their picks.
Steven Muehlhausen is an MMA and boxing writer and contributor for Sporting News. Subscribe to his You Tube channel here . You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and can find him on Twitter @SMuehlhausenMMA .