Joanna Champion lived up to the hype and opened up a can of whoop ass all over Jessica Penne’s face. The fight started off somewhat competitive, but Joanna completely took over by the end—leaving her victim broken and bloodied.
From the start, Joanna demonstrated the striking advantage she was expected to have, while Penne did a solid job of working her way into the clinch.
Coming in off a missed Penne jab, Joanna puts together a quick combination. She reengages with a jab to the body and attempts to catch Penne with a hook as she pulls back after a pivot. Her angles kept her elusive while attacking, but also positioned her near the cage. Penne capitalizes by reaching for a knee tap with her right hand, forcing Joanna back before she slides her right hand up into an underhook that allows her to pin Joanna against the cage.
This was the exact position where Penne was expected to have an advantage, and the exact situation Joanna needed to avoid. Penne has a solid arsenal of trips and throws and is dangerous on the ground. However, Joanna did an excellent job defending with her back against the cage. She immediately drops her level, underhooks with her right arm and attempts to circle out to that side. As Joanna circles, Penne elects to reach for head control with her left arm instead of using a whizzer, believing she will be able to work a trip or throw. While she attempts several, Joanna keeps her hips low and continues to circle, preventing Penne from controlling her legs or pulling Joanna on top of her. Penne is unable to off balance Joanna, so she wraps her left leg around Joanna’s left leg and braces the her instep against Joanna’s calf. This stops Joanna’s movement, but leaves Penne with no base in front of her. Joanna pushes on Penee’s upper back to force her to step with her right leg, freeing Joanna’s head. As soon as her head is free, Joanna starts turning Penne and going on the attack.
This is a major strategic victory for Joanna. Despite ending up in poor position against the cage, she is able to shut down Penne’s takedowns, escape and immediately punish Penne. She proved from the start that she could hang even in her opponent’s area of strength, officially beginning the steady process of breaking Penne down.
Soon after, Penne was again able to force another clinch.
She expertly times a left hook and ducks under it, clasping her hands in a strong body lock. Joanna is quick to whizzer with her left arm and pivot hard to her left, preventing Penne from keeping her square and sucking her hips in. Penne adjusts immediately by wrapping her right leg around Joanna’s left and falling to that side, attempting to counter with an outside trip. As she falls, Joanna’s back hits the cage, allowing her to reverse the position and turn into Penne. Penne maintains the underhook with her right arm and uses it to throw Joanna past her, freeing her hips to swing around and allowing her to get to her knees. She drives her head into Joanna’s cheek as she stands up, establishing a strong clinch against the cage.
Penne hunts for several trips but Joanna keeps her whizzer strong, her base low, her hips away and her legs free. After surviving the onslaught, she again manages to escape and punish Penne.
Joanna changes levels and dips her head off to her left side, putting weight on her left foot. She executes a quick shuffle step to the left, allowing her to move off to the side slightly while turning her head in to face Penne. With good head position, she is able to drive her forehead into Penne’s cheek and push Penne’s head towards Joanna’s right side. This head position allows Joanna to let go of the whizzer with her right arm then get her right hand on Penne’s face. She uses that hand to continue the push that started with her head position, forcing Penne upright and creating some space between their bodies. Penne tries to switch her head to the other side of Joanna’s body, but Joanna releases her other whizzer to push Penne’s head back with both hands, forcing Penne to abandon her grips. As Penne attempts to retreat, Joanna smashes her in the face with an elbow.
Joanna was able to fight her way out of the clinch each time, but it was not ideal for her to be clinched in the first place. She made an intelligent adjustment and scored a knockdown in the process.
Knowing that Penne was looking to duck under her punches, Joanna steps in with a right straight. As she throws it, she pulls her left elbow back and lowers the hand on that side. This leaves her in position to violently shoot an underhook with her left arm as Penne comes forward. She uses this underhook and a small, subtle pivot to kill Penne’s entry. Thwarted, Penne stands up straight and eats a tight right straight that puts her on her ass.
Joanna spent most of the remainder of the round casually kicking Penne’s legs before getting tossed right at the buzzer. In round two, she came out even more determined to prevent Penne from getting in on her.
Joanna immediately comes out in a lower stance. She feints level changes, starts making more consistent use of her jab and does a better job controlling distance and timing. Coming in low, she attacks with kicks to the leg and punches to the body. This makes it more difficult for Penne to close distance because she can’t come in underneath Joanna. She would have to walk through those strikes to clinch, which forces her to stay outside. Joanna further keeps her at bay by making excellent use of feints.
Here we see Joanna use a couple of foot feints to set up her attack. Notice how she stomps her lead foot forward without her body moving closer to Penne. These feints make it more difficult to time when Joanna is stepping in and when she is playing with you. When combined with jabs and jab feints, it becomes very difficult for Penne to time Joanna. As a result, Penne stands straight up and circles out. While she is upright and moving her feet she is unable to close distance, so Joanna chooses this time to take a committed step and attack.
Joanna’s emphasis on distance, timing and positioning allowed her to take control of the fight from the second round on. She started making much better use of her kicks, most importantly her front kick.
Joanna walks forward, now keeping her own stance very upright as Penne moves back with an upright stance. Joanna keeps bringing her rear foot under her, even switching stances at one point. She is trying to bait Penne into planting her feet, which Penne does as soon as she nears the cage. Joanna walks right up to her and front kicks her in the face. The front kick is so significant because it comes at an upward angle, making it dangerous for Penne to bend her knees.
Joanna did a fantastic job alternating between standing up tall to kick and lowering her level to box, keeping Penne reacting and defensive.
Walking Penne down as usual, Joanna enters with a high kick as soon as Penne nears the cage. The high kick gets Penne thinking that she needs to defend more kicks. She raises her left leg as if to check or teep, but puts it down when she sees Joanna pause. Joanna then kicks the leg that she just put down. This leaves Penne standing straight up with her legs together, in no position to defend punches. Joanna thus immediately flows into a boxing combination off her leg kick, flashing a jab before nailing Penne in the stomach with a right straight. She misses the followup hook, but Penne’s reaction to it puts her directly in the path of a sharp straight to the head. Joanna continues to flurry with a few punches before disengaging with a high kick.
Joanna masterfully changed levels to manipulate the positioning of her opponent, allowing her to get off tons of unanswered strikes. She wasn’t only fighting more intelligently on offense. She also took her countering to another level, making excellent use of angles.
Penne comes straight forward with a blitz. Joanna steps her rear foot back and pulls her head slightly back, attempting a pull counter. Penne closes the distance quickly and smothers both of their punches, so Joanna creates space by pushing with her left arm and pivoting to her left. Penne attempts a desperate knee as she is being turned, but completely misses Joanna’s body as she walks into a clean elbow that hurts her.
Penne again comes straight forward. This time, Joanna moves back and angles off to her right. Notice her lead hand. Joanna places her left forearm across Penne’s face and her hand on Penne’s shoulder. This allows her to guide Penne past her, putting Joanna at a great angle. She capitalizes ruthlessly with a quick flurry before pushing Penne back to the cage and teeing off with knees and elbows.
Joanna showed an incredible ability to both attack and defend on angles while controlling distance, leaving her almost completely untouched even in exchanges.
In the first sequence, Joanna sets a subtle trap. She steps back and pivots to her left, inviting Penne forward. As soon as Penne steps in, Joanna fires a counter right straight. Penne whiffs an overhand right. Joanna fires another quick right hand before pivoting hard to the left, smacking Penne with a left hook as she turns to face her. In the second, Joanna feints a jab which draws Penne in. Joanna steps back with her lead foot, switching to southpaw as she posts with both hands to keep Penne away. When Penne stands up, Joanna fires a lead right hook followed by a left straight, switch stepping forward to throw a right high kick as Penne is knocked back. Joanna puts the right foot down forward, then steps into a teep that knocks Penne even further back.
Her command of fundamentals allowed Joanna to beat Penne up as the fight went on. By the end, she was in complete control.
Joanna initiates with a jab. Anticipating a return from Penne, she pulls back as a counter right comes her way. Amazingly, she uses the hand that she just jabbed with to deflect the right straight, then slaps Penne’s right glove with it to line her up for the followup 2-3 combination. By this point, Penne is swinging at air and getting countered relentlessly. It was only a matter of time before she got put away.
With Penne pinned against the cage, Joanna patiently probes with her jab hand. She flashes several jabs before cracking Penne with a left hook. The whole time, Joanna keeps touching and grabbing Penne’s right glove. She constantly probes at, controls and attacks Penne’s right side, while waiting to throw her own right hand. This accomplishes two things: it prevents Penne from throwing her right hand and it prevents Penne from circling out to her right side. With her escape in that direction cut off and her getting methodically picked apart right in front of Joanna, Penne is forced to step to her left. She ducks down and steps to that side, but that’s exactly what Joanna was waiting for. A soon as Penne stands up, Joanna bombs her with a right hook. Penne goes into a shell, Joanna smells blood and splits the guard with a right knee, prompting a merciful stoppage by the referee.
It was a brutal, dominant performance by the champion. She displayed a dazzling array of high level skills while thoroughly dismantling the challenger. When asked about other challengers in the division, Joanna replied “Are they ready for me? No”. After that performance I believe her, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do too.