Amanda Nunes of Brazil beat American Raquel Pennington early Sunday to defend her UFC bantamweight title for the third time. The heavily favored Brazilian won by technical knockout in the fifth round in front of her home fans in Rio de Janeiro.
Nunes said winning against her friend Pennington was the hardest challenge she had to face in her career.
“I respect this woman so much,” the Brazilian said with tears in her eyes after her victory. “This was the hardest thing I did in my career. I had to do it to defend this belt, defend my biggest dream.
“We will have some beers as friends later tonight.”
Before the decisive round, Pennington was heard saying “I’m done,” but her coach insisted she should return to the bout.
The American hadn’t fought since November 2016 because of injuries. The two friends were scheduled to clash in December, but Pennington broke her left leg in an ATV crash.
In the opening of the event’s main card, former lightweight champion Vitor Belfort announced his retirement after losing to countryman and former champion Lyoto Machida by knockout.
“Everything in life has beginning, middle and end,” Belfort said. “I will stop fighting here because I think I reached the end. Thanks for your love.”
American Kelvin Gastelum beat crowd favorite Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in a split-decision that was booed by local fans.
Unbeaten Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist Mackenzie Dern needed less than three minutes to overcome American Amanda Cooper in the strawweight division. Dern, who made her UFC debut only two months ago and weighed in seven pounds above the limit on Friday, won by submission.
“I try not to cry,” Dern said, “but my camp was very hard and I had the weight issue.”
John Lineker beat Brian Kelleher in their bantamweight bout by knockout.