According to an Oct. 9 Bleacher Report blog post, Jessamyn Duke has opened up about why she didn't shoot for a takedown during her fight against Raquel Pennington on Episode 6 of The Ultimate Fighter.
Duke, 27, said she felt that heading into the fight her biggest advantage would be to keep it standing, even though her opponent had a solid boxing background.
The Kentucky native wanted to put on a good show for the fans and have one of the best fights of the season, which apparently meant having a 15-minute standup slugfest rather than a ground battle. She was poised to keep it standing, even after Pennington showed off exceptional boxing skills during the first two frames of action.
Duke added that she didn't go for a takedown because Pennington has excellent takedown defense and a strong top game, so it would have been a risky move. But looking back on it, perhaps just one takedown in the third round could have secured the victory for Duke, which makes it tough not to question why she wouldn't at least try it.
"I felt that my biggest advantage would most likely be on the feet, so I wanted to keep it in there. I didn't want to force the fight to the ground, but I was more than prepared to fight here if that's where it had ended up," Duke said.
"Even though I believed I was the better fighter on the ground, I knew how strong she supposedly was and that she has a good sprawl and a heavy top game so I didn't want to risk getting controlled in that range. I knew that no matter what, it was going to be a good fight. That's why even in my pre-fight interview, when asked to send a message to her, I said, "Let's go hard and put on fight of the season."
Duke said one of the first punches that Pennington landed busted up her nose and that she knew she was in for a tough fight. "There wasn't much of a feeling-out process. We both were attacking with bad intentions and you could feel the intensity between us," Duke said. "All those shots were being thrown hard. It instantly pushed the fight to a pace where we were trying to break each other.
"After the first round was over, I went back to my corner and felt like I had won the round, but I knew it was close. Coach Edmond told me I was doing the best with my clinch and my knees, and that I needed to attack with them more. I thought to myself, 'If I can push hard and fight like this is the last round, I can finish her or win the decision."
Duke said her lights started to dim in the second round when Pennington opened up her hands with crisp combinations that landed flush.
"I was trying desperately to shake off the cobwebs to recover. I knew at that moment I was behind in that round and I wasn't gonna let this fight slip away from me," Duke said. "So I did the only thing I knew to do and that was to just keep pushing forward and keep throwing bombs. The round ended with several more exchanges from us both. I walked back to my corner in that round and I wasn't sure what was coming next."
What happened next was a third round, which would ultimately be another five-minute standup battle.
The only explanation for why Duke didn't shoot for a takedown in the third frame is that she thought she was winning the standup game.
Perhaps one of her teammates or her cornermen should have called out to her during the third frame to tell her to try to steal the round with a takedown. Just one takedown in the third round could have been the deciding factor in an otherwise close back-and-forth battle.
It's a shame that Duke didn't get to advance to the next round just because of one missed opportunity.