UFC Set For New Group of Female Champions
UFC 293 could be a star-making turn for Sean Strickland. The American middleweight is hoping to knock off division stalwart Israel Adesanya to stake his claim in the UFC history books. There are many times in UFC history where there is a changing of the guard.
This is true now of the women’s division in MMA. Initially, UFC President Dana White said he never planned to have women fight. Once Ronda Rousey came onto the scene, things changed. Right now, the UFC has four women’s divisions: strawweight (115 pounds), flyweight (125), bantamweight (135) and featherweight (145).
There is one major difference between now and when Rousey came into MMA. Many more women are training to compete in the sport at the highest level. It has created a deeper pool of talent to fight and try to live out their dreams. Here’s a look at the women that are building their reputations in MMA.
UFC Has Two Vacancies Right Now in Women’s Division
Amanda Nunes’ retirement following her decision win over Irene Aldana following UFC 289 on June 10, 2023, opened up two weight divisions. The UFC is currently seeking a bantamweight and featherweight champion. The featherweight division may be inactive for a while or possibly permanently.
There aren’t enough fighters at 145 pounds to contest the division. Chinese star Zhang Weili is the current strawweight champion, while Alexa Grasso is the flyweight champion, but she will have to win a rematch against Shevchenko to keep the crown.
Suarez is on Path to Show Potential
Tatiana Suarez has had a cruel run in the UFC. Suarez, who is 10-0 in her career, was forced to take four years out of competition due to injuries. For Suarez, it seemed she was never destined to have athletic success on the big stage.
Before she came to the UFC, Suarez was the No. 1 ranked freestyle wrestler in the world and was set to compete for the United States at the 2012 Olympics. A neck injury would cause problems, and it was discovered she had thyroid cancer.
Suarez amazed many when she returned to the UFC in February 2023 following a long absence and submitted Montana De La Rosa in the second round. In Suarez’s second fight against former champion Jéssica Andrade, Suarez also picked up a second-round submission. Suarez is an exciting fighter in the women’s division who has high grappling skills. Suarez has finished seven of her ten victories and will be a fighter that fans clamor to see.
Bueno Silva Has Momentum Halted
Mayra Bueno Silva looked like she was headed for a bantamweight title shot. Bueno Silva picked up her fourth straight win when she submitted former champion Holly Holm in the second round via choke. However, Bueno Silva, 32, failed a drug test following the fight.
Bueno Silva said the positive test happened because of her ADHD medicine. There will likely be a suspension coming for Bueno Silva that could halt her momentum. But the Brazilian fighter has showcased her immense potential. Bueno Silva’s grappling is next level and allows her to put her opponents in tough positions. Bueno Silva is 11-2 in her career and has won eight of those fights by submission.
Fiorot Has Battled Way to the Top in Women’s Division
French fighter Manon Fiorot lost her first career professional MMA fight in 2018 by a split decision. Fiorot, 33, has won 11 consecutive fights, including six by knockout. She added another notch to her belt with a comfortable decision victory over former champion Rose Namajunas on Sept. 2 in Paris.
Namajunas was going up in weight when she challenged Fiorot. However, Fiorot was able to hold off the former champion and battle through some bleeding to get the victory. Fiorot is in position to get a shot at the winner of the Shevchenko-Grasso fight and could have a legitimate claim to the throne in the women’s division.
Barber May be the Future Once More in Women’s Division
American Maycee “The Future” Barber burst onto the UFC scene at age 20 and said she wanted to be the youngest-ever UFC champion. At first, Barber seemed on a path to superstardom. She knocked out her first three opponents in the promotion before hitting adversity.
Barber suffered her first career loss to a respected yet very average veteran fighter, Roxanne Modafferi. Another loss to now-champion Grasso followed in February 2021. Since then, Barber has rolled up five consecutive wins, including a vicious knockout of Amanda Ribas on June 24, 2023. Barber is calling out big names and, at age 25, has most of her career in front of her.
Blanchfield Makes Case for Title
Much like Fiorot, American Erin Blanchfield suffered a loss early in her career while she was still learning the ropes. Blanchfield hasn’t stopped climbing since her loss to Tracy Cortez in February 2019. The New Jersey native has won nine straight fights, including six under the UFC banner.
Blanchfield didn’t look great in her last win, a decision victory over former title challenger Taila Santos on Aug. 25, 2023. Blanchfield is a well-rounded fighter who has a successful wrestling background but is still working on improving her striking. If Blanchfield continues on this path, she will fight for a title.
Xiaonan Ready to Challenge Countrywoman
Chinese fighter Yan Xiaonan has put together back-to-back victories over Mackenzie Dern and Andrade. The win over Andrade started people asking if Xiaonan, who fights at strawweight, should fight Weili next. Xiaonan has a 17-3 career record and has finished eight fights by knockout.
The win over Andrae has been Xiaonan’s top moment in the UFC so far. She has a loss to former champion Carla Esparza and also lost to a top challenger Marina Rodriguez. Xiaonan’s recent success, coupled with Weili being a champion, may make the UFC eager to make the fight to settle who is the best Chinese strawweight.