In less than a year, the women’s bantamweight division has become the most unpredictable in all of UFC. Four women have held the 135-pound title since November 2015, and the belt could change hands again in the coming months.
Replacing the previously scheduled light heavyweight championship fight between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, the women’s bantamweight title fight between Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes was the main event of UFC 200. Tate dropped the belt in her first title defense, suffering a first-round knockout just four months after beating former champ Holly Holm.
Holm lost her first title defense following her shocking upset of Ronda Rousey, who hasn’t been back inside the octagon since she suffered her first UFC defeat. Cris “Cyborg” Justino has never fought for the title, but she is one of the world’s top female fighters and isn’t far from the title conversation.
Who will fight Nunes for the title? Here is an update on UFC’s top female fighters:
She’s easily the most popular female fighter of all time, and even though she hasn’t fought since November, Rousey might still be the biggest name in UFC other than Conor McGregor. It’s uncertain exactly when Rousey will return to the octagon, but she will face whomever holds the UFC women’s bantamweight championship, according to UFC president Dana White.
“I would like to see her fight this year, but it could be early next year, too,” White said on FS1 shortly after UFC 200.
Rousey dominated the bantamweight division before her shocking loss to Holm, successfully defending the title six times with five first-round knockouts.
If Rousey isn’t returning anytime soon, Holm might make the most sense to challenge Nunes for the title. After knocking out Rousey in the second round of the UFC 193 main event, she almost defeated Tate at UFC 196. But she was submitted in the fifth round of her title fight, which she appeared to be winning.
Before Holm can get a title shot, she’ll have to take care of business on July 23. She’s set to face Valentina Shevchenko, against whom she is a -350 favorite.
Heading into UFC 200 as the champion, Tate was all set to have a third shot at Rousey. But that fight might never happen, considering she dropped the title at the biggest pay-per-view of 2016. Tate was dominated by Nunes, as she was outstruck 40 to three, before tapping out to a rear naked choke.
No matter who she fights the next time she enters the octagon, it won’t be until 2017. After breaking her nose at UFC 200, Tate has been ruled out for six months.
Cris “Cyborg” Justino
Justino has just one fight in UFC, and it was at a catchweight of 140 pounds. But she’s been linked to Rousey throughout the years as she’s dominated the 145-pound division at Invicta FC, an MMA promotion for women. Most recently, Justino said she wants to fight Rousey or Tate, but only at a catchweight.
Justino said she had trouble making 140 pounds when she defeated Leslie Smith at UFC 198, and she plans to defend her Invicta featherweight championship next.