Once the most difficult belt to attain in mixed martial arts, the UFC women’s bantamweight championship, and the division overall, can at best be labeled discombobulated or downright impossible to explain. Since former champion Ronda Rousey lost in November, the division’s belt has changed hands two more times and it’s difficult right now to believe current titleholder Amanda Nunes will have a long reign.
Just follow the recent string of losses from since Rousey fell last year to American Holly Holm. The methodical boxer and American Holm was choked out by Rousey rival Miesha Tate in March, then Tate dropped her first title defense as the Brazilian Nunes pummeled and eventually choked her out at UFC 200 earlier this month.
Sixteen days later, Holm, looking to get back on the championship track and currently the No. 2-ranked contender, lost a second straight match for the first in her career to Russian Valentina Shevchenko on Saturday in front of a dismayed United Center crowd in Chicago.
It’s easy to follow the trail. Holm, the only person to date to crack Rousey’s previously unblemished record and seemingly invincible hold on the championship, fell to Shevchenko and Tate and has completely turned the division upside down with her victory and two losses in less than eight months.
To make things even more confusing, the rising Shevchenko already fell to current champ Nunes via a decision at UFC 196 in March. But after losing the first two rounds of the three-round bout, Shevchenko came back in the final stanza and suggested the extra two rounds a championship match requires would be enough for her to defeat Nunes.
The multi-faceted 28-year-old Shevchenko, whose wide array of disciplines include boxing and Muay Thai, didn’t hesitate to hype the potential rematch either.
"She's definitely scared," Shevchenko said of Nunes after defeating Holm. "I'm ready for five rounds, for sure. I will take whoever I need to fight next. But I think she's definitely scared."
Responding on Twitter, Nunes told her more than 30,000 followers that Shevchenko needs “to prove herself a little more,” and suggested a bout with No. 4 contender Julianna Penn before any more talk of title shot.
Clearly, the division’s champion and contenders each have their opinions about who should go where in the top 10 rankings and who should fight who. And so do we.
Here’s our top 10 rankings for UFC’s women’s bantamweight division.
UFC Women’s Bantamweight Rankings
Champion: Amanda Nunes
1.Miesha Tate 18-6 (3 KOs)
Only here by a thread because she was the most recent champion and due to Rousey’s uncertain future. Nunes might’ve surprised her, but as champion you must be ready for any and all comers.
2.Ronda Rousey 12-1 (3 KOs)
The main question for when she comes back, if at all this year, is if she’ll get an immediate title shot. Rousey’s already dispatched Tate twice, so does she really need to beat her again in order to face Nunes? Or would it be a proper warm up before Nunes?
3.Valentina Shevchenko 13-2 (4 KOs)
After pummeling Holm the Russian’s already clamoring for a rematch, but with Holm dropping two straight for the first time that does hurt Shevchenko. She’s switched up from submitting opponents to earning decisions, so the stamina is there. Perhaps a date with Rousey can erase the stigma of her letdown to Nunes in March.
4.Julianna Pena 8-2 (3 KOs)
The former Ultimate Fighter trailblazer, Pena’s already taken care of the bottom half of the top 10 and claimed three of her four consecutive wins this year alone. Shevchenko’s likely her next opponent.
5.Sara McMann 9-3 (1 KO)
McMann spent last year re-testing the top of the division after suffer the first loss of her career to Rousey in Feb. 2014. She fell to Tate and Nunes in consecutive bouts, but may have turned things around by knocking back Jessica Eye.
6.Cat Zingano 9-2 (5 KOs)
Enduring consecutive losses for the first time, the Brazilian jiu-jit-su expert certainly has the power (5 KOs) to be in the top 10, but she’s been unable to use it of late.
7.Holly Holm 10-2 (7 KOs)
Standing as the first and only to take down the mighty Rousey, Holm is still in the top 10 but not by much. Maybe expanding her style with a more aggressive ground game can help in her next fight.
8.Liz Carmouche 10-5 (6 KOs)
Carmouche is maybe getting back on track after dropping Lauren Murphy, but she’s far from the dominant Strikeforce force she once was.
9.Raquel Pennington 7-5 (1 KO)
Pennington stays in the top 10 because she has stood up to the division’s weaker opponents and kept Bethe Correia at bay even if it was a split decision.
10.Germaine de Randamie 7-3 (4 KOs)
The 32-year-old Dutch moves in to the top 10 after Jessica Eye’s tumble. De Randamie’s looked impressive with two straight TKO victories. She’ll need a big win within the top 10 to move any higher.