For over a year now it had been unclear who really is the best 135lb bantamweight in the world, with no champion being able to defend their title upon winning it. That was put to an end on December 30th when Amanda Nunes successfully made her first title defence against none other than future UFC Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey. She did it in just 48 seconds via TKO.
Amanda Nunes is the number one female bantamweight in the world, and she’s going to be a tough female for anyone to beat. She possesses the type of power which not many females possess, which has been shown in her recent performances against UFC legends Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey. She has shown a weakness previously in which she slows down after the first few rounds, however she claims she has now worked on this. Rousey meanwhile moves down to number four.
The next challenger for Nunes’ belt is likely going to be the winner of (#2) Valentina Schevchenko VS (#5) Julianna Pena. Both women are set to headline UFC on Fox 23 on January 28th in what is probably a title eliminator bout. Schevchenko faced Nunes once before, she managed to survive Nunes’ early onslaught to completely takeover and dominate in the third round. She lost the fight via unanimous decision, however a five round rematch could potentially go very different. Meanwhile, Pena is undefeated since coming to UFC with her most notable win coming against Cat Zingano back at UFC 200. The fight will likely see Schevchenko easily having the advantage on the feet, with the possibility of Pena having the advantage on the ground.
Holly Holm is currently sitting at #3, however a month from now she may no longer be in the bantamweight rankings, especially if she captures the inaugural UFC featherweight belt which would prompt a full-time move to the division. She will face (#12) Germaine de Randamie for the belt at UFC 208 on February 11th.
(#7) Raquel Pennington is the dark horse of the women’s bantamweight division right now. She started her career as a good fighter, and has now become an astounding fighter. She’s proof that improvements can be made to your game. Her latest win comes over Miesha Tate. With another win this year, Pennington could be set for a title opportunity towards the end of the year.
Two other females who have shown tremendous improvement and could also be set to have a breakout year are (#14) Ashlee Evans-Smith and (#15) Marion Reneau. Smith’s only UFC loss comes to Raquel Pennington, a loss which she has been keen to avenge. Meanwhile Reneau lost a split decision to Evans-Smith back in February 2016 but came back in November and showed a new ferocity , destroying Milana Dudiev in round three via TKO. Both women are world class competitors and could make a rise this year.
(#8) Sara McMann, (#10) Liz Carmouche, (#11) Bethe Correia have recently re-emerged. McMann suffered back to back devastating losses to Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes back in 2015 but 2016 saw her return to form with victories over Jessica Eye and (#9) Alexis Davis. Liz Carmouche made her return after over 18 months away from competition back at UFC 205 when she got the split decision victory over (#13) Katlyn Chookagian. After back to back losses to Ronda Rousey and Raquel Pennington, Bethe Correia returned in December 2016 picking up the split decision over Jessica Eye.
Elsewhere, Cat Zingano is currently at number six. It’s no secret Zingano absolutely despises the new UFC bantamweight queen Amanda Nunes. The two previously fought in 2014 with Zingano picking up the round three TKO win. Since then Zingano has back to back losses to Ronda Rousey and Julianna Pena. Nevertheless, the UFC loves putting on fights with a rivalry behind them, and this fight certainly has that. With a big win or two early this year, Zingano could end up challenging for the belt before the end of the year.
The UFC bantamweight division has certainly become a whole lot more exciting as of late. Do you think Amanda Nunes will remain queen of the division this year? Or will someone else end the year on top? Let us know your opinions and predictions in the comments below.