The women’s heavyweight division in mixed martial arts is still very much a developing weight class. However, over the last two years it has begun to grow, with many of the top females in the division gaining worldwide attention thanks to Japanese organisation, RIZIN Fighting Federation.
RIZIN, which is currently one of the biggest MMA promotions in the world along with the UFC and Bellator MMA, started the women’s heavyweight division on December 31st 2015 with Gabi Garcia and Lei’D Tapa battling it out in what was the first ever mainstream women’s heavyweight fight in history. The build-up to the historical fight was certainly a big one. To promote the fight, both women appeared on Spike TV’s Bellator MMA, staring each other down inside the cage. News of the fight went viral, it was hugely anticipated, and fans around the world had no idea what to expect. Gabi Garcia emerged victorious via first round TKO and has since gone on to win three straight, remaining undefeated.
Since the Garcia VS Tapa match, the division has continued to grow. Many new stars have made their debut, whilst females from other combat sports have announced plans to make the transition to professional mixed martial arts competition. We take a look at the history-making women of the division and the next possible fights for them.
#1 Gabi Garcia VS Oksana Gagloeva II OR Katya Kavaleva/Joaquina Bonfim
The number-one ranked heavyweight fighter in the world Gabi Garcia (4-0) will make her return to action on the July 30th RIZIN card to take on Russian boxer Oksana Gagloeva. If Gagloeva pulls off the major upset and takes out Garcia, the likely scenario would be an immediate rematch considering Garcia’s long-standing number one position, as well as her star power.
If Garcia is once again victorious, the fans could be treated to a fight against either Katya Kavaleva or fellow Brazilian Joaquina Bonfim. Both women are world champions in other combat sports and have recently announced they are looking to make their professional MMA debuts, they have yet to be booked.
Katya Kavaleva VS Joaquina Bonfim
Standing at 6’5”, Katya Kavaleva is a seasoned champion of Karate, Kickboxing and Taekwondo. In 2015 she won a gold medal at the World Kickboxing Championships. Born in Belarus, Kavaleva now lives in Florida and trains at Combat Club. The 26-year-old has made it known she wants to make her MMA debut by the end of the year. Kavaleva has been posting several training and workout videos on her social media pages as of late.
Joaquina Bonfim, a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt who trained out of Gracie Barra – Pernambuco and now the ZR Team. She has won titles on a national and international level, including Brazilian National Champion (CBJJ/IBJJF), National Pro Champion (UAEJJ) or World Champion (CBJJE). She is also an accomplished Judoka and has competed at the highest level of national boxing in her home country. Bonfim has quite the backstory, click HERE for more on the inspirational Brazilian.
Both women could easily be selected as Garcia’s next opponents, without having to fight each other. However, if the two are matched up together, fans can expect a classic Striker VS Grappler match-up between a world champion in kickboxing and a world champion in BJJ.
#2 Jazzy Gabert VS Lei’D Tapa
Jazzy Gabert made her professional MMA debut in October, knocking out Manuela Kuhse in the second-round. She fell short in her follow-up appearance, losing to King Reina via second round armbar submission. The German is also a pro-wrestler and has recently been doing work for the WWE. A good rebound fight for the 35-year-old would be against another pro-wrestler turned mixed martial artist, Lei’D Tapa.
Tapa is scheduled to compete on the July 30th RIZIN card against King Reina in a Welterweight VS Heavweight clash. Win or Lose, a bout against Gabert would be the next logical step for the star. Both women share the pro-wrestling connection and have a similar level of MMA experience. A bout between the pair would attract fans of both sports.
#3 Destanie Yarbrough VS #4 Lisa Santiseban
Number three ranked Destanie Yarbrough made her MMA debut back in April 2016 when she defeated Crystal Parson in the very first round via TKO. She faced off against the number one heavyweight fighter in the world Gabi Garcia last September, losing by way of a first round submission. She has since revealed she is keen for a rematch, and says next time she will let her hands loose more. Yarbrough may need another impressive win before getting a shot at Garcia again, and the perfect opponent for her would be the undefeated amateur who recently announced she is turning pro, Lisa “The Beast” Santisteban.
New York’s Santisteban (3-0-0 Am) originally got into mixed martial arts as a way to lose weight. She lost over 100lbs in a year and found that she picked up the sport very fast, dominating the competition in the amateur scene. In her last two fights, she has knocked out her opponents in the very first round.
A fight between Yarbrough and Santisteban would be an exciting one. For Yarbrough, it would be a chance for her to show everyone why she is one of the highest-ranked stars in the division against a rising prospect. Meanwhile, Santisteban would be looking to make an immediate statement in her professional debut by taking out a top-three ranked opponent.
Click HERE to view the heavyweight world rankings.
Fight fans, do you agree with these match-ups? What fights would you like to see next in the women’s heavyweight division?