As WMMA continues to evolve, the UFC’s first weight class for women is facing some changes. With the number three ranked contender, Julianna Peña, announcing her pregnancy and several current bantamweight fighters moving to the 125-pound division, the UFC is in need of some top 135-pound talent.
Below, we take a look at who’s leaving the bantamweight division, as well as explore some potential bantamweight signees. Be sure to sound in and let us know who you would like to see the UFC pursue!
Debate: Who do you think the UFC should sign to the bantamweight division and why?
who’s leaving town?
TUF 18 season winner Julianna Peña will be out of commission for at least a year due to her pregnancy. The number one ranked bantamweight contender Valentina Shevchenko is on a mission for flyweight gold. Former UFC title challengers Alexis Davis and Liz Carmouche have moved to the flyweight division and are scheduled to face one another later this year. Lauren Murphy, who’s currently competing on TUF 26, is now a flyweight competitor. “Blonde Fighter” Katlyn Chookagian, who’s 2-1 in the bantamweight division, has confirmed a return to 125-pounds. Jessica Eye, who’s flyweight re-debut has been rescheduled twice now, has also dropped from 135. Ji Yeon Kim is rumored to face Justine Kish at 125-pounds sometime in January. Former bantamweight champion Holly Holm is currently in talks for to face Cris Cyborg at 145-pounds.
potential signees: Our Pick’s
Yana “Foxy” Kunitskaya (10-3, 1 NC)
Yana Kunitskaya is currently signed to Invicta FC where she is the reigning bantamweight champion. She claimed the title in August by defeating Raquel Pa’aluhi. “Foxy” trains at Jackson Wink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is an active and talented striker who throws a variety of techniques. In her last few outings, Kunitskaya has shown an improving ground game.
Sarah Kaufman (18-4, 1 NC)
Kaufman is a former UFC bantamweight competitor as well as a former Strikeforce bantamweight champion. Her last fight in the UFC was a split-decision loss to Valentina Shevchenko in December of 2015. After the loss to Shevchenko, Kaufman and the UFC quietly parted ways. She has since bounced back with a win over Jessica-Rose Clark in BFC. Recently, via Twitter, Kaufman volunteered to face Kalindra Faria at UFC 216 on short notice. Kaufman is a strong boxer with solid takedown defense. She has notable wins over Liz Carmouche, Alexis Davis, Leslie Smith, Roxanne Modafferi and Miesha Tate. Is a UFC return in her future?
Katharina Lehner (6-0)
Lehner is an undefeated prospect who currently competes for Respect FC and Invicta FC. She made her Invicta debut in August, knocking out Alexa Conners in the first round. Germany’s Lehner is very physically strong and is young in her MMA career. She is scheduled to make her second Invicta FC appearance in eight weeks– her opponent is currently unannounced.
Leah “Nidas” Letson (4-1)
Leah Letson is another solid prospect who currently fights for Invicta FC. She has competed 145-pounds in the past but has made 135-pounds a home now. The 25-year-old last fought in January, knocking out former UFC fighter Elizabeth Phillips with a head kick in the first round. The victory over Phillips extended her win-streak to four, with three of those wins coming by way of KO/TKO.
Mayana Kellem (6-0)
Mayana Kellem of Brazil is a rising undefeated prospect. Of her six victories, four come by way of KO/TKO. She last competed in July, defeating Gisele Campos via first round TKO. Although she is relatively unknown, the UFC has signed prospects that are in the early stages of their career. For example, Ketlen Vieira was signed to the UFC when she was 6-0, Ashlee Evans-Smith signed with the UFC when she was 3-0, and most recently, Talita Bernardo inked a UFC deal at 5-1, etc.
Who did we miss on our list? Who do you believe should be on the UFC’s radar?