As 2020 comes to an end, the UFC hasn’t seen much of a change at the top of each of its pyramids this year.
Weili Zhang, Valentina Shevchenko and Amanda Nunes all successfully defended their women’s strawweight, flyweight and featherweight championships while the bantamweight title went undefended.
Zhang went toe-to-toe with former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248 in one of the best fights of the year, winning in a razor close split decision. Shevchenko defended her belt twice, first defeating Katlyn Chookagian in at UFC 247 in February via knockout in the third round, before going the distance against Jennifer Maia at UFC 255 in November.
Nunes defended her featherweight championship at UFC 250, smashing through Felicia Spencer in a unanimous decision win before her second bout against Megan Anderson was called off and rescheduled for March, following injury to the Brazilian.
Looking into the future, it’s highly unlikely we see a change in the women’s divisions again, unless Nunes calls time on her glittering career. She spoke briefly about considering retirement after her partner Nina Ansaroff gave birth to their daughter, but she has a fight scheduled for March now and a win could spur her on to defend her bantamweight title again for the first time since December 2019.
At flyweight, Shevchenko is just leagues and levels above most of the division. The next challenger looks like it will be Jessica Andrade, but she was destroyed at 115lbs by Zhang and Shevchenko hits just as hard and is as good on the ground herself.
As for Zhang, the likelihood is that she’ll face Rose Namajunas next and while stylistically it’s a great match up I think the Chinese athlete will be able to get it done in similar fashion to the way she beat Joanna Jedrzejczyk. The division is deep, but with wins over JJ and Rose it’s tough to see anyone else good enough to take her crown.
There is always the possibility of a super-fight between two of the three women, although it’s far more likely to not include the Brazilian. Nunes has already beaten Shevchenko twice, although both were razor close decisions, and Dana White has admitted he doesn’t see much point in a trilogy fight.
Zhang and Shevchenko could however face each other, with the fight most likely to take place in Bullet’s flyweight division. Zhang has fantastic power in her punches and kicks and has a great submission game on the ground, something that Shevchenko would have to be wary of. But the Kyrgyzstan native is a master of range management and has similar power and craft, so I’d back her to retain her belt if that happened.
All in all, expect a lot of contenders to make a case in 2021 that they could be the next champion in their respective weight class but they will all have a tough task at toppling their respective queens.