Tag Archives: Strawweight

Who will be a female UFC Champion at the end of 2022?

The UFC will see it’s first two title fights of 2022 this weekend at UFC 270 and while the women won’t be involved, it’s a huge year for them too.

Last year we saw two of the four belts change hands, with Rose Namajunas claiming the strawweight belt for a second time with a head-kick KO win over Weili Zhang at UFC 261, while Julianna Pena shocked the world at UFC 269 when she submitted Amanda Nunes.

During our picks for 2021 we predicted no changes, so obviously only got a 50% hit rate. Can we do better for 2022?

Strawweight (115lbs) – Rose Namajunas

‘Thug’ Rose made waves in 2021, returning to champion status with a win over Zhang and then winning their rematch at UFC 268 a few months later too.

With two wins over Zhang and already holding two wins over Joana Jedrzejczyzk from her previous title reign, that’s the other elite talents in the division dealt with.

Carla Esparza, who beat Namajunas in the TUF finale to win the inaugral belt for this division, is confirmed as her next challenger and if she can navigate that fight as expected then she is set for a long and successful reign as champion.

I think that carries over into 2023 and she claims G.O.A.T status among the strawweights.

Rose Namajunas reacts against Zhang Weili in their strawweight title bout during the UFC 268 event at Madison Square Garden on November 06, 2021 in...

Flyweight (125lbs) – Valentina Shevchenko

The pound-for-pound best female fighter on the planet, Valentina Shevchenko first won the belt in 2018 and she hasn’t looked back since.

She went 2-0 in 2021 with stoppage wins over Jessica Andrade at UFC 261 before another KO win over Lauren Murphy at UFC 266 to continue her dominant run as the queen of 125lbs.

There’s nobody close to her level at her weight class, so barring a crazy shock she will hold that belt until she retires probably.

Bantamweight (135lbs) – Amanda Nunes

The greatest female fighter of all-time saw her 12-fight winning streak snapped at UFC 269 at the end of the year by Julianna Pena but the world is ready for a rematch.

While Pena will likely be taken far more seriously by the fans in the build-up to that bout, it also means that she will likely be taken more seriously by the ‘Lioness’ and that screams ‘and new!’.

Nunes gets her win back at some point in the summer, then sees out the year as the champion yet again. Normality is restored in the women’s MMA world.

Amanda Nunes of Brazil and Julianna Pena meet during their UFC bantamweight championship bout during the UFC 269 on December 11, 2021 in Las Vegas,...

Featherweight (145lbs) – Discontinued

A interesting one, but I can’t see how the featherweight division survives another calendar year.

Nunes has been the champion since knocking out Cris ‘Cyborg’ back in 2018 and has defended the belt successfully twice since then. But there are no contenders and the division barely exists.

Felicia Spencer was the obvious choice to challenge, but she had already lost to Nunes and has now retired from the sport. Kayla Harrison could come into the UFC for a mega fight, but the division would have the same problems and I think it gets shut down by the end of 2022.


UFC 268 Fallout: Usman the GOAT, what next at strawweight?

UFC 268 lived up to it’s billing as one of the best fight cards of the year at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, with Kamaru Usman cementing himself as the welterweight G.O.A.T.

It was a night headlined by two big rematches, as Usman defended his welterweight title against long-time rival Colby Covington for a second time while Rose Namajunas defended her strawweight title against the woman she won it from at UFC 261 in Weili Zhang.

But it was Usman who claimed the headlines, with another masterful performance claiming him a 19th straight career win and making him 15-0 in the UFC.

Usman and Covington started at a slower pace than their initial bout, which is regarded as one of the best fights in modern history in the UFC. But as Usman used his brilliant new jab once more, he took over and in the second round was able to land two knockdowns.

Covington rallied and was able to win rounds though, rocking Usman with some hard left hands and even securing the first takedown against the champion in his UFC career (unofficially).

But by the end of the fifth round when the judge’s scores were read out, there wasn’t much doubt about where the title would be going and that was back home with Usman.

It means he’s now cleared the division out throughout his career, with all but Edwards coming in a title fight situation too. His wrestling has been proven to be the best in the division, possibly the company, and now his striking is among the most dangerous too.

While Georges St-Pierre will always leave a question mark above it, Usman for many is now the greatest welterweight of all-time. He can win a fight in any way, has no weaknesses and has no equal any more. So much so that if they fought each other, I think Usman would be the favourite now.

As for Namajunas, she proved once again that she is one of the greatest strawweight fighters in history too, with a brilliant win over Weili Zhang via split decision.

Her striking was crisp and while Zhang looked to ensure her physicality was used as much as possible, Namajunas used her technique to counter it and secure the victory over her closest rival for the title for a second time.

The win closes that chapter on her career, but Namajunas can now look forward to re-opening an older chapter when she’ll likely take on the inaugural champion of the division in Carla Esparza.

The two fought on The Ultimate Fighter finale to crown the champ and Esparza claimed a third-round submission on the night. She has since fought her way back to contention after losing the belt and is set to be the next challenger.

Namajunas has already welcomed the bout, but what about for Zhang? The Chinese superstar must head back to the drawing board after consecutive losses, but she could find herself back in the running with a big win.

Marina Rodriguez recently entered herself into the conversation, so a fight between the two would be absolutely amazing to try move the division forward while there is always the possibility of a rematch with Joanna Jedrzejczyk too.

UFC 268 delivered, now the UFC must deliver with the right match-making decisions in the strawweight division going forward.

Rose Namajunas can finally bring some stability to strawweight at UFC 268

As UFC 268 fight week rolls around, the card is set to be headlined by two huge rematches in the welterweight and strawweight title pictures.

After claiming the 115lbs division crown with a stunning head-kick knockout at UFC 261, Rose Namajunas will defend her title for the first time of her second reign when she takes on the women she beat for the belt, Weili Zhang.

But she now has the chance to add stability to a division that has been missing it for the best part of four years.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk was the reigning and defending champion for two years, defending the belt five times before she ran into Namajunas for the first time at UFC 217.

Namajunas was the victor that night, with a stunning knockout victory that shot her to superstardom with the now unforgettable ‘Thug Rose!’ commentary from Daniel Cormier.

She defended that belt six months later by beating Jedrzejczyk in their rematch via a unanimous decision, but ever since the belt has been like a hot potato.

Namajunas was defeated by Jessica Andrade at UFC 237 via a vicious slam in which she landed directly on her head, knocking her unconscious. She had dominated the first round however and later would earn back a win in their rematch at UFC 251.

Rose Namajunas takes down Joanna Jedrzejczyk of Poland in their UFC women's strawweight championship bout during the UFC 217 event at Madison Square...

By that point though, Andrade was no longer champion either. Her first defence came against Zhang at UFC Fight Night: Shenzhen, the companies first trip to China.

Zhang put on a dominant display, blitzing Andrade in the first round with powerful strikes and knees to the body to earn her own first-round knockout victory.

Namajunas’ win in Florida back in April meant the title once again changed hands but she has the chance to now give the belt a settled home.

Another win over Zhang will mean she is the first champion since herself to successfully defend the belt but it also means that she will be the clear number one in her division.

Rose Namajunas kicks Zhang Weili of China in their UFC women's strawweight championship bout during the UFC 261 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial...

Inaugral champion Carla Esparza seems the likely opponent for whoever wins the belt at UFC 268, while Marina Rodriguez has entered herself into the fray with back-to-back main event wins. But while they’ll both stand a chance, Namajunas will likely enter either of those bouts as the overwhelming favourite to retain her title.

If she can string together a run of victories she can stake herself a claim as the number one fighter in that weight class ever in the UFC. That way when she calls herself the best, she won’t be telling any lies and there won’t be any doubts.

UFC Vegas 39 Fallout: Marina Rodriguez striking clinic makes her a contender

The UFC Vegas 39 main event didn’t quite go the way many expected as Marina Rodriguez survived a grappling onslaught from Mackenzie Dern to earn a brilliant decision win after a striking clinic.

The two Brazilian’s met in the strawweight division ranked as the number four and number six respectively, with a win for either woman opening up title contention in the near future.

Dern, who was on a five-fight win streak going into the bout, was the pre-fight favourite with the bookies and after an even first round she seemed to get the fight in the perfect place early in the second.

Dern got a takedown and immediately worked for a submission to end the bout early, with the fight finally where she wanted it to take place.

Rodriguez seemed to attempt a d’arce choke from the bottom in her defence and while Dern took a 10-8 round in many people’s eyes, Rodriguez survived the onslaught. That was the turning point in the fight.

Barring the final 30 seconds in the fourth round where Dern was once again able to get the fight to the ground, Rodriguez dominated on the feet.

She used her sharp jab, piercing right straight and an oblique kick to perfection as she pieced up Dern on the feet for the vast majority of the fight.

Marina Rodriguez of Brazil celebrates her victory over Mackenzie Dern in their women's strawweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX...

It was a rare occasion that the pure striker came out on top over the pure grappler in a mixed martial arts bout and showed that Rodriguez is a true contender in the weight class, proving she can go toe to toe with the best around and keep the fight in her world.

While Dern must go back to earning herself title contention, Rodriguez now looks ahead to a potential title eliminator bout.

Rose Namajunas and Weili Zhang will meet in the co-main event at UFC 268 next month with the 115lbs strawweight title on the line. The winner of that is likely to face Carla Esparza, who is on a five-fight win streak herself.

The UFC could potentially pair Rodriguez with Esparza in a rematch, with Rodriguez’s only professional defeat coming in a split decision loss to the former champion.

Marina Rodriguez of Brazil poses for a portrait backstage during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on October 09, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

If not, it could lead to a blockbuster match-up between Rodriguez and Jedrzejczyk who hasn’t fought since her stunning defeat to Zhang back in March 2020.

A striker’s paradise, the winner of that could then potentially claim a title shot too but it would also keep the top of the division moving in one of the most stacked weight classes on the roster.

With the likes of Yan Xiaonan also in the mix at the top end that’s important too, but Rodriguez is now in the drivers seat and has proven she is a legitimate threat to anyone in the division.

Why Mackenzie Dern can finally break into title contention

It’s not often that you get two contenders in the upper end of the UFC rankings fighting and there’s zero talk around a title shot for their fight.

That seems to be the case currently with the UFC Vegas 39 main event, as Mackenzie Dern looks to make it five wins in a row in the women’s strawweight division when she takes on Marina Rodriguez who has won her last two.

Both women are currently ranked at number four and six respectively at 115lbs, with a title fight scheduled for next month and two inactive fighters ahead of them. A win for either really gives them a chance to stake a claim for a title fight.

As they meet in their contender fight, the landscape of the division is currently uncertain.

Rose Namajunas makes her first title defence since winning the belt from Weili Zhang at UFC 261, when she takes on the Chinese fighter in an immediate rematch at UFC 268 in November.

Number two ranked Joanna Jedrzejczyk hasn’t fought since her defeat to Zhang back at UFC 248 in March 2020 in arguably the greatest women’s mixed martial arts fight of all-time. That was however her fourth defeat in six fights, with all four coming in title fights.

It begs the question of whether she can compete at the very highest level anymore, considering she dominated the strawweight division for years before defeat to Namajunas. With no fight close to being scheduled at the time of writing and the Pole stating she’s only interested in title fights at this time, it’s probably fair to discount her from the race.

Below her is Carla Esparza, who has won five in a row and most recently earned a knockout win over Xiaonan Yan at UFC Vegas 27. She’s got the biggest claim to a title shot next, but her star power is lacking and after three of those five wins came via decisions that weren’t unanimous there is a case to make her earn the shot once more against a top five opponent.

That opens the door for Dern or Rodriguez to claim a spot against the winner of Namajunas and Zhang at some point in early 2022.

The winner will have beaten someone currently in contention, unlike the two ranked fighters above them currently, and would provide very different match ups for whoever the champion is compared to what they have fought previously in their UFC careers.

A first main event slot for Dern means she has the opportunity to make a statement of intent and show the world that she really is ready to challenge for the throne. She just has to win first.

UFC Vegas 27 Fallout: Font shines in main event, Esparza back on top

The top of two of the most exciting divisions in the UFC have got themselves a new contender after UFC Vegas 27.

In the men’s bantamweight division, number three ranked Rob Font took on number four ranked Cody Garbrandt in the main event and put together a striking clinic to completely dominate the former champion en route to a unanimous decision win.

It was a fight billed to see whether Garbrandt had really evolved into a more mature fighter after getting back on the win trail last time out following three knockout losses in a row, or whether Font could establish himself as one of the best in the world and worthy of being in the title picture.

In the end though, both proved to be true. Garbrandt was able to stick to a game plan for the majority of the fight and not lose his mind, then entering a brawl at the detriment of his chin. However, Font’s game plan and ability to jab and use a six-inch reach advantage just proved too much to overcome on this occasion for the 29-year-old.

Losing to a top fighter isn’t something to be ashamed of and Font has now proven he is among the best in the world.

With the title being held up currently with the champion Aljamain Sterling recovering from neck surgery, Font is aware that he is unlikely to get the next shot. Following the fight he called to get the winner of the fight between Cory Sandhagen and TJ Dillashaw, whose cancelled bout has been rearranged for July 24th.

While that’s unlikely to be the deal considering Sandhagen in particular feels he deserves a shot already, never mind with a win over Dillashaw, he’s earned himself the right to make such call outs and give UFC president Dana White a headache.

In the co-main event, we saw an old contender re-emerge as the inaugral champion of the division Carla Esparza ended the unbeaten run of Yan Xiaonan in the UFC with a second-round TKO win.

Esparza dominated the fight, using her excellent wrestling to secure top position and win the positional battle before progressing into a crucifix position and raining down strikes on her bloodied opponent until the referee stepped in to stop it.

After the fight she called for White and the UFC to make a rematch of the first ever fight for the belt between herself and newly crowned champion Rose Namajunas.

White isn’t as convinced, telling the post-fight press conference that he needed to decide between Esparza or giving Weili Zhang an immediate rematch.

Esparza is now on a five-fight win streak and after losing the title back in 2015 to Joanna Jedrzejczyk, she never got another opportunity at the belt. She’s the best placed 115lbs fighter to challenge for it now and it would be more than deserved.

Marina Rodriguez and Michelle Waterson to headline UFC Vegas 26

UFC Vegas 26 has finally got itself a new main event as the organisation confirmed that Marina Rodriguez will take on Michelle Waterson this Saturday night.

The card was originally scheduled to be headlined by Cory Sandhagen taking on the returning former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw, but the latter was forced to withdraw last week after sustaining a cut in training.

It was expected that this bout would be installed as the main event, but it has taken a while to officially come together.

According to ESPN, both top strawweights will contest this bout at flyweight due to the short notice nature of the fight but it will remain five rounds as is typical of UFC main events.

Rodriguez is 3-1-2 in the UFC since making her debut in 2018 and is coming off a huge second round knockout win over Amanda Ribas at UFC 257 in January of this year. Her previous bout to that one saw her drop a split decision to former champion Carla Esparza, the first and only defeat of her career.

Waterson on the other hand is one of the more popular fighters in the UFC women’s ranks, and has won four of her last six fights including a decision win in her most recent bout against Angela Hill – which was also a short-notice main event, back in September last year.

Her two fights prior to that win were defeats to former UFC champions as Esparza also earned a split decision win over the ‘Karate Hottie’ while Joanna Jedrzejczyk beat her up for 25 minutes en route to a unanimous decision win.

Rodriguez is currently ranked at number six in the UFC rankings, while Waterson is ranked at number nine. A win for either women sets them up for a big fight against a potential top five opponent where they could be seen as genuine contenders for Rose Namajunas’ 115lbs title.

Elsewhere on the card, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone also has a new opponent in the co-main event of the card.

He was originally scheduled to face ‘The Ultimate Fighter 1’ winner Diego Sanchez, but after the veteran refused to provide a clear medical examination the fight was scrapped and the fighter released from the UFC.

Instead now, Alex Morono will step in on short-notice for the biggest fight of his career against the man with the most fights in octagon history.

‘Cowboy’ is winless in each of his last five fights in a row losing to Tony Ferguson, Justin Gaethje, Conor McGregor by knockout and Anthony Pettis by decision. He then fought Niko Price to a majority draw at UFC Vegas 11, but it was overturned to a no-contest after the fight after Price tested positive for marijuana.

Morono is 1-2 in his last three bouts, getting knocked out in 27 seconds by Khaos Williams and then beating Rhys McKee at UFC Vegas 14 via unanimous decision before getting beaten by Anthony Pettis himself at UFC Vegas 17 in December.

Why Weili Zhang will be strawweight’s most dominant champion with a win at UFC 261

UFC 261 will play host to yet another exciting strawweight title fight in the co-main event, when Weili Zhang makes her return to the octagon after over a year away to fight Rose Namajunas.

Zhang will make the second defence of her belt, after a win over the long reigning former champion Joana Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248 in March 2020 in what was widely considered the greatest women’s mixed martial arts bout of all time.

Namajunas made her return at UFC 251 after losing the belt to Jessica Andrade, beating Andrade in a rematch via decision in a fight where she showed her phenomenal striking skills for the best part of 15 minutes.

It’s a fight that everyone is looking forward to, with the power and athleticism of Zhang going face to face with the slick skills on the feet and on the mat against ‘Thug Rose’.

A former champion against the reigning champion, it’s sure to be a belter, but there is more to the fight now than just success in the cage at UFC 261.

Namajunas chose to make the fight personal and even political when she called Zhang a communist, something the champion and her team reacted to very negatively.

On top of that, Zhang could potentially become the most dominant champion in the division’s history despite it being only her third title fight and second title defence. As previously mentioned, she won the belt by beating Andrade but she not only beat her – she annihilated her in just 42 seconds of the first round.

She then went into her first defence against JJ as the underdog. Joana of course was a former champion and to this day holds the record for the most defences of her title in the strawweight division with five.

The fight was an absolute war that could legitimately have gone either way, and in a split decision she came out on top. She was out-struck by her opponent on the night, but she did by far the most damage of the two and got herself a takedown too to earn the victory.

Two of the best strawweights around defeated. After also defeating Tecia Torres in her UFC career too, she now takes on another former champion. Stylistically Namajunas could be her toughest task yet.

She flows on the feet with superb accuracy in her strikes, with punches and kicks both as fluent as each other but she is also a master of submissions if the fight becomes a grapple fest.

Much like Zhang, she thrives in a submission scenario on the ground but is also comfortable on the feet. When Zhang fought JJ the takedown was the clear path to victor for her, and while she ended up winning on the feet we saw the results of that war. As for Andrade, her speed and striking were her advantage against the wrestler. There’s no clear path here.

A win over Namajunas means she will have beaten three of the other four champions in the division’s history within just six fights in the organisation. She hadn’t even lost a round prior to the JJ fight and that’s nothing to look down on since JJ is one of the greatest female martial artists ever.

If she beats Namajunas at UFC 261 the conversation will immediately shift to a potential super-fight between herself and Valentina Shevchenko at flyweight because there is nobody else on her level. While a new contender is found she can move up to challenge yet another superstar, but this could really be the making of a global star.

At just 31-years-old, a 22 fight win streak could put this young woman on the brink of becoming an iconic figure in the history of women’s mixed martial arts.

Two more UFC title fights announced for UFC 261 and UFC 263

The UFC has announced two more title fights for upcoming cards later this year, with the women’s strawweight title and men’s flyweight title to be defended in April and June respectively.

The company announced last week that women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko will step back in the octagon to take on Jessica Andrade at UFC 261 in April as the main event of the card. Shevchenko last fought at UFC 255 in November, beating Jennifer Maia by unanimous decision while Andrade knocked out Katlyn Chookagian at UFC Fight Island 6 to earn the number one contender status in her new weight class.

It’s now been revealed however that the April 24th card will also host another women’s title fight, as strawweight champion Weili Zhang will make her second title defence against former champion Rose Namajunas.

Zhang will return to the octagon for the first time since February 2020 at UFC 248, when she came out victorious in of the best women’s fights of all-time and the 2020 fight of the year against Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Namajunas is returned to the octagon after losing her belt in 2019 at UFC 251, in a rematch against Andrade – who took the title from her and lost it to Zhang – which she won by split decision.

Two excellent strikers will be on display in that one and the women will take over the UFC for one night in April, in what will be the first time ever that two women’s titles have been defended on the same card in the company’s history.

Then in June, the male flyweights will finally run it back as Deiveson Figueiredo takes on Brandon Moreno in their highly anticipated rematch at UFC 263.

The two fought in a classic back in December at UFC 256, which ended in a draw after Figueiredo was deducted a point for a low blow in round three. Without the deduction, most people had the champion retaining the belt and ‘God of War’ revealed after the fight that he nearly withdrew after a stomach infection saw him hospitalised the night before the bout.

They will run it back on June 12th, with the location yet to be decided. Figueiredo fought on Fight Island last year to win the belt against Joseph Benavidez, before defending twice in Las Vegas at the APEX centre against Moreno and Alex Perez.

It should be one hell of a fight, with a full camp for both fighters as opposed to the three-week turnaround both guys had at the back end of 2020.

UFC Vegas 10 Fallout: Waterson On Road To A Title Shot?

A big win in the main event of UFC Vegas 10 has put Michelle Waterson back on track to become the first mom-champ.

The ‘Karate Hottie’ took a split decision over Angela Hill on Saturday night after using kicks and takedowns to convince the judges that she had won the bout. She showed great tenacity overcoming the loss of the first round, with a small cut and a huge bubble on her forehead.

Hill used her superior punching power and speed to her advantage early on, but Waterson began using push kicks instead of jabs to overcome the reach deficiencies and ended up taking over. She began using her speed to throw a big punch and then shoot in with takedown attempts and then used her grappling to keep Hill quiet.

After the win, she declared that she wanted ‘the fastest route to the title’ in her post-fight interview with Michael Bisping. What is her route there?

The closest she had been prior to this was a three-fight win streak. Her reward was bout with Joanna Jedrzejczyk in which she was totally dominated for five rounds. Her next fight was a split decision defeat to Carla Esparza. Whenever she gets close to the top of the mountain, she’s beaten. In a way, she’s very similar to ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in that she can’t quite get the job done on the biggest stage.

Dana White confirmed that the UFC are looking to make Weili Zhang vs Rose Namajunas for the next title fight in the division, meaning Waterson will have to compete against the likes of Jedrzejczyk, Esparza, Andrade, Gadelha and Suarez before a title fight becomes a possibility. In my eyes, she would be the underdog in every one of those match-ups.

There are a lot of women ahead of her in the rankings at the moment and she’s at a bare minimum two wins away from getting a title shot but I doubt her chances. The calibre of opposition ahead of her is too advanced in my opinion and with their skillsets so much deeper, unfortunately I don’t think she achieves that goal of becoming mom-champ in the strawweight division.