The UFC still does not have a true women’s featherweight division; and if it weren’t for Amanda Nunes wanting to keep it around, Dana White would have gotten rid of it altogether. It’s evident the division needs a lot of help to give life to the promotion’s least represented weight class. How can this be fixed?
Some answers are already on the UFC’s roster, some answers come from other promotions. Here is a list of 10 active fighters that should join the UFC’s featherweight division to make this interesting.
#10. Bea Malecki
Avid MMA fans should remember “Bad News Barbie” from her time on TUF 28, where she competed at 145 lbs. Malecki has always had a chip on her shoulder, wanting to prove that she is more than just a pretty face. Her best chance might be to move to featherweight, where she will still have the size to contend and less weight to cut. While she is 2-0 as a pro in MMA, she does have an extensive Muay Thai background and has shown improvement in her grappling. She still has some time to really make a name for herself, and featherweight might be where she makes it. The division is “green” after all.
#9. Julija Stoliarenko
Julija Stoliarenko is the second fighter on this list to come out of TUF 28. When she was on the show, she was well known for her armbars. Her opponents knew it was coming, but it did not matter. Stoliarenko has 8 armbars in the first round on her resume, 6 of which took less than a minute. She has made incredible strides to improve her striking, and looks like a complete fighter, but has had some serious problems making 135 lbs. She could cause problems for fighters at featherweight and hopefully prevent scary moments at the scale.
#8. Chelsea Chandler
Chelsea Chandler is early on in her MMA career, but is proving to be a problem on the featherweight regional scene. She has a foundation for an elite ground game with her jiu-jitsu prowess. After dropping her pro debut in 2018, Chandler has won 3 in a row and continues to evolve each fight. And she does it against undefeated fighters. The regional scene will not be able to contain her for much longer, and neither will Invicta. The division needs prospects to develop and build a following, and Chandler could fill that role. Especially with Danyelle Wolf in the mix, also early on in her career.
#7. Pam Sorenson
After becoming the Invita FC featherweight champion in 2019, Pam Sorenson did not fight in 2020. At 35, she has a record of 8-3 as a pro, as well as an extensive amateur record. She is battle tested against high-level opponents and finds ways to win fights. Sorenson would bring a sort of stability and credibility to any featherweight division. Let’s hope it’s the UFC’s.
#6. Aspen Ladd
This one might come as a surprise to some because she is currently ranked #3 at bantamweight. Aspen Ladd has definitely been successful at 135 lbs., however she does have a hard time making the weight and compromises her performance at bantamweight. She is such a talented fighter, and at 26 years old, she could have a very bright and long future. Imagine seeing Ladd fight at featherweight and being able to show her skills at peak condition.
#5. Miesha Tate
Miesha Tate is coming out of retirement after spending 5 years away from MMA. While she walked away on a 2-fight losing streak, she was still a top-level fighter and her retirement came as a surprise to some fans. She may find a more long term home at 145 lbs. if she decides to return to fighting full time. Tate would immediately be a title contender and establish an elite presence at the top of the featherweight division, which is consistently ridiculed for being “too green”. Adding another championship in a different weight class would only add to Tate’s Hall of Fame career.
#4. Macy Chiasson
Another TUF 28 alum makes the list of fighters who should return to the featherweight division, this time it’s the winner of the season. Macy Chiasson is ranked #9 at bantamweight, and is scheduled to fight the previously mentioned Aspen Ladd. Similar to Ladd, Chiasson has had success at bantamweight, but compromises her performance to make the weight. Chiasson would be on a short list of title contenders at featherweight, and would be able to fight at a comfortable weight. One that she is still undefeated in.
#3. Holly Holm
Holm has bounced between bantamweight and featherweight. She looks good in both weight classes, earning a multiple title shots in both. But her featherweight title fight went to a decision with Cyborg when she was atop the featherweight division. Holm continues to win fights against elite competition and is ranked #2 at bantamweight. However, there is a log jam at the top of the bantamweight division. At 39 years old, her quickest route to another championship fight might be through the featherweight division.
#2. Germaine de Randamie
This is another part of the log jam at bantamweight, Germaine de Randamie is ranked #1 in the division currently. Holm and de Randamie are stuck at the top of the division with few options due to a recent loss to the champion and few upcoming challengers. There is a potential to sell a rematch between Amanda Nunes and Germaine de Randamie, but this time for the featherweight championship. The change in weight class could make a difference for “The Iron Lady” and she’d be a problem for any 145er.
#1. Kayla Harrison
Enter the Dark Horse. Kayla Harrison is still a mystery — is she the one who could beat Amanda Nunes at featherweight? Maybe. We do at least know that she can make it to featherweight despite normally fighting at lightweight. Harrison did so in 2020, fighting for Invicta FC while the PFL had suspended their 2020 season. She has continued to show a dominant grappling game that has translated from Judo to MMA seamlessly, and she has developed a confidence that makes it seem she can retire undefeated. Once this PFL season is over, it’s time the UFC signed Harrison to see what she’s really made of. She could very well be the next Olympian to win a UFC title, and exactly what the division needs right now.