UFC hasn’t been committed to its women’s featherweight division, as many had hoped. However, with Cris Cyborg in Bellator and Amanda Nunes still atop the UFC division, there’s still a slim chance of hope at 145-pounds come 2020.
There are also many potential scenarios that can play out, changing the landscape of the division next year.
- Julia Budd could lose the belt to Cris Cyborg or win and be out of worthy title challengers in Bellator.
- Current bantamweights could be forced to move up due to weight cut issues being looked at.
- UFC could disband the featherweight division due to lack of competitors.
- Clarissa Shields vs. Amanda Nunes discussions could continue happening for fights in MMA and Boxing.
Is The Division Green?
Yes. This we know, but to be fair, many of the new divisions for women start out with green talent. UFC could invest their time and effort into promoting their few stars and giving them matchups that could build them towards the spotlight.
They did this with Ronda Rousey at bantamweight, and when Joanna Jedrzejczyk reigned over the strawweight division, they did the same with her. Currently at 145, you have Amanda Nunes, Megan Anderson, and Felicia Spencer. They threw in Zarah dos Santos into the mix later in the year and recently announced the signing of Norma Dumont to fight Megan in February, but that’s really it.
It’s time to truly start building this division.
Which Bantamweights Should Fight At Featherweight?
With weight cutting a huge focus in 2019, we could easily see many 135ers forced to fight at a heavier weight than they are used to. The trend this year appeared to be moving up a weight class, and fighting at a healthier weight. Fighters noticed they were hindering their performance while depleting their body during the cuts.
Look at Aspen Ladd, she had a horrible weight cut this year that drew attention. CSAC released a statement that she would have to fight at 145 if she were to ever fight in California again.
Honestly, that’s not a bad idea. Ladd could be a killer at 145, she’s a larger, stronger 135er.
Her most recent opponent, Germaine de Randamie should also be fighting at featherweight. GDR has great striking, lengthy arms, and power in her hands. Not to mention, she was also the first-ever UFC featherweight champion.
Macy Chiasson is a name likely to move up in weight eventually. The Ultimate Fighter winner is a savage on her feet, and carries much power in her fists. Put her back at 145 pounds and she could easily climb the ranks towards a title shot. Same with Bea Malecki, Chiasson’s training partner and TUF housemate. Upon joining UFC, Malecki moved down in weight and has proven she is a force to be reckoned with at 135. But let’s be real, should would be killer at 145 in the UFC, which as mentioned before, is a rather green division. She could continue to develop her skill set against solid competition in similar shoes.
Speaking of TUF: Heavy Hitters, Leah Letson and Pannie Kianzad are also fighting at bantamweight, despite competing on the show at featherweight. Although Kianzad may be best for 135, Leah Letson is not and it showed in her recent weight cuts. Letson is an awesome addition at 145 once she’s healthy and able.
Holly Holm is another name that comes to mind for the division. Her most recent loss to Nunes further proved she has nothing left to do at 135 pounds. We’ll see how she bounces back against Raquel Pennington next year, another name that could be interesting to add to the featherweight mix.
UFC Should Recruit From Bellator, PFL & Invicta FC If Possible.
Bellator is really doing things right, UFC needs to take note if they plan on keeping this division around. But truth be told, many 145ers have dreamed of fighting in the UFC, which is usually the goal for a prospect fighter. So I’m sure we’ll see more sign with the promotion in 2020.
Cat Zingano was a huge loss for UFC. She could have made a successful run at 145 pounds, and even if she didn’t, she would help prepare the green division. Although she recently signed to Bellator, it will be exciting to see how she does in a real featherweight division.
Imagine Julia Budd beats Cyborg and then makes her way to the UFC? Budd has everything to gain, especially a potential future rematch with Nunes. Budd is someone that should be fighting in the UFC with how dominant she has looked in Bellator. But her biggest test awaits her come January, and it will be critical for her to win.
Jessy Miele (8-3) vs. Talita Nogueira (7-2) was a good scrap with Miele coming out victorious. Both have great records and could matchup well with the women currently signed. Leah McCourt (3-1) returns to the Bellator cage early next year, although she’s early in her career, she could grow in UFC’s green featherweight division.
PFL doesn’t have a 145-pound division, but most of those 155ers could likely cut weight for a run in the UFC. The Olympic gold medalist Kayla Harrison will eventually fight in the UFC, it’s inevitable. She’s currently 6-0 and on the verge of claiming the lightweight championship (along with a million dollars).
Her opponent Larissa Pachecho (13-3) would be another potential addition to UFC’s 145-pound division. She has already fought in the UFC and was a contestant on TUF: Heavy Hitters with some of the earlier mentioned fighters. She was able to showcase her well-rounded skillset against Sarah Kaufman (21-5). Kaufman is a 145er and could return to UFC to help mix up the featherweight division.
Dear UFC, Sign These Women ASAP!
Arlene Blencowe (13-7) is coming off a big win over former UFC fighter, Leslie Smith. She may be a bit older, but her last two losses are to Julia Budd. Blencowe would be a great vet to add to the UFC roster. Pam “Bam” Sorenson (7-3) is another vet that should get her shot on the big stage. She’s the current Invicta featherweight champion and the two champs before her got called up. So it seems it’s only a matter of time until we see Sorenson fighting with a UFC logo on her fight gear.
Zamzagul “Bopay” Fayzallanova (6-1) hasn’t fought since 2018, but if she decides to return, she should be someone UFC is looking at in brining in. Rather unknown, she has a great record, many finishes, and could be a darkhorse that blossoms in the UFC. Stephanie Egger (4-1) fights for RIZIN and she’s currently on a two-fight win streak. Although a bit older, she’s fought tough competition and could give some of the UFC featherweights a good fight.
Clarissa Shields (0-0 MMA) was in attendance at UFC 245 and spoke to the MMA media calling for a fight with Amanda Nunes. To be fair, she wants to fight Amanda in both Boxing and MMA to prove who the “Greatest Woman of All Time” is. She said she would want a year or two to prepare and get a few fights in before taking on Nunes. Why not sign her to a developmental deal and prepare her to eventually make the switch to MMA? She seemed enthusiastic about fighting Nunes and potentially making a full-time transition with MMA on the rise.
Undefeated Prospects to Watch:
- Irina Alekseeva (3-0)
- Not a very big featherweight.
- 28 years old, so it’s time for her to make a jump to big leagues.
- Very green, swings crazy.
- Not much stopping power in strikes it seems, but has decent fight IQ.
- Has ability to takedown and control what’s on the ground.
- Has swagger in her step, exudes confidence.
- Arm bar is a big weapon.
- Martina Jindrová (2-0)
- She is 28 years old.
- Has fought at featherweight and bantamweight.
- Fighting once a year is not active enough.
- Valeria Gvardina (3-0)
- She is 23 years old.
- 4 fight win streak.
- Finishes fights.
- Julia Dorny (2-0)
- 2-0 as a professional, 7 fight win streak.
- Extensive amateur record.
- Very active fighter.
The division is very green, but that’s why UFC needs to sign women with less fights and great records. They are the future foundation that needs to be built to unsure the division can be successful in the future.
In UFC, there’s a mixture of very talented UFC-experienced fighters vs. very new fighters. Unfortunately, many of them are getting beat because there are no women fighting in that weight class who are easy. Match-ups like Cyborg vs. Felicia Spencer and Holy Holm vs. Megan Anderson show the gap in experience in the division. The UFC needs to sprinkle in the green talent, build stars, and they will come around, just like UFC did at 135 pounds.
Having high-level talent (which UFC has) will raise the level of competition for everyone in the division. Harrison vs. Kaufman had a lot of hype around the fight, but with with PFL’s playoff set up, the fight did not happen in 2019. This match-up would be a huge money grab for the UFC. Even if the UFC signs a few of the fighters mentioned in this article, they will be investing in the division, which has yet to happen.
Fans have not seen many women signed at featherweight this year.
IT’S TIME! 2020 should be the year.
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Connor “Rags” Rogowsky is a co-owner of The Scrap and its current President. Rogowsky played football and track collegiately, and holds a Masters of Science in Psychology from Southern New Hampshire University. Make sure to follow Rags on Twitter (@rogowskyc).