Impact Of Recent Developments For Women’s Bantamweight Division
With the UFC belt incredibly changing hands 3 times in less than a year, the difficult task of assessing and re evaluating the division must be delegated to the match makers in light of the recent International Fight Week bouts.
In November of last year, many would argue that they witnessed the most shocking upset in MMA history when undefeated striker Holly Holm knocked out the dominant defending champion Ronda Rousey with a sensational head-kick. Heading into the contest as a huge underdog, fans tended to overlook Holm’s vast experience and dangerous skill set and it could be that Rousey underestimated the challenge ahead of her. Come fight night, it was evident that this wouldn’t be an easy contest for the former Judo Olympian, as the clock passed the 34 second mark and Rousey was unable to finish her opponent as she had done in such spectacular fashion in her last 3 fights. Holm proceeded to light up the champion with nifty footwork and lightning speed before finally finishing the fight.
With news emerging that Rousey would be unable to compete until the summer, Holm was determined to defend her belt once before partaking in the huge rematch. The UFC called upon her first challenger, Miesha Tate, and March 5th was the date set for the two to tango. With a well documented history of rivalry between herself and Rousey, expectations were low for Tate’s chances in the octagon. Having lost to the former champion twice already and rumors circulating of retirement in the near future, it seemed as though UFC 196 would be Miesha Tate’s swansong. The majority of the fight panned out as most expected, with Holm dancing around the challenger, striking her at distance and winning the first four rounds with ease. She seemed to be cruising towards her first title defense until the takedown, Tate dragged her to the canvas and sunk in a deep rear naked choke, moments later the referee was pulling her off her unconscious opponent and there was a new 135 lb champion.
With UFC 200 approaching all eyes were on the main event as Tate put everything on the line against fresh challenger Amanda Nunes. Most decided to go into the fight with an open mind after the surprise performances of the last two title fights yet the world was shocked once more as the “lioness” swung her heavy hands at the champion, forcing her down to the canvas in a bloody mess before submitting her effortlessly in the first round. Elsewhere on the card there was another pivotal match up in the women’s 135lb division between former challenger Cat Zingano and Julianna Pena. Zingano was coming off a lengthy lay off from fighting after suffering the first defeat of her career to former champion Ronda Rousey at UFC 184 last year. Meanwhile her opponent “The Venezuelan Vixen” was rolling into the contest on a 3 fight winning streak in the UFC. The fight panned out in Pena’s favor after coming up on top in the most of the scrambles and dominating Zingano on the ground.
There has been confirmation from the UFC brass that Rousey will receive an instant title shot upon her return, however after undergoing minor knee surgery it is unlikely we will see her in action at the UFC’s debut event in New York. This may leave the door open for the winner of this week’s event between Holly Holm and Valentina Shevchenko. Holm was unfortunate not to receive a rematch after losing her concentration against Miesha Tate in her first defense earlier in the year, she will be expected to beat Shevchenko this Saturday and attempt to get her belt back. With Tate suffering a broken nose at UFC 200 it may be some time before we see her back in the octagon, however with Julianna Pena waiting in the wings, the two could meet in a #1 contender spot. And of course, the whole division will be halted when and if the mainstream superstar Ronda Rousey feels ready to return to action. Her number one priority will be to get back her belt but a potential rematch between herself and Holly Holm could be on the table as she will be looking to avenge her devastating loss with fury.