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7/26/16: Five Fights to Make in UFC’s Women’s Bantamweight Division
Holly Holm’s loss to Valentina Shevchenko on Saturday night at UFC on Fox 20, together with Miesha Tate’s title loss to Amanda Nunes, has opened the UFC women’s bantamweight division up entirely. Just about everyone in the top ten is now in the mix for a significant fight, and so today I’m breaking down the five fights I would make in the division next in order of interest and importance.
5. Raquel Pennington vs. Liz Carmouche: It’s a fight that was supposed to happen last fall, with Carmouche’s continued injury issues taking her out, but if Carmouche can get healthy and return this will be the fight to make. Pennington had very close fights with both Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes for her only two UFC losses, and outside of that she’s looked very good in victory over the likes of Jessica Andrade, Ashlee Evans-Smith, and most recently Bethe Correia. It’s a significant fight for the lower end of the top ten, and the best matchup for each of them right now.
4. Holly Holm vs. Sara McMann: Holm needs a legitimate win after two straight losses, and McMann’s the right kind of opponent to make that happen. The Olympic silver medalist wrestler is good at controlling fighters, but she’s not the technical striking threat like Valentina Shevchenko that thwarted Holm, and she’s not as adept at submissions as Miesha Tate. If Holm can’t beat McMann, she’s done as a contender almost as soon as she became one. If she wins, it’s the bounce back she needs to get her back on track.
3. Miesha Tate vs. Cat Zingano: You could probably flip these last two fights and they’d be of equal competitiveness and importance, but Tate faced McMann just last January and won, whereas this is a chance for her to avenge a 2013 loss. Zingano is coming off a loss to Tate’s teammate Julianna Pena, and isn’t in a position to demand anyone, so this allows a former champ to reset, and Zingano a chance to prove she’s the better fighter between them.
2. Julianna Pena vs. Valentina Shevchenko: Pena just defeated Zingano, Shevchenko just beat Holm, this is the fight to make for each of them. It very well could be a number one contender fight given recent results, and it’s an intriguing stylistic matchup in general. Pena’s wrestling, ground and pound, and submission game is a significant test for Shevchenko, just as Shevchenko’s technically sound striking game is a major hurdle for Pena to get past. The winner is right there in line for a title shot after the return of the division’s former ruler.
1. Amanda Nunes vs. Ronda Rousey: Holm losing twice in a row makes the Rousey rematch at the same time something the UFC could sell and something they can easily skip over. Rousey claims to want the title back, and Nunes just took it by force from Tate, so if Rousey can come back and beat Nunes, she’ll have beaten the best there is currently to beat in the division. That she lost to Holm is still there, and not avenging that loss could play against her legacy when she’s done fighting, but this is now the biggest fight to make. Nunes would surely welcome that type of spot, and it’s simply the way to go.
[Photo (c) Jason Silva via USA Today Sports]
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