The shakeup of UFC 196 sent high voltage shocks through the pacemakers of combat sports, and irregular pulses have fluttered in stout-hearted men in every division from flyweight to welterweight. Regardless, the men still have a roster of champions firmly nestled in their beds, with lists of contenders dancing in their heads. Despite Conor McGregor’s loss, an undisputed champions sits atop each of the several weight divisions with an heir apparent nipping at their heels. But with only two women’s weight classes within the UFC, the talent-heavy 135-pound weight class shows special promise. Nothing among the men’s ranks holds a candle to the suspense surrounding the Women’s Bantamweight Division.
Sorry, fellas, but this group of gutsy gals comprises one of the most compelling divisions in MMA - in part, because the star power of the division’s first champion rubbed off on her nemeses like a dousing of pixie dust from Tinkerbell. The splash was just enough to teach them how to fly - and fly they did. Between the celebrity conferred upon them by the media and their remarkable athleticism, these women may one day eclipse their masculine counterparts in pure star-power.
With Rousey’s previous wins over Tate, Holm’s KO of Rousey, and Tate’s submission of Holm, we have a trio of world-class champions atop the division. This creates some possibilities that were unthinkable only six months ago when “Rowdy” Ronda was running roughshod over her competitors. Those were simpler times – the days when gamblers and pundits felt comfortable with their predictions, and Vegas casinos had sufficient funds to cover long-shots that beat the odds. But now we have a whole new landscape to contemplate. Like a game of three-dimensional chess, each move takes on a new range of possibilities as the board is turned and viewed from a different angle.
Now that former Strikeforce Champion and perennial UFC contender Miesha Tate has the title, the question looms: What kind of champion will she be?
I’m going to speculate that Tate, much like Holm, is going to want to defend the title as soon as possible. Rather than wait for a former champion whose dedication and mental state remain in question, UFC 200 in July seems like the perfect venue to defend her shiny new belt. But … will she take the risk of a Holm rematch, or look to a less formidable contender for her first defense? Holm would have granted Rousey an immediate rematch, had Ronda been ready. Will Miesha grant Holly the same unwritten courtesy? A lot depends on how much influence the UFC has in the decision. I suspect Dana White’s close relationship with Ronda will motivate him to pave a path of least resistance for her climb back to the title. But I could be wrong.
Each of these ladies is many steps from the Poor House. Ronda is said to be worth close to 9 million dollars and, according the Huffington Post, both Miesha and Holly have assets of approximately $2 million. Their careers are no longer about money, but about legacy. I don’t see competitors of their caliber looking to pad their records or choose an easy fight to get another payday.
If the UFC wants to avoid a rematch, who might they put against Miesha in July? Cat Zingano is the first name that pops into my mind. Her 2013 TKO win over Tate, her surreal 14-second loss to Rousey, and her 9-1 record put her squarely in the title picture. Her fight with Tate was one of the best women’s scraps on record and remained close until the end. Is Miesha as motivated to redeem that loss as she is to get some Rousey Revenge?