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? If she can hold on to the title, we’ll certainly see.
Not only is the UFC top ten list of bantamweights filled with talent, but Invicta FC 16 on March 11 presented an amazing display of female combat at 135 pounds. It makes me giddy about the long-term prospects of this division.
Irene Aldana starched Jessamyn Duke - a very durable fighter - in the first round of their 3-round bout. Aldana displayed beautiful boxing technique and one-punch power. At 5’9”, she’s tall for the division and could really shake things up when she comes to the UFC.
Although Andrea Lee lost by rear naked choke in her fight with Sarah D’Alelio, she had dominated every round until the choke-out. The outcome was almost an instant replay of Holm versus Tate, with Lee using lateral movement and impressive strikes to easily win on points, when she got caught in a scramble in the final seconds of the last round. Despite the loss, this young lady has something special. She has a perky, Paige VanZant kind of charm, and the way she glides across the octagon is beautiful to the point of being almost balletic. She also punches with purpose, and though she’s fighting at 125 pounds, her 5’7” frame might bulk up to 135. If not, I’d love to see her try to make Straw-weight. She’d bring even more excitement to that division.
So, all in all, when you look at the state of women’s MMA, you’ve gotta ask, “What’s not to like?!”
Charles Long was raised in rural Western Pennsylvania where his grandfather was Chief of County Detectives, a sports writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a wire editor for the Butler Eagle, and had his own talk radio show. Charles was awakened to the world of pugilism before he could ride a bicycle. A great love for the sport of boxing grew out of these early experiences. "There are many Darwinian lessons to be learned from boxing and other sports that can help you succeed in a competitive world. I would sometimes stop rehearsal to watch an important fight on a tiny “Watchman” that traveled with me wherever I went". After retirement while living in Miami, Charles followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and became a sports writer covering boxing in South Florida. Long's really honed his writing skills after working in south Florida as a boxing sports writer. It forced him to embrace the old actor’s axiom that “less is more,” and he developed a terse, crisp style that melded nicely with his lofty, sardonic prose. Charles performed with world famous opera companies and sang alongside opera’s greatest stars. Charles is the author of Adventures in the Scream Trade - Scenes from an Operatic Life. In the process he illustrates why the word “opera,” which means “works” in Latin, truly denotes a labor of love for so many who have given their all to the art.