The journey of women combatants to UFC 200

UFC 200 is going to be a great milestone in UFC history and women in MMA are not sitting back as one of the biggest Pay-Per-View cards ever closes in. The journey has already begun and will cover spectacular clashes such as the first ever UFC women’s flyweight match featuring the ultra-tough Valerie Letourneau versus deadly kickboxer Joanne Calderwood, the long awaited debut of the strongest woman featherweight in MMA, Cris “Cyborg”, and a bantamweight match between former Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann and Jessica “Evil” Eye.

When Ronda Rousey was defeated by Holly Holm at UFC 193, the UFC lost its biggest and probably only female celebrity. Holly, unlike Ronda, was a quiet champion and people expected her to be a dominating and a long reigning champion but she was bested by Rousey’s nemesis, Miesha Tate. When Holly was defeated by Miesha the division was left in a complete turmoil. Though Miesha has been one of the most talented fighters, she really isn’t dominating the competition. Apart from that she has been defeated by Cat Zingano and Ronda Rousey. This has resulted in a big vacuum, a vacuum which needs to be filled and many fighters have stepped up to take Rousey’s throne. And a huge surprise, some of them aren’t even from the bantamweight division. This scramble for power has resulted in some of the most talented women clashing against each other. Let’s take a look at the matches that have been set up, matches which will not only change these fighters’ lives but could change the face of women’s MMA forever.

Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Heather Jo Clark (May 8, 2016)

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A huge straw-weight brawl, between the undefeated Karolina and “Hurricane”. These two straw-weights are super strong but the fact that Heather has not fought since 2014 puts her at a huge disadvantage, especially since she faces an undefeated opponent. Carolina, apart from Justin Kish and Joanna, is the only undefeated fighter in the division. She is also ranked among some of the best pound for pound women by various sites and if she manages this victory she pushes herself very close to a title shot.

Karolina made an impressive debut against Randa Markos by managing a unanimous decision win. If Karolina wants to see the gold around her waist she needs to win this match, so that this victory acts as her scream to the division that she is here. Also, if Karolina wants a quick title shot then she needs to win either by a knockout or by a submission and it will act as an alarm for the rest of the division to take the Polish fighter seriously. Let’s see weather Karolina has the capability to become a superstar and be that one legendary fighter whom history will remember.

Cris Cyborg vs Leslie Smith (May 14, 2016)

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As soon as it was announced that UFC 198 was set in Curitiba, Brazil, Cris “Cyborg” as well as her fans went wild on Twitter to see the former Strikeforce featherweight champion make her octagon debut at the event. “Cyborg” wasted no time in asking UFC officials to grant her a catchweight fight against any opponent. UFC searched for an opponent but without any surprise no fighter was interested in facing the monstrous and nightmarishly dangerous “Cyborg”. In fact even the fearless former champion Holly Holm too backed out from the challenge, though it seems she had her sights set on a rematch against Miesha for the title. With Ronda on a break, there was no one who the UFC could find who would stand up to “Cyborg”, until someone whom literally no one expected to face Cris accepted the challenge, “The Peacemaker” Leslie Smith.

Now most of the fans lost their cool when they saw that Cris was going one on one against someone who wasn’t even ranked in the UFC bantamweight division. People already declared “Cyborg” as the winner, but what they do not realize is that it shows Leslie’s fighting spirit. It also highlights the fact that she is someone who just does not  back off from any challenge. Apart from that, Leslie is a very capable fighter in her own right and tough as nails. She will not just lay down for Cyborg, not by any means.

Cyborg wants to be the greatest female Mixed Martial Artist hence she did not waste any time in calling out her long-time rival Ronda Rousey. “Cyborg” wants to dominate UFC women’s division and UFC 198 is just a small step of her journey. Let’s see what fate has written for these two amazing fighters.

Sara McMann vs. Jessica Eye (May 29, 2016)

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One of the biggest clashes set in the women’s division is this bout between Sara McMann and Jessica Eye. These are two top-rated contenders who have been on a losing streak but tend to put on good performances. Both have not performed up to expectation as of late. Olympic silver medal winner McMann has dropped back-to-back fights for the first time in her career to Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes. Jessica Eye’s lone UFC win came in Nov. 2014 against Leslie Smith. She is 1-3, 1 NC inside the Octagon.

It’s time for one of these two to rise and take the track towards greatness. Both these fighters are super talented and they counter each other at every point. If Sara is a skilled wrestler with an elite level ground game, then Jessica is a chiselled striker. If Sara can take down her opponents, then Jessica can fight her off with her nasty tricks. What makes this match important for the fighters is the fact that these two are desperate and when a person is desperate he/she tends to give it his/her best performance. This could be an epic clash as the two bantamweight giants lock horns.

Valerie Letourneau vs. Joanne Calderwood. (June 18, 2016)

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This matchup is officially the first ever women’s flyweight bout in the history of the UFC. Hence there is no doubt about the fact that this match will see the rise of a champion. Dana White was very clear about the fact that he wanted a women’s flyweight division. Though the division has just begun, it will soon have its own championship with contenders chasing the belt.

Both fighters have displayed super performances in past, whether its Valerie’s performance against Joanna “Champion” at UFC 193 or Joanne taking on Cortney Casey at UFC Fight Night 72 last July. Joanne is deadly kickboxer and Valerie presents huge trouble for her as she is no amateur when it comes to striking. The winner will become an all-time great as the first ever 125-pound UFC women’s champion.

Joanna Jędrzejczyk vs. Claudia Gadelha – for UFC women’s srawweight championship (July 8, 2016)

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This is a rematch between two straw-weight giants. These two ladies have gone on to give probably the best feud in the straw-weight division. This feud began when Joanna won a split decision over Gadelha at UFC on FOX 13 in Dec. 2014. The decision was one of the most controversial in the straw-weight division, as most of the websites and analysts declared that Claudia had won. This spurred a cut-throat rivalry between the two. And the fact that Joanna went on to win the championship just added fuel to fire. After months of chasing the title Claudia was informed that she would not only clash with Joanna again but this time she would also coach against the legendary kickboxer.

As if the rivalry was not heated enough both are coaching against each other on the current season of The Ultimate Fighter. The two have a completely different fighting style; if Joanna is an elite level sharpshooter then Claudia is grappler with an unbeaten ground game. If Joanna has super takedown defense then Claudia has her punches and if Joanna is a snake then Claudia is a mongoose. Both giants are set to lock horns at the TUF 23 Finale. Without any doubt these two will not only rip each other apart but this match will mark the second phase of this legendary rivalry.

Cat Zingano vs Julianna Pena (July 9, 2016)

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Ranked No. 3 Cat Zingano is pitted against No. 5 Julianna Pena. Both fighters have a well-rounded game, and this fight will likely be a humongous back and forth battle with both fighters giving all they have. With Cat coming off a loss to Rousey, people expect that she will be calmer and far deadlier than she ever was. Cat will not be a cakewalk for Pena, and the fact that she holds victories over both Nunes and Tate speaks for itself.

If Zingano manages a victory, she becomes a hot favorite for the belt. “Alpha” is one of the very few fighters in the division who are amazing grapplers and at the very same time shows a nasty level of striking. She holds knockout victories over both Amanda Nunes and Miesha Tate, which means if she manages a win she establishes herself as one of the most dangerous and monstrous fighters in all of women’s MMA. And if Rousey decides to go for Holly first and chase  the title later then Cat could get her title shot at UFC 205 with the UFC’s debut in New York.

Juliana is the only one, apart from Amanda Nunes, who deserves a title shot. Juliana has been undefeated for the past two years. Pena has gone on to develop her game and holds a victory over Jessica Eye. She also shares a special bond with Tate as seen on TUF season 18. She was Tate’s fist pick and she went on to win the season.

Just like Cat, Julianna is very capable on her feet and on the ground. And if she goes for a title shot, it will be one of the most interesting feuds not just only in the UFC women’s bantamweight division but in all of women’s MMA. It will have a high level of psychological warfare, something that is not common in women’s MMA. It would be something that people would love to watch. Apart from being strong, Julianna has a very strong mind and spirit. She displayed it on TUF 18 when in her first fight she defeated Team Rousey favorite and WMMA veteran Shayna Baszler. Julianna was constantly told that Tate was favouring her and she was the youngest girl in the house. Despite this she went on to win the season. Hence she has what it takes to be a champion and prove to everyone that she is the best.

Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes – for UFC women’s bantamweight championship (July 9, 2016)

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This is one of the most anticipated matches as it is Tate’s first title defense and Amanda Nunes is getting something she deserved after a long time. Amanda is one of the most dangerous girls in the division. She holds a UFC record of 5-1 and she has won three straight fights, with a win at the same event where Miesha won the title, UFC 196. After Nunes defeated Valentina Shevchenko at the event she demanded a title shot. After campaigning for weeks on social media, she at last gets her shot against Tate at UFC 200.  Apart from being a good grappler Nunes displays technical striking and her powerful punches often seal the deal against her opponents. Nunes has showed some challenges with stamina but almost all her finishes are in the first or second round.

Miesha is very well-rounded and she has been praised by many for her octagon control, strong ground game and never giving up attitude. She still has to prove to everyone that she is the true champion and defeating Nunes is the most important goal of her life. Let’s see what awaits these two as they lock horns.

Let these women take the lead and show to everyone they are as tough and talented as any man out there.

Let the game of supremacy begin.

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