When news broke on Tuesday that Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino had turned down two 145 pound title fights offered by the UFC, one important point was largely overlooked.
Detractors were outraged by Cyborg’s reluctance to take fights against Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie, when she had campaigned so strongly to get the UFC to create a featherweight division for women.
Sympathisers latched onto Cyborg’s released statement, detailing the awful condition her body was in after two brutal cuts to 140 pounds for previous fights.
Such was the furore on both sides, that the introduction of a 145 pound title got lost in the vitriolic, sympathetic, shuffle. Adding a women’s featherweight title would be a huge step, opening up opportunities for a number of women who could not healthily cut to 135 pounds in search of a shot with the UFC at bantamweight.
The reality is that the early stages of a division will be all about Cyborg, but if the title is to have any significance and longevity, the promotion will need to find and develop new contenders. That won’t be an easy task.
With two of the top featherweights in the world — Marloes Coenen and Julia Budd — already tied into Bellator contracts, the perception has always been that the talent pool at 145 pounds was too shallow for the UFC to introduce the division. That perception is rooted in reality, but there are a number of developing talents and prospects that the company should be looking at if they are serious about adding a featherweight title.
Here is our look at the ten women’s featherweights the UFC should sign if the division is to be a success through 2017 and beyond.
Charmaine Tweet (9-5)
The Saskatchewan fighter’s only defeats in her past 10 fights have been to two of the top three in the division, Cyborg and Julia Budd. An imposing physical force with genuine fight ending power, Tweet’s experience in a division packed with untested prospects and part-time hopefuls would be a major asset. Up next is the Invicta FC 21 headliner against Megan Anderson on January 14. Win or lose, both fighters deserve a spot on the UFC’s featherweight roster.
Megan Anderson (7-2)
Making the decision to relocate to the United States and train full-time at James Krause’s Glory MMA, following a defeat to Cindy Dandois has paid major dividends. Three straight wins over Amber Leibrock, Amanda Bell and Peggy Morgan, each more destructive than the last, have seen Anderson start to fulfil her significant potential. Given what we know now, Anderson’s bout with Tweet should be for an Invicta FC title. Regardless, the Aussie warrior has made herself impossible to overlook.
Amber Leibrock (2-1)
The featherweight division’s six degrees of separation continues with rising star Amber Leibrock making the list. Another powerful 145 pounder, Leibrock has yet to display her ever-improving grappling in the Invicta cage. Still considered an exciting, yet unproven, prospect, that shouldn’t hold her back here. The division isn’t packed with 15-fight veterans, and the way Leibrock picked Marina Shafir apart with her jab before switching her brain off momentarily in her pro debut showed her significant upside early.
Arlene Blencowe (7-6)
The second Australian on the list has been trading wins and losses inside the Bellator cage as part of their slowly developing featherweight division. Blencowe has gone 5-2 in her last seven, with her only defeats during that time coming against two of the top three in the world, Marloes Coenen and Julia Budd. The Budd fight was competitive and close, and showed that Blencowe can mix it with the best in the division. The former WIBA and WBF boxing champion is set to face undefeated Brazilian Amanda Oliveira de Lemos in Australia on January 28. A win there would cement her spot in the featherweight top six.
Cindy Dandois (8-2)
One of the most talented grapplers in the division, Dandois holds wins over three of the current featherweight top ten – Marloes Coenen, Daria Ibragimova, and Megan Anderson. While the Belgian has also been campaigning at 135 pounds, and has a bantamweight fight coming up in Beijing later this month, an opportunity in a slim featherweight division might be Dandois’ best option of getting a shot with the UFC which she feels she has deserved for some time.
Kayla Harrison (0-0)
With two Olympic gold medals in the bag, outstanding judoka Kayla Harrison announced earlier this year that she is considering a career in MMA. She has already signed with World Series of Fighting as an analyst and brand ambassador, but that would not rule her out as a possible signee if the UFC were to come calling. There will be cries from those who insist Harrison should be given time to develop, but in a division with a shallow talent pool, dropping the elite athlete right in at the deep end might produce something special.
Adrienna Jenkins (19-6)
The 35-year-old returned to the sport after five years away in 2015. The experienced featherweight went 2-1, with wins over Kelsey Jorgenson and Lissette Neri. A highly touted prospect in the formative years of her professional career, a series of defeats against tougher competition, and that five year layoff, have seen her fall from the top end of the sport. That said, Jenkins remains a great measuring stick for fighters coming through and if nothing else, her 19-6 record looks good on-screen.
Helena Kolesnyk (4-0)
2016 has seen the Ukrainian featherweight emerge as one of the division’s brightest prospects. Three wins, all inside the distance, have earned her a spot in the Unified Women’s featherweight top ten. Standing 5’8 tall, the 26-year-old is a natural featherweight with fast hands and a killer instinct. Fighting primarily in China, Kolesnyk remains a work in progress, but one who could develop quickly under the UFC’s promotional banner.
Leah McCourt (6-1 amateur record)
The second fighter on the list yet to make her professional debut, McCourt’s amateur resume is outstanding. After winning the 2015 IMMAF European Open at 155 pounds, McCourt was even more impressive at the World Championships earlier this year. The Northern Irish featherweight won all three of her tournament bouts in the first round to take the gold medal. McCourt is a judo black belt who has already talked about the possibility of turning pro. An offer to fight in the UFC would surely speed that decision making process up.
Marina Mokhnatkina (2-0)
Two professional bouts under the Eurasia Fight Nights promotional banner. Two first round submissions. Not a bad start to the mixed martial arts career of Russian Combat Sambo standout Marina Mokhnatkina. While her level of competition to date is what you would expect for a developing fighter, Mokhnatkina has done what top fighters are supposed to do when they face questionable opposition. She has beaten them in a hurry.
*Live Updates* UFC Winnipeg Official Results
The UFC returns to Canada for the final Fight Night card of 2017. In the cold of Winnipeg, Manitoba, the UFC will host eleven of the originally twelve scheduled fights. Unfortunately, Tim Elliot will not fight in the north country. His scheduled opponent, Pietro Menga, a newcomer to the promotions roster, failed to make weight after taking the bout with just over a weeks notice.
An exciting main card will be capped off with a potential contender eliminator bout featuring, Robbie Lawler and Rafael Dos Anjos. The former champions (Lawler at welterweight, Dos Anjos at lightweight) both put together impressive win streaks which dispatched top contenders in their respective divisions. Elsewhere on the main card, Santiago Ponzinibbio takes on the outspoken Mike Perry.
The card begins on UFC Fight Pass at 4:30/1:30 ETPT.
UFC Winnipeg Official Results:
MAIN CARD – FOX – 8PM/5PM ETPT
- #2 Robbie Lawler (28-11) vs. #4 Rafael Dos Anjos (27-9) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Rafael Dos Anjos def. Robbie Lawler via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
- #3 Ricardo Lamas (18-5) vs. Josh Emmett (12-1) – Catchweight bout (148.5 lbs)
- Result: Josh Emmett def. Ricardo Lamas via KO (punch) 4:33 round 1
- #10 Santiago Ponzinibbio (25-3) vs. Mike Perry (11-1) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Santiago Ponzinibbio def. Mike Perry via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- #3 Glover Teixeira (26-6) vs. #7 Misha Cirkunov (13-3) – Light Heavyweight bout
- Result: Glover Teixeira def. Misha Cirkunov via TKO (punches) 2:45 round 1
PRELIMINARY CARD – FS1 – 5PM/2PM ETPT
- #14 Jared Cannonier (10-2) vs #15 Jan Blachowicz (20-7) – Light Heavyweight bout
- Result: Jan Blachowicz def. Jared Cannonier via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Julian Marquez (6-1) vs. Darren Stewart (7-2) – Middleweight bout
- Result: Julian Marquez def. Darren Stewart via submission (standing guillotine) 2:42 round 2
- Chad Laprise (13-2) vs. Galore Bofando (5-2) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Chad Laprise def. Galore Bofando via TKO (punches) 4:10 round 1
- Nordine Taleb (13-4) vs Danny Roberts (14-2) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Nordine Taleb def. Danny Roberts via KO (head kick and punch) :59 round 1
- John Makdessi (14-6) vs Abel Trujillo (15-7) – Lightweight bout
- Result: John Makdessi def. Abel Trujillo via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Alessio Di Chirico (10-2) vs Oluwale Bamgbose (6-3) – Middleweight bout
- Result: Alessio Di Chirico def. Oluwale Bamgbose via KO (knee) 2:14 round 2
EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD – UFC FIGHT PASS – 4:30PM/1:30PM ETPT
- Jordan Mein (29-12) vs. Erick Silva (19-8) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Jordan Mein def. Erick Silva via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-26)
Gilbert Burns vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier Added to UFC Orlando
The UFC has now added more bouts to the front end of their 2018 schedule. Gilbert Burns (13-2, 5-2 UFC) will face Olivier Aubin-Mercier (10-2, 6-2 UFC) in Orlando, Florida on February 24th, 2018.
— UFC Canada (@UFC_CA) December 14, 2017
Alongside a few other high-profile fight announcements, is the addition to the UFC Orlando, Florida card. The two lightweights will join Jake Collier and Marcin Prachnio, as the second fight set for the event.
It has been a while since the UFC hosted an event in the state of Florida. Last seen by the Floridians was UFC on Fox: Texeira vs. Evans, on April 16, 2016 in Tampa Bay. The card was a success, despite the cancellation of its planned main event between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Drawing a gate of $1.05 million and 2.13 million viewers.
Gilbert Burns signed with the UFC after accumulating an undefeated record of 8-0. His first loss came in his home country of Brazil, as Rashid Magomedov defeated him via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 3, in November of 2015.
In his most recent bout, Burns defeated Jason Saggo by KO with five seconds remaining in the second round at UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Branch.
Aubin-Mercier will come into the contest as a winner in his last three bouts. The Canadian fighter trains out of the Tristar gym, alongside legends such as Georges St. Pierre and head coach, Firas Zahabi.
In 2011, Aubin-Mercier was chosen to compete on The Ultimate Fighter: Nations. Competing in the welterweight bracket, he became a finalist by defeating both, Jake Mathews (unanimous decision) and Richard Walsh (rear naked choke). In the finale, Aubin-Mercier lost to Chad Laprise by split decision.
UFC Orlando will take place at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on February 24th, 2018.
Eryk Anders vs. Lyoto Machida Officially Headlines UFC Belem
Eryk Anders vs. Lyoto Machida is officially booked to headline UFC Belem in Brazil.
Following his unanimous decision victory over Markus Perez on last weekends, UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs. Swanson, undefeated middleweight, Eryk Anders, called for the match-up with former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida. The UFC heard, and obliged.
First reported by The MMA Kings (@mma_kings.)
EXCLUSIVE: My sources tell me that Eryk Anders (@erykanders) has gotten his wish. He'll headline UFC Fight Night: Belem against Lyoto Machida (@lyotomachidafw) in Brazil. Ask and you shall receive. #UFC pic.twitter.com/qX62A9qH6k
— The MMA Kings (Nolan King) (@mma_kings) December 14, 2017
Anders holds a 2-0 undefeated record in the UFC. The Alabama native made his promotional debut against Rafael Nata in July of this year. A bout he took on short notice, replacing Alessio di Chirico whom withdrew from the fight due to a neck injury. Anders defeated Natal by knockout in the first round that night at UFC Long Island.
Prior to his indoctrination to MMA, the undefeated middleweight played for the University of Alabama football team, between 2006-2009.
Machida recently returned to the UFC roster after an 18-month suspension handed down by USADA, stemming from a failed out-of-competition test leading up to his April 2016 contest against Dan Henderson.
In his return to the octagon, Machida faced Derek Brunson in the main-event of the UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Machida, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “The Dragon” lost the bout via first round KO.
UFC Belem, Brazil is scheduled for February 3rd, 2018, at the Mangueirinho Arena. The card will also feature the flyweight debut for Valentina Shevchenko as she faces Priscila Cachoeira.
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