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.
Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”
Derek Brunson fought Anderson Silva back in February of this year, at UFC 208. Brunson would go on to lose the fight by controversial unanimous decision. However, the controversies didn’t stop at the questionable decision, Brunson also claims Silva was greasing during the fight. The Wilmington, North Carolina native, posted about it on Twitter a few days ago:
Just make sure you don’t put cooking oil all over your body like Anderson did so it’ll be easy to grab ahold of you @lyotomachidafw 👌
— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunson) October 17, 2017
Speaking with MMA Latest, Brunson explained why he believes Silva was greasing during the fight. “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up. Every time I grabbed him he was just slipping out of everything, and his takedown defense was really good that night. I was definitely curious to know why he was very slippery, which I definitely think he had some kind of substance on his body. He knows I’m a wrestler obviously, he’s an old, savvy veteran, so he was definitely trying to play all the rules and be very strategic, and make it harder for a wrestler to grab him.”
Brunson is set to face Lyoto Machida come October 28, when asked about whether he was worried about Machida greasing, considering Gegard Mousasi accused him of doing so in their fight, Brunson admitted he wasn’t too worried.
“Well I’m not too worried, but like I said, I put it out there because I know they’re friends and I know, obviously, that’s kind of what the guys do when they know they’re fighting a wrestler. They want to lube their body up really good to make it hard to grab hold, Anderson did a great job defending my takedowns. It’s because he was all greased up so he was able to stop a lot of them. When I grab guys in the clinch, it’s very tough for them to get away and I’m pretty good with my Greco takedown. He was pretty much pulling through my clinch when I had a tight grip on him and if you have some kind of substance on your body it’s easy to pull them.”
Neither Silva nor his management have commented on the greasing allegations. Anderson Silva makes his return against Kelvin Gastelum later this year, in China. While Brunson makes his return to the Octagon on October 28th, in Brazil, where he looks to add Lyoto Machida’s name to his impressive list of victories.
Ovince Saint Preux Steps in to Face Corey Anderson at UFC 217
UFC 217 just got even more interesting. Earlier this week, Patrick Cummins pulled out of his light heavyweight matchup with Corey Anderson due to a Staph infection. Corey “Overtime” Anderson was not happy with his opponents decision, even calling out his opponent on Instagram asking how Cummins could, “call it quits so far from fight night”.
The UFC left Anderson on the card, and he found an opponent through the magic of Twitter. Ovince Saint Preux tweeted out directly to Anderson stating:
— Ovince Saint Preux (@003_OSP) October 19, 2017
It didn’t take long for Anderson to respond agreeing to the fight, tagging Mick Maynard and Dana White in his response.
Only a few short hours later, the fight announcement came from the official UFC twitter account.
Fight News update!!
— UFC (@ufc) October 19, 2017
This top 10 Light Heavyweight matchup should add to an already amazing card coming in November at Madison Square Garden. Saint Preux is coming off of back to back wins both due to the very rare von flue choke, he finds himself ranked #7th in the latest edition of the 205-pound rankings. Corey “Overtime” Anderson is 4-2 in his last 6 fights, but is coming off a brutal first round knockout loss to Jimi Manuwa in March.
With such a exciting fight added to this card, what do you see happening November 4th? Will Corey Anderson bounce back and look to jump into the top 5 of the rankings, or will Ovince Saint Preux go for a third straight von flue choke? Let us know.
*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results
Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.
Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.
Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)
Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)
Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)
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