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Top Ten: Women’s Pound-for-Pound

Vinny Craig

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Ever wanted to know the top ten best champions over 6 feet tall? How about the best multi-division fighters? Well then this is the best place for you. This is a series that will come out on a week that doesn’t have a UFC event, and will usually cover something from the last weekend’s events. With Ronda Rousey stopping Cat Zingano just 14 seconds into their fight, I thought we would take a look at the best women’s pound-for-pound rankings across MMA.

 

  1. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC Strawweight)

For the sake of my sanity, let’s say her name once.  Joanna Jedrzeczyk (8-0; 2-0)), we’re going to call her JJ, starts off the list as a UFC Strawweight.  JJ has been a busy fighter since making her debut in 2012 as she has fought 8 times in the span of 31 months. She made her debut in SFT in her native Poland, and beat Sylwia Juskiewicz by unanimous decision. She would win her next four fights until her first real test came when she would face UFC and Bellator veteran Rosie Sexton. She knocked out the vet in the second round and punched her ticket to the UFC. In her UFC debut, she beat Juliana Lima at UFC on Fox 12 in July. The unanimous decision victory instantly brought up talks of her being the first challenger for the winner of The Ultimate Fighter 20. JJ had to get through Claudia Gadelha before she could punch her ticket against Carla Esparza. JJ beat her opponent narrowly and won the title-eliminator match. She now is scheduled for a chance at the title against champion Carla Esparza this month at UFC 185 in Dallas.

 

  1. Alexis Davis (UFC Bantamweight)

At number 9, we have jiu-jitsu black belt and MMA veteran Alexis Davis. Davis (16-6; 3-1) has been one of the top in her division for quite some time. She made her debut in 2007, with a loss to future Strikeforce champion Sara Kaufman. She would win her next five before another loss, this time to Tara LaRose. She also lost to Women’s MMA veteran Shayna Baszler, and Elainia Maxwell before she signed with Strikeforce in July, 2011. She picked up decision victory over Julie Kedzie in her Strikeforce debut and then split her next two before the organization disbanded. She signed with Invicta FC, where she would win both of her fights, including avenging a loss to Baszler. She signed with the UFC and fought vet Rosie Sexton in her debut. She picked up the Decision win. She beat her next two opponents in Liz Carmouche and Jessica Eye to earn a title-shot.  She would fall victim to champ Rousey in just sixteen seconds. As of right now, she is not scheduled for another fight.

 

  1. Carla Esparza (UFC Strawweight)

The first ever UFC Strawweight title holder Carla Esparza (10-2; 1-0) comes in at number 8. Esparza is a title holder through and through, as she held the inaugural Invicta and UFC titles in her career. She started her pro career in 2010 with a 48 second TKO victory. In just her fourth fight, she was a part of Bellator’s 115 lbs. tournament where she lost in the quarterfinal to Megumi Fuiji. Three fights later, she lost to future title-holder Jessica Aguilar at Bellator 46 for her second loss in the organization. That was her last loss; as she has gone on to pick up five straight victories. Some of those include Felice Herrig, Sarah Schneider and Bec Rawlings. She won season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter by winning all three of her preliminary fights and then the final against Rose Namajunas. With that win, she was the inaugural UFC Strawweight title, and is schedule to Joanna Jedrzejczyk for her first defense at UFC 185 on March 14.

 

  1. Sarah Kaufman (UFC Bantamweight)

Former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman (17-2, 1 NC; 1-0, 1 NC) is the number 7 women in the world. Kaufman started her career, and rattled off twelve straight wins, including wins over Miesha Tate, Shayna Baszler, and Roxanne Modafferi.  In that span, she won the Strikeforce belt over Takayo Hashi and then defended it against Modafferi. Her first pro loss came in her next bout against Marloes Coenen, where she would also lose her belt. She would go on to win three straight against Megumi Yabushita, Liz Carmouche, and Alexis Davis found her in a familiar spot with a title-shot against Ronda Rousey. ‘Rowdy’ beat the former champ by her patented armbar in under a minute to give the Canadian just her second career loss. She then fought in Invicta for one fight, a Fight of the Night victory over Leslie Smith. In her two UFC fights, she has one win and one no-contest as her loss to Jessica Eye was overturned by the TSAC. She is not currently scheduled for a fight right now.

 

  1. Cat Zingano (UFC Bantamweight)

Number 6 goes to a familiar face from last weekend. Cat Zingano (9-1; 1-1) is last on the list of armbars by Ronda Rousey. She started her career in 2008, and won her first two fights impressively. She then beat Barb Honchak by decision to take the Fight to Win 130 lbs. Women’s title.  Not even a year later, she faced Takayo Hashi for the 125 lbs. Women’s title for the same organization. She won that fight by KO and went on to Invicta after that. She would pick up one victory over Raquel Pennington. In her UFC debut, Cat looked good in a decisive TKO win over future title-challenger Miesha Tate. This gave Zingano a shot at crack at Rousey for the belt. They were supposed to coach TUF 18 and then fight at UFC 168. Just before, Zingano blew out her ACL and couldn’t coach of the show. When she was finally ready to come back, the most tragic thing happened to her. Her husband committed suicide on January 13, 2013. This devastated the contender and left her out even longer. She got back into the cage at UFC 178, and slammed and hit her way to victory over Amanda Nunes. This earned her that title shot that eluded so long ago, at UFC 184. After all that happened, Zingano barely got to show her skills. See this for more info on that fight.

 

  1. Jessica Aguilar (WSOF Strawweight)

The first woman on this list not from the UFC comes from WSOF’s Strawweight champion Jessica Aguilar (19-4 MMA; 3-0 WSOF). Aguilar has been one of the best women fighters for quite some time. She has faced some of the best 115 pounders, and kept her winning ways on track. Her debut came with a blemish, as she lost to future TUF competitor Lisa Ellis. In her seventh fight, she fought Angela Magana for the second time. When Magana tried to tell the ref that Aguilar was bleeding, he took it for a verbal submission. This called for a rematch, which Magana won. She made her Bellator debut in June of 2011, when she beat Carla Esparza. She would go on to win 4 of her five Bellator fights. She beat Alida Gray in her WSOF debut for the Strawweight title. She beat her next two opponents to defend her belt in Emi Fujino and Kalindra Faria. Her last loss came to Zolia Frausto Gurgel at Bellator 31 in September 2010. She currently doesn’t have a fight scheduled.

 

  1. Miesha Tate (UFC Bantamweight)

In the fourth spot on the list, it’s Cupcake. Miesha Tate (16-5; 3-2), a former title-challenger, comes in at number 3. Being in the shadows of Rousey, she is clearly the second best UFC Women’s Bantamweight. With her relentless pressing and never give up style, ‘Cupcake’ is a style nightmare for everyone. She made her debut in 2007 at a Hook N Skoot event where she picked up the victory. She wouldn’t even be a pro two years before getting her chance in Strikeforce. She lost her first fight to Sarah Kaufman, a future champion. She would pick up Women’s Welterweight tournament victory and a chance champ Marloes Coenen. She would lose the belt in her very next fight against non-other than Ronda Rousey. This put her in a slump where she lost two of her next three, including another title-fight to Rousey. This changed Tate for the better as she changed camps, styles, and even made better diet choices. With this, she has picked up three straight decision wins over Liz Carmouche, Rin Nakai, and Sara McMann. She has yet to get another fight signed for the UFC.

 

  1. Barb Honchak (Invicta Flyweight)

The only Flyweight on the entire list, Barb Honchak (10-2 MMA; 5-0 Invicta) stops in for the bronze medal of my list. Honchak of the older women on this list at 35, but is at her best now in Invicta FC. Although she lost two of her first three fights to the likes of Cat Zingano and Angela Magana, ‘Little Warrior’ hasn’t seen defeat in quite some time. After her losses, she went to beat the likes Felice Herrig and Roxanne Modafferi. She made her Invicta debut in July of 2012 against Bethany Marshall. Barb would get the win by TKO, and make continue her winning streak to four. Her next fight came to Aisilng Daly, a tough contest for anyone. It took Honchak all fifteen minutes, be she picked up the win and a shot at the title. After beating Vanessa Porto for the Flyweight belt, she has defended it twice against Leslie Smith and Takayo Hashi. She is not currently scheduled for a fight.

 

  1. Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Justino (Invicta Featherweight)

At the runner up position, it’s Invicta Featherweight champion Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Justino (13-1, 1 NC; 3-0 Invicta).  The only featherweight on this list, she faces competition in a shallow division of Women’s MMA. Making her debut in 2005 in Brazil, she lost her only fight of her pro career. After four straight wins, she signed with Elite XC, where her first real challenge came with women’s pioneer Shayna Baszler. Cyborg took the victory with a second round TKO in Stockton, California (Diaz, 209). After one more fight in Elite, she made Strikeforce debut. She started out roughly, missing weight by six pounds in her debut against Hitomi Akano. She still picked up the victory and used her relentless pressure to get the TKO win. Then the Gina Carano fight came, where she headlined her first card. She beat Carano with 1 second to spare in the first round, send the legend into retirement and taking the inaugural Strikeforce Women’s Featherweight title. She would defend her belt two more times, before she had a NC and was stripped of her belt for taking PED’s. She made her Invicta debut directly into a title-eliminator fight with Fiona Muxlow. She would win that fight by TKO, and move on to fight for the belt. Her next fight for the belt came against a familiar opponent in Marloes Coenen, whom she had already beaten before. She won the inaugural belt by fourth round TKO. In her next, she would take the quick victory over Charmane Tweet in just 46 seconds.

 

Hm. Claudia Gadelha (UFC Strawweight)

Originally my number 10 pick, after some alterations, Claduia Gadelha comes in as the honorable mention. Being a part of the first ever UFC Strawweight fight holds some relevance, but more importantly her fight style and one fight away from a title shot at all times position are what kept her in this list. A Brazilian training with the likes of Renan Barao, Jose Aldo, and Junior dos Santos, ‘Claudinha’ brings a style of impressive jiu-jitsu and patience to the Octagon. The youngster at only 26, made her pro debut in 2008 at just 20. She would win six of her seven by submission, and 8 of her first 11 by finish. She made her Invicta debut for the Strawweight tile-eliminator against Ayaka Hamasaki. She won by TKO with just over a minute to go in the fight. As aforementioned, she took part in the first UFC Strawweight fight at UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs. Miller. She would also be the first to win, as she beat Tina Lahdemaki by unanimous decision. She then was given another title-eliminator fight, as she and Joanna Jedrzejczyk went the distance to see who got the first shot at champion Carla Esparza. The victory went to Jedrzejczyk, and left Gadelha with her first career loss. Her next opponent is TUF competitor Aisling Daly, where they will meet in Poland on April 11.

 

  1. Ronda Rousey (UFC Bantamweight) 

If you didn’t see this coming, I’m sorry I can’t help you out much. Rousey (11-0; 5-0) showed us this weekend why she is the best pound-for-pounds women’s fighter. Her judo skills and always improving striking make her the most dynamic fighter women’s MMA has ever seen. She started off her career with 8 straight armbar finished, the first seven coming in the first round. These included wins over Charmane Tweet, her Bantamweight debut for the Strikeforce title, the first ever women’s fight in the UFC against Liz Carmouche, and another fight with Tate that went three rounds. She didn’t skip a beat, as her total fight time in her next three fights is a minute and thirty seconds. This includes what was supposed to be her toughest opponent yet in Cat Zingano, whom she beat by straight armbar just 14 seconds into their headliner fight on Saturday. See this for more on that fight. The only fight left for ‘Rowdy’ is a super fight with either Cyborg or Gina Carano. Another one I think I’m interested is would be a fight with now Strawweight champion Carla Esparza.

 

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Announcement

Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223

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UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.

 

Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.

After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.

A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.

Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.

Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.

A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.

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Bellator

Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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Fight Announcements

Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April

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MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.

 

The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.

Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.

An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.

His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).

Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.

PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.

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