With Georges St-Pierre on the decline, Anderson Silva no longer considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and Jon Jones and Cain Velasquez not easy to mass market, UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey has emerged as one of the biggest and brightest faces in MMA.
The undefeated (7-0) submission specialist in February injected life into the UFC and Rousey proved a worthy main event in her UFC debut, tapping out Liz Carmouche in the first round, bringing in more than 450,000 PPV buys. Now the UFC is leading up to a big co-main event next month when Rousey takes on Miesha Tate at UFC 168. But what happens after that? UFC President Dana White already has announced plans to add a 115-pound division to Rousey’s 135-pound class.
If the UFC is to continue its rapid growth, it may have to do it among female fighters who can ride Rousey’s wave of popularity in the mainstream. The UFC should consider adding more weight classes, and if so, figure out a way to sign these female fighters to help lift the UFC in 2014.
5. Felice Herrig
If you want to talk about exciting cage fighters, Felice Herrig should be among those at the top of the list. A 115-pound wicked striker, Herrig is one of the sport’s rising stars. She has a 9-4 record, with all of her losses coming by decision. Herrig’s highest profile fights have been in Bellator, which recently put an end to women’s MMA. Herrig then signed with the rising Invicta FC. Invicta and the UFC are on conversational terms, so there may be a way for Herrig to fight in the UFC. If the UFC does indeed launch a strawweight division, it makes sense for Herrig to be in the UFC and fight for the title. With her model-like body, Herrig would probably also bring spark a lot of attention for herself and the UFC.
4. Marloes Coenen
Any way you slice it, Coenen is and has been one of the most compelling female fighters in the world for a long time. A submission specialist, Coenen held the Strikeforce bantamweight championship until losing it to Miesha Tate. If you trace the history of Rousey’s title it goes Rousey-Tate-Coenen. Coenen now competes as a 145-pounder, but she is capable of cutting weight and being competitive in both the bantamweight and featherweight divisions. Coenen is so tough that she fought Cris Cyborg Justino twice – getting knocked out in the third and fourth rounds. So Coenen has gone a total of seven rounds with Cyborg, a remarkable feat for anybody. Coenen (21-6) would bring some class and history to the UFC. She can hang with the younger girls and has a whole lot of experience that would give any weight class instant credibility.
3. Claudia “Claudinha” Gadelha
While the UFC has yet to establish a straw weight division for their women’s MMA bouts should they open their doors to that then Gadelha is one woman they should definitely consider adding to their roster. Not only does she have an impressive 11-0-0 record but this Brazilian fighter is also young, personable and has an aesthetic that continues to challenge the stereotypes of women in combat sports. This is over all very good for the sport and would undoubtably continue to add to the UFC’s popularity in Brazil.
2. Cris Cyborg Justino
She’s the female Brock Lesnar, Mike Tyson and Johny Hendricks. Cyborg is legitimate and quite possibly the best female fighter in the world. She and Rousey are letting a million-dollar payday elude them all over 1o pounds. Rousey’s a 135-pounder and Cyborg is 145-pounds. Similar to the way UFC President Dana White couldn’t sign Fedor Emelianenko, the UFC and Cyborg haven’t been able to reach a deal. It’s not likely to happen either. Cyborg signed with White’s arch rival Tito Ortiz and there’s no way White will do business with Ortiz. If, however, the UFC is the NFL of MMA, it needs to somehow get its paws on Cyborg. Rousey may be the face of WMMA now, but Cyborg could be the face of the sport tomorrow, if the UFC figures out how to make it happen.
1. Holly Holm
Prior to her MMA efforts, Holm was a longtime boxing competitor, amassing an impressive 32-2-3 record over her 11 year career. As a former amateur kickboxing champion, and one of the world’s top female boxers, Holm is one of women’s MMA’s brightest prospects. Dana White himself has been quoted as saying she is the “female Conor McGregor”. While some may consider McGregor somewhat sensationalized, no doubt that is high praise any way you slice it. She currently holds a 5-0-0 undefeated professional MMA record and is set to fight Angela Hayes at Havoc in her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico on December 6th, 2013. If Dana White feels this strongly about her, he should definitely consider signing her at the earliest possible opportunity.