The first-ever Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event, “UFC 1: The Beginning,” took place on November 12, 1993, at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado. The mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion held an additional 155 PPV events over the course of nearly two decades before it hosted an historic women’s bout at UFC 157. The promotion’s first women’s fight featured Ronda Rousey against Liz Caramouche, the latter of whom also made history as the first openly gay fighter in UFC.
Rousey, who had been competing in MMA since 2011, was made the inaugural UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion by UFC president Dana White and retained her title against Caramouche. She eventually became one of the most prominent and marketable athletes in the promotion’s history and has since competed in WWE, where she was part of the first women’s main event at WrestleMania.
Below is a look at five fighters who have shaped the women’s division in UFC.
1. Amanda Nunes
Although Rousey helped give the women’s division credibility, Nunes has since taken over as the most dominant female fighter in MMA history. She has a record 14 UFC victories, one of which was a shocking 48-second victory over Rousey at UFC 207.
Attempting to reclaim her championship after losing it more than a year prior to Holly Holm, Rousey was hit with a solid combination of strikes just over 10 seconds into the fight. She remained on the defensive until referee Herb Dean stopped the fight. Nunes, who won the title via submission over Miesha Tate at UFC 200, was still champion as of March 6, 2021, after her eighth consecutive successful title defense.
Nunes’ only loss in UFC was against Cat Zingano at UFC 178. She won her first two matches in the promotion and, following the loss, has won 12 consecutive fights. Only four of those fights went the distance. Moreover, Nunes has won nine fights in the first round, six of which were by knockout. Her closest contest was a split decision victory over Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 215.
2. Ronda Rousey
Rousey’s exit from UFC may have been shocking and unceremonious, but prior to that she was among the most dominant fighters in the sport. “Rwody” had won each of her first six professional MMA fights in the first round before joining UFC in 2013. Even more impressively, she ended her first four career fights within the first minute of the first round.
She continued to dominate in UFC by winning her first seven fights with relative ease; only one went beyond the first round and three were won within the first minute. In fact, Rousey’s last three fights before her first loss against Holly Holm at UFC 193 lasted a combined 64 seconds. Her 14-second submission victory over Zingano at UFC 184 remains the shortest fight in UFC history.
3. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
UFC released a list of its greatest women’s matches in recognition of International Women’s Day 2021. Joanna Jedrzejczyk was involved in four of those 16 fights. The 33-year-old Polish fighter has a combined MMA record of 16-4 and established herself as a dominant force in UFC by winning her first eight fights in the promotion.
Competing in the strawweight division, Jedrzejczyk scored victories over Jessica Penne, Juliana Lima, and Jessica Andrade in this time. She has lost four of her last six fights, but three of her four losses went the distance.
4. Rose Namajunas
Rose Namajunas ended Jedrzejczyk’s eight-fight winning streak via first-round TKO at UFC 217 to become the UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion. The two all-time greats met in a rematch for the championship at UFC 223, but Namajunas was again successful via unanimous decision. She lost the championship to Andrade at UFC 237, but regained it via split decision in a rematch at UFC 251.
A black belt in Karate and Taekwondo, Namajunas has won three Fight of the Night bonuses in UFC and was named 2017 ESPN MMA Fighter of the Year: “Going into UFC 217, Jedrzejczyk was one of the most feared female champions ever,” wrote ESPN writer Brett Okamoto. “Namajunas finished her in three minutes, via knockout—the first knockout of her professional career. And she did it inside the pressure-cooker setting of a historic arena on the UFC’s biggest card of 2017.”
5. Cris Cyborg
Cristiane Justino AKA Cris Cyborg was the most dominant female fighter in MMA in the late 2000s and early 2010s. She won 20 consecutive fights from 2005 to 2018 before losing to Nunes at UFC 232. However, she has won each of her three fights since then.
She has won 18 of her 23 fights by knockout and is the only fighter in MMA history to win championships in UFC, Invicta FC, and Strikeforce. Moreover, she became Bellator Women’s Featherweight Champion in January 2020 by defeating Julia Budd via TKO. She successfully defended the title against Arlene Blencowe at Bellator 249 and scored her first-ever submission victory.
Featured Image courtesy zuko1312 | Flickr