Last night was the debut of the much-anticipated 20th season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’, which includes 16 of the best women’s strawweight fighters competing to become the inaugural UFC strawweight champion.
Unlike most seasons, a lot of these fighters were very well known coming into the house. Some of the favorites include former Invicta Champion Carla Esparza, undefeated Joanne Calderwood, and Tecia Torres.
The first fight was between the number three seed Tecia Torres and the number fourteen seed Randa Markos. Markos pulled off the upset and became a real threat within the 115-pound division.
The strawweight divison is brand new to the UFC and the inaugural champion will have already proven to be the best out of everyone in the house, so it is unlikely that anyone from ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ will be the first title challenger. That’s why it was crucial to have strawweight bouts in the UFC before the season started.
Some of the bouts in the UFC so far have produced some spectacular performances from future title contenders within the division.
The first ever strawweight fight was between Cláudia Gadelha (11-0) and Tina Lahdemaki (5-0) at UFC Fight Night 45. Gadelha was a big favorite and she proved why. In a dominant performance, Gadelha picked up the unanimous decision win and moved to 12-0, as well as proving that she is a force in the 115-pound weight division.
Another spectacular strawweight performance came from the Poland native, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. In her UFC debut she put on a striking clinic on her way to a unanimous decision victory over Juliana Lima at UFC on FOX 12.
At the TUF 20 Finale on December 12th, 2014, a champion will be crowned, but it is also very likely that many of the women who didn’t make it to the finals will compete on that night and will make their way back into title contention.
Not only does the UFC have some of the best strawweights signed, but there are also a few outside of the organization that could strengthen the division if brought in. The first that comes to mind is World Series of Fighting champion, and possibly the best strawweight on the planet, Jessica Aguilar. Other notables not in the UFC include, current Invicta Champion Katja Kankaanpää, Kalindra Faria, Stephanie Eggink, and Mizuki Inoue among others.
Although somewhat originally feared, it is unlikely that there will be a shortage of title contenders in the division any time in the near future. This new divison will continue to expand the growth of women’s MMA and it should be exciting to see how things play out in the years to come.
By Chris Williams