Since Strikeforce was bought out by the UFC in 2012, the 135lbs bantamweight women have proven again and again that they are not to be missed! With TUF 20 having just featured 16 115lb strawweight fighters, they have already started to draw the same level of excitement. Here are 5 of the women that really play to the exhilaration of the crowd and viewers when they step into the octagon.
5. Leslie Smith
Currently ranked 15th, the 7-6-1 (1-2 in the UFC), will be one to keep a close eye on in 2015. Part of the Stockton Scrap Pack alongside Nick and Nate Diaz, Gilbert Melendez and Jake Shields, how could she not be a thrill to watch? She enters the cage with the same bully attitude as teammates and likes to put pressure on her opponents on the feet. She talks a big game and definitely will do all she can to back it up and beyond. She prove this fact in her last fight, a doctor’s stoppage defeat against Jessica Eye; her cauliflower ear basically hanging from the side of her head, “The Peacemaker” begged the doctor and the referee to let her keep fighting.
4. Bethe Correia
The Brazilian is exciting to watch due to her sheer determination. She entered the Octagon for the first time in December 2013 to retire a Women’s MMA legend in Julie Kedzie. However, she truly was noticed when she beat Jessamyn Duke in April and thus began her path to war against the 4 horsewomen, Ronda Rousey’s gang of training partners and friends. She continued onward with a TKO against Shayna Baszler however, being ranked 8th in the division, it looks like she will have to defeat some of Rousey’s rivals before she can earn her shot at the current champ (the 4th of the moniker, Marina Shaffir, is not in the UFC). She already shares the champion’s death stare as she stands in her corner before a fight, it would not be implausible to imagine her facing off against Dana White’s favorite woman before the end of the upcoming year.
3. Ronda Rousey
The reigning bantamweight 135lb UFC champion is easily the UFC’s biggest female audience draw by far! Her fights are always extremely entertaining in large part due to their speed. As Alexis Davis learned the hard way in July, her opponents can have but a few seconds of shared octagon time with her. Her skills are also improving at an impressive speed and while everyone used to wait for her armbar finishes, viewers are now constantly surprised by her versatility.
2. Cat Zingano
After her fight against Miesha Tate to know which one of them would win the coaching spot against Ronda Rousey on The Ultimate Fighter, and the next title shot, Zingano found herself sidelined from both the show and the octagon due to a knee injury sustained against Tate’s knockout as well as personal tragedy. What makes the Alpha Cat such electrifying fighter is her iron will to win. Zingano has found herself in hot water early on in both her UFC fights, Tate in 2013 and Amanda Nunes last September. However, just when viewers think this fighter is headed for an early loss, she manages to pull herself together stronger and stronger each time and climb her way back into the fight in imposing and dominating fashion.
1. Rose Namajunas
This ‘Thug’ may be a newcomer to the UFC, officially having only fought once for the organization. She was part of the Ultimate Fighter 19 competition to find the new women’s division strawweight champion. In the house, Rose tapped all three women she had to face (Alex Chambers, Joanne Calderwood and Randa Markos) in order to get to the finale and fight for the belt against first ranked Carla Esparza. Although Namajunas wasn’t able to win the championship belt, she more than proved herself during the season even being compared to Rousey by way of her skills alone. She is a quiet fighter, not a brashly outspoken persona such as Rowdy but she shines in the octagon and is such a opportunistic fighter seeking to find a way to finish her fights by any means. She is certainly one audiences should look forward to keep discovering as the 22 year old keeps growing as a martial artist and woman.