Seven Potential Opponents for Nicco Montano’s First Title Defense

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 01: Nicco Montano celebrates her unanimous-decision victory over Roxanne Modafferi in their women's flyweight championship bout during the TUF Finale event inside Park Theater on December 01, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Nicco Montano (4-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) made history and became the first-ever UFC women’s flyweight champion on Friday night. She won a close unanimous decision over Roxanne Modafferi at the TUF 26 Finale, bringing the tournament to an end. With history in the rear-view mirror, who should the newly-minted champion fight in her first title defense?

Lauren Murphy

Fellow TUF 26 contestant Murphy won a tight split decision over former Invicta flyweight champion Barb Honchak on Friday night. Murphy, Invicta’s former bantamweight champion, moved to 2-3 in the UFC. If the UFC plans to make Montano’s first title defense come against a woman who was also on the show, Murphy is likely the best and only plausible option.

Winner of VanZant vs. Clark

The UFC surely still sees star power in Paige VanZant, so she might get the title shot with a win. VanZant makes her flyweight debut against Jessica-Rose Clark at UFC Fight Night 124 in January. However, if Clark wins, she’ll be the first UFC flyweight to reach 2-0, which would give her a strong case for a title shot.

Winner of Chookagian vs. Borella

Katlyn Chookagian makes her UFC flyweight debut against Mara Romero Borella at UFC on FOX 27 at the end of January. Chookagian, 2-1 as a UFC bantamweight, was the CFFC flyweight champion before joining the big show. Borella, who holds a submission win over Kalindra Faria, is looking to improve to 2-0 in the UFC. An impressive victory by either woman could punch their ticket to fight Montano.

Jessica Eye (if she beats Faria)

Years ago, before she joined the UFC, Eye was one of the top flyweights in the world. She had to move up to bantamweight if she wanted to fight in the UFC. Eye is looking to break a four-fight losing streak and remind people that she can be a force at her natural weight class. Her journey starts against Faria at UFC Fight Night 124. Faria, having lost to Borella, likely won’t get a title shot even if she defeats Eye.

Valentina Shevchenko

Shevchenko (14-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC) has made clear her intentions to drop to the flyweight division. While her UFC record may not look the most impressive, no one in the new flyweight division has a better strength of schedule than “Bullet.” Shevchenko holds UFC victories over Sarah Kaufman, Holly Holm and Julianna Pena. Her losses? Two to bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, the second of which was a razor-thin split decision loss for the title at UFC 215. Shevchenko may be coming off a loss, but could get an immediate title shot at Montano, and hardly any fans would complain.

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