Who is the greatest female mixed martial artist of all time?
Is it Cris Cyborg, Amanda Nunes, Ronda Rousey or someone else?
The greatest of all time is a matter of opinion. Opinions will always differ, as the question is constantly being asked throughout time. Meaning time is an important factor in the constant quest to determine who is the greatest of all time.
Since the beginning of time in women’s MMA, there is one name that was always in the conversation. That name is Cyborg. Early on back in 2009, Cyborg won what was, at the time, the biggest female event by retiring Gina Carano at 4:59 of the first round. Cyborg won her first title: the Strikeforce featherweight championship of the world. You have to remember at this point in time the UFC was a men’s only organization.
Many years pass and there still is only one person in the conversation about who is the greatest. The next person to join the conversation is Ronda Rousey and that begins when she won a title in the same promotion as Cyborg. Rousey won the bantamweight title by beating Miesha Tate in 2012. Rousey is great but she is a different kind of fighter. Rousey is less of a striker and more of a grappler. Rousey, being a bronze medalist in Judo, became MMA’s next big thing. Her charisma and athletic skills astonished the mixed martial arts landscape with accurate and quick finishes.
However, in 2012, Rousey is not considered a GOAT. Rousey began to become great and gained a lot of attention and lots of fans but most of the MMA world is still convinced in 2012 that Cyborg is P4P #1. Rousey then became completely viral and the public really rallied behind her when she won the UFC bantamweight title at UFC 157 and went on an incredible winning streak. By 2014-2015 people are starting to believe Rousey might be just as great as Cyborg and the battle for that greatest pound-for-pound title begins. Cyborg, who is known as the GOAT, is not able to get into UFC and Rousey stole all that attention. Still, the public rallies behind Cyborg who becomes the Invicta FC featherweight champion.
The public wants to see Cris Cyborg take on Ronda Rousey during those years but for most of this sport’s young history, Cyborg is the one who is most dominant. Ronda is just beginning to convince the public she is just as good or if not even better. Ronda Rousey vs Cris Cyborg never comes to fruition. Instead, both suffer defeats to Amanda Nunes. Nunes retires Rousey and knocks out Cyborg as well, who asks Nunes for a rematch.
Amanda Nunes becomes dominant, winning two UFC titles: featherweight and bantamweight. From 2015 to 2021, Nunes goes on a 12-fight winning streak and beats some of the greatest legends to ever step in a cage including Rousey and Cyborg. Nunes joined the greatest conversation a little late. Nunes competed in Strikeforce; the place where Cyborg and Rousey made their initial impact and won titles. Nunes went 1-1 in Strikeforce, suffering a TKO loss to Alexis Davis. Next, she competed in Invicta FC where she also went 1-1, suffering another loss to Sarah D’Alelio before getting the call to UFC.
Cyborg and Nunes both competed in Strikeforce and Invcita FC. Cyborg was the champion of both, going undefeated and winning two titles while Nunes went 2-2 and was not able to capture a title at that point in time.
Cris Cyborg vs Ronda Rousey was still the biggest thing in MMA during those years. Nunes was not even close to being considered a GOAT. The question was simple: Were you with Ronda or Cris? Most people were actually beginning to believe Rousey was the greatest. However Cyborg still dominated the question for the most amount of time. Cyborg was the first greatest and there was only one woman who was trying to take that from her and her name was Ronda. Looking back on it, in this writer’s opinion, Rousey ducked Cris Cyborg and never gave her the opportunity to prove who was greater.
Eventually Nunes knocked Rousey into another dimension: the WWE. Rousey was already embarrassed by Holly Holm at UFC 193 in her prior fight but Nunes knocked her out cold again. At that point, Nunes was beginning to become very popular but the public was mostly convinced that Cyborg was for sure the GOAT. Nunes retired Rousey on Dec. 30, 2017. Rousey was forced out of the GOAT question on this day and was already losing credibility after her loss at UFC 193.
In 2018, the fans were pretty sure Cyborg is the GOAT. She has dominated the question from 2009 to 2018 with only one woman, Ronda Rousey, even bringing a shadow of a doubt that Cris Cyborg was not the greatest. Cyborg came to the UFC and she won the UFC featherweight title as expected. Rousey, without actually beating Cyborg, was taking a lot of her popularity, but now a new contender emerged in Amanda Nunes. Nunes eventually met Cyborg later that year at UFC 232 in December.
Amanda Nunes did the unthinkable and knocked Cyborg out in the first round. It was a sensational knockout and brutal. At this point the public began to think Nunes is the greatest of all time. The fans sometimes suffer memory loss or are fans with amnesia because Nunes who knocked out the two greats Cyborg and Rousey was not considered great during female MMA’s early years 2009-2015. Nunes competed but she had several losses and was known for having bad cardio and being easy to submit. In other words, if you asked a fan in 2012 who would win between Cyborg or Nunes, they probably would not have known who Nunes was. The same thing would be true in 2015. Nunes was competing but was known as mediocre.
Nunes became a great by beating the greats, but the question of Nunes being the greatest only lasted 3 years. Three years is a long time to hold the title of the GOAT, but Cris Cyborg was considered great for 9 years so far.
The thing is, Nunes beat Cyborg. Cris Cyborg rallied for a rematch many times over those years but the match never happened. Nunes seemed satisfied with her win over Cyborg and went on to defeat Holly Holm, Germaine De Randamie, Megan Anderson, and Felicia Spencer before losing to Julianna Peña at UFC 269.
After Amanda Nunes lost at UFC 269, you have to wonder: Who is the greatest of all time?
Is it Amanda Nunes, Cris Cyborg, Ronda Rousey, or Julianna Peña? The question is not who won their last fight. It is who is the greatest of all time? Meaning time is the factor in measuring greatness. For most of the time, it is a fact Cyborg was considered the greatest. Others jumped into the conversation but quickly left the conversation. Nunes did not want to fight Cyborg again and Rousey wanted nothing to do with her. A rematch between Nunes and Cyborg would help to determine if Nunes really had Cyborg’s number or not. Regardless, it is a rematch we can only hope to see. For now Peña owns UFC gold and has taken a lot of attention away from Nunes, who is hoping for a rematch and a chance to prove her dominance once again.
Julianna Peña did the unexpected when she submitted the “Lioness,” who was being built up to be the greatest of all time. The UFC seemed sure that Nunes was the G.O.A.T. (The Greatest of all Time). Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier, Michael Bisping and Joe Rogan were all so sure Nunes was the greatest. They could not wait to tell us that Amanda was without a doubt the GOAT.
Julianna Peña showed us the other side to Amanda Nunes. The side that can be beat. Nunes tapped to a rear naked choke at 2:36 of the second round. It was quick, and Peña made it look easy. Recently Joe Rogan went on his podcast, dissing Amanda Nunes. The man who was sure we were all watching the greatest quickly turned on her.
Nunes is a great fighter, and she has an amazing record and has beaten some of the greatest female legends of all time. Nunes is powerful and incredibly confident she lives life to the fullest and that shows in her fights, smashing her opponents. Her unbeaten streak was sensational and legendary, as she won all of her fights dating back to 2015. She beat Miesha Tate, Valentina Shevchenko twice, Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm and Cris Cyborg. The way Nunes did it was an image to behold, as each time Nunes went out there, she was able to really hurt her opponent. Nunes will most likely get a title shot against Peña sooner than later but it just won’t be the same. Cyborg on the other hand left the UFC for greener pastures. Landing a title shot right away in Bellator, Cyborg was able to capture her fourth MMA title in her incredible career.
The question is ongoing. It is not just a question is the greatest question. Who is the greatest of all time? Who is the GOAT? Who dominated the sport for the most amount of time? These days there are new challengers in the question. Valentina Shevchenko has proven to be great. Rose Namajunas is doing great things as a straweight in UFC. Ronda Rousey left a great legacy. Amand Nunes crushed the greats.
But Cris Cyborg did one thing none of these women did: She maintained greatness from the beginning of her career up until the now. The question is, will Cyborg, the current Bellator champion of the world, be able to leave the sport on a high note? Will Cyborg walk away gracefully? Having not suffered a loss since her one and only loss to Nunes, Cyborg has continued the tradition of giving the fans great fights and winning them all. Cyborg has accomplished so much as a martial artist and historically has won more titles than any other woman and more titles during more time periods. Cyborg has held titles in four major mixed martial arts organizations including Strikeforce, Invicta FC, UFC and Bellator. This is an accomplishment that cannot be matched by winning just one title and holding it for a few years. Cyborg has proven that no matter what year it was or what organization was considered the top at the time, she was able to go out there and win. Not only win; she was able to compete at the highest level. Symbolized by her title wins, she has proven incredibly dominant over time.
So I ask the question again. Who is the greatest of all time? Is it Cris Cyborg? Is that fair to say? Is Cris Cyborg the one woman that dominated mixed martial arts for the longest amount of time? I will leave that to you.
Featured Image credit:
Embed from Getty Images