By Dillon Neibel
In my first and previous article dubbed Ultimate Updates, I broke down what was happening in each division from Heavyweight down to Lightweight. I will continue to move down the divisions in this article starting with Featherweight.
What is next for Featherweight? It is a fair question that fight fans have yet to be given an answer for, as current champion Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski seeks his next opponent. Volkanovski won the belt last December to longtime champ Max “Blessed” Holloway in a highly contested close fight, so close that in his first defense he gave Holloway a rematch in July. That fight was even closer than the first, and many believe that Holloway won the fight.
The Champ has a good argument for wanting a new opponent since he beat Holloway twice on the judge’s scorecards, but given how close the fight was and the fact that Holloway is the most dominant champ this division has seen, a third bout is not the craziest idea.
Who would Volkanovski face if not Holloway? Well, the always exciting and ridiculous striker Zabit Magomedsharipov has been running through this division since he first arrived in the UFC.
In just a few weekends, former title challenger and #2 ranked veteran Brian “T-City” Ortega will fight “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, in a highly anticipated fight night main event that could give either man the title shot.
Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez and rising dark horse Calvin Kattar are certainly in the running as well. Personally, I am looking for #12 ranked Ryan “The Wizard” Hall to get his chance once again inside the octagon, as his Jiu-Jitsu abilities are some of the most astounding we have ever seen. It is not a secret either that the UFC is simply having a hard time finding someone willing to fight this grappling expert.
Since the recent and unexpected retirement of two-division champ and Olympic gold medalist “Triple C” Henry Cejudo, this division has crowned a new king in Petr “No Mercy” Yan.
Yan beat the legend, Jose Aldo, in convincing fashion for the vacant belt, but has yet to be tested with a first defense. A number of contenders come to mind, but many believe that given his recent streak, Aljamain “Funk Master” Sterling should have been the guy facing Yan for the vacant title in the first place.
“Magic” Marlon Moraes has been itching for another title shot, along with the recently returned Cody “No Love” Garbrandt who is coming off one of the best BUZZER BEATER walk-off knockouts I have ever seen. However, it appears that Garbrandt has plans to move down a weight class to pursue that belt.
This division has seen some of the most talented fighters and champions on paper, but it has never quite caught the buzz that heavier divisions get. So when Cejudo vacated this belt as well, it gave the division room to grow.
The young and tough powerhouse Deiveson “Deus Da Guerra” Figueiredo was given a shot for the belt against the skilled veteran Joseph Benavidez, and due to not qualifying because of weight, had to fight Benavidez twice. Both times Figueiredo KO’d the veteran, and therefore, now holds the crown of the men’s smallest division in UFC.
Other than Garbrandt moving down to this division for a title shot, not much can be said right now. Hopefully, more talent will start to rise and shine to give these men the competition they deserve.
Women’s Featherweight (145lbs):
Second-home to the queen of MMA and the largest women’s division in the UFC, the Women’s Featherweight division has been pretty much all but wiped out by the greatest women of all time (GWOAT) Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes.
As one of only four double champions in the UFC’s history and the only woman to do so, Nunes is in a class all her own. After taking the belt from long-time champ Cris Cyborg in incredible fashion, Nunes focused on defending her Bantamweight belt while the talent grew here.
Over the summer, Nunes made her first defense of this belt against Felcia “FeeNom” Spencer, and put on one of the most dominating championship performances in recent history. Not only did Nunes prove that she had the cardio to go the distance, but she proved that she could dictate the fight in any direction she wanted.
The only real contender left in this division is Megan Anderson, who has already lost to Spencer, but supposedly this fight is in the works for later this year. Nunes has expressed interest in taking time off as her partner is pregnant with their child.
Women’s Bantamweight (135lbs):
Much like the 145lb division, Women’s Bantamweight has been conquered by Nunes.
At one time this division was the buzz of women’s MMA, and while many fighters could make a resurgence, most have been beaten by the GWOAT Nunes. Former Bantamweight victims include Ronda “Rowdy” Rousey, Miesha “Cupcake” Tate, Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm, Germaine “The Iron Lady” De Randamie and many others.
Three women that could earn a title shot that have not yet had one are Aspen Ladd, Irene Aldana and Julianna “The Venezuelan Vixen” Pena.
Women’s Flyweight (125lbs):
Another queen sits on top of an entire division’s mountain, and that woman is Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko.
Like Nunes, Shevchenko has basically run through the talent of this division. As a matter of fact, before moving down to Flyweight, she and Nunes fought twice in Bantamweight, both fights seeing Nunes victorious.
With three successful title defenses and a who’s who list of victims behind her, it will be interesting to see who the UFC puts up against her in the future.
Shevchenko was supposed to fight Joanne “Jojo” Calderwood over the summer, but due to injuries and travel restrictions that fight has yet to happen.
Women’s Strawweight (115lbs):
Unlike the other women’s weight classes this division is stacked with hungry talent and might be one of the most exciting divisions in the sport right now.
First, let’s talk about the last time the belt was put on the line.
It was March 7, 2020, right before the world shutdown from the pandemic, and it was the eve of international women’s day. First Chinese UFC champion Weili “Magnum” Zhang fought former longtime champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk in one of the best fights of all time and undoubtedly the greatest women’s fight of all time.
I can only think of one other fight as of now that could be the fight of the year, but I put my money on this one. In one of the most back and forth slugfests ever, the champion Zhang won by split decision. With over 300 strikes thrown in the first two rounds alone, it was one of the most technical displays of striking we have seen.
Being such a close fight, talk of a rematch is still buzzing, but it appears we might see the champ face another former champ in “Thug” Rose Namajunas who recently redeemed a loss against Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade.
How talented is this division? Well, Namajunas was the one to dethrone 5-time defending champ Jedrzejczyk, before losing her belt to Andrade in her 2nd defense, who lost to Zhang in her 1st defense.
I have yet to mention any of the other great talents from this division, which includes Tatiana Suarez, Nin Ansaroff, Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza, Claudia “Claudinha” Gadelha and many others.
Recently #8 ranked Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson fought #13 ranked Angela “Overkill” Hill in a hellacious battle that ended in a split decision victory for Waterson. This was a fight proving once again why these women are worth watching.