In 2011, UFC President Dana White infamously assured that women would never fight in the UFC. This statement has proven to be incredibly inaccurate.
First, the UFC introduced a women’s bantamweight division, centered around MMA megastar Ronda Rousey. When this new division proved itself to be incredibly lucrative, the UFC introduced yet another women’s division in the 115-pound strawweight division. From there, it sounded as though the organization was planning on adding a 125-pound women’s flyweight division, yet in a somewhat surprising twist, they first introduced a 145-pound women’s featherweight division.
The very first title fight in the history of this new UFC division goes down tomorrow night in the main event of UFC 208. This fight will pit former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm against decorated Dutch kickboxing veteran Germaine de Randamie – and given the striking skill of both women, it looks like it could go down as a classic.
In celebration of this inaugural women’s featherweight title fight, we’ve assembled a list of the 5 best women’s title fights to occur in the UFC’s Octagon thus far.
Click next to see them!
5. Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Jessica Penne
In March of 2015, Polish striking specialist Joanna Jedrzejczyk smashed Carla Esparza to a second-round KO to win the UFC strawweight title. Several months later, she stepped onto the canvas to make her first defense of that title.
This one was a bloodbath. From the opening bell, Jedrzejczyk began to bludgeon her outmatched foe with blistering combinations. By the time the second round had ended, Penne’s face was coated in a mask of blood.
Though the challenger certainly displayed plenty of heart in this gory encounter, the referee could only let this bloodletting continue for so long. As the third round wore down he decided he had seen enough, and waded into the chaos to spare Penne from further punishment.
4. Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate 2
In the first defense of her new UFC women’s bantamweight title, MMA megastar Ronda Rousey took on her fiercest rival Miesha Tate, who she had defeated via first-round armbar several years earlier.
Given the lopsided nature of the pair’s first encounter, not many people expected Tate to put up much of a fight when they fought for the second time. In the end, however, Tate did surprisingly well, showing off her impressive grappling toolkit and becoming the first of Rousey’s seven previous opponents to escape the first round.
Eventually, however, Rousey found the opening for her signature move: the armbar. The champ earned the tap mid-way through the third round of this exciting affair, defending the bantamweight strap as she did.
3. Holly Holm vs. Ronda Rousey
To say Ronda Rousey had an aura of invincibility when she stepped into the cage with Holly Holm in November of 2015 would be an understatement. Having gone a perfect 12-0 in her first 12 bouts, with just one of those fights escaping the first round, there was an ever-growing perception that Rousey could take a bullet to the chest and still find a way to win.
But nobody is invincible. Holm proved this in the biggest way possible, delivering one of the biggest upsets in MMA history by dominating Rousey to a second-round, head-kick knockout.
So began Holm’s reign as women’s bantamweight queen – which brings us to the next item on this list of the best women’s title fights in UFC history…
2. Miesha Tate vs. Holly Holm
Holly Holm’s thunderous knockout of Ronda Rousey proved that superstardom is transferrable. Though she was certainly not the mainstream hit that Rousey was, she had absorbed plenty of the former champ’s notoriety, and as such, entered her first defense against Miesha Tate with a good deal of hype behind her.
For most of this fight, it looked like Holm would make good on her hype. Barring a deep rear-naked choke attempt from Tate in the early going, she was handily winning the fight with her striking. In the fifth round, however, Tate dug deep, flaunting all the grittiness and heart for which she had become known, to lock up another rear-naked choke, and this time, put the champ to sleep.
Just like that, Holm’s title reign had ended, and Tate’s had begun.
1. Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Claudia Gadelha 2
Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha first met back in December of 2013. On that night, Jedrzejczyk emerged the victor, capturing a decision win in a thrilling, back-and-forth fight.
When they met again in June of 2016, this time for the strawweight belt, the result was an even more entertaining scrap.
In the early portions of this strawweight title showdown, it looked as though we might be poised for a power shift, as Gadelha succeeded not only with her tremendous grappling, but also managed to drop the champ with a punch. In the end, however, Jedrzejczyk stole the momentum in the fight’s second half, soundly out-hustling her arch rival with her venomous striking attack. This late surge would earn Jedrzejczyk a unanimous win, and keep the strawweight belt around her waist.
It was not just one of the best women’s title fights in UFC history, but one of the best women’s bouts ever, period.
What’s been your favorite UFC women’s title fight so far? Do you think Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie can usurp a spot on this list tomorrow night? Sound off, PENN Nation!
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 2/10/2017.