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UFC Women’s Bantamweight: Who can beat Amanda Nunes?

The Brazilian Amanda Nunes defended her bantamweight championship against Valentina Shevchenko last Saturday at UFC 215 via split decision.


Current UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes has been on the winning streak of a lifetime over the past three years. Since her last loss, which came against Cat Zingano at UFC 178, Nunes has come out victorious in every major fight that the UFC has put in front of her. Mixed martial arts legends Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate fell victim to the Brazilian’s brutality in 2016 when the pair both proved to be unable to survive a single round with the dominant champion.

Top contenders Valentina Shevchenko, Shayna Baszler and Sara McMann also failed to defeat ‘The Lioness’ in recent times, but this does not mean that she is unbeatable, nor does it prove that these combatants are incapable of climbing back to the top of their division. Yet, Nunes’ current run speaks for itself, and it forces us to consider – who can possibly dethrone her? Below is a few females who have the potential to complete the demanding task.

Cat Zingano

This list would be void of all legitimacy if the former title challenger, Cat Zingano, was not the first name that was mentioned. The Alliance MMA member came into her fight with Nunes undefeated and on a quest for gold. She had recently become the first woman in UFC history to earn “Fight of the Night” honours with her devastating knockout finish of Miesha Tate in April of 2013 and carried a wave of momentum into the contest. However, Nunes almost finished Zingano in the first round, and many felt that the fight should have been stopped. Cat managed to survive the early onslaught, and her commanding grappling allowed her to mount the exhausted Nunes and finish the fight in the third round. Considering the brutality of the finish, it is undeniable that this is a rematch that we must see in the very near future.

Although Zingano has not competed since UFC 200 last July, she has been extremely active in the gym and is still a very key component in the 135-pound division. The champion’s progression since the defeat is evident, but since we have very little material to judge ‘Alpha’ Cat from, it remains to be seen whether or not she can replicate her previous victory over Nunes. I believe she is more than capable of beating anyone in her weight class on her day, and the prospect of her being granted a title shot upon her return is very appealing to me.

Holly Holm

It is impossible to write about potential champions at bantamweight without mentioning Holly Holm, whose recent run has proved just how much the sport of mixed martial arts progresses in a short period of time. Just over 16 months ago, she was moments away from successfully defending her world title against Miesha Tate at UFC 196, yet what happened that night changed the course of her career dramatically. Losing her belt to was devastating, but coming out on the wrong end of a decision against Valentina Shevchenko in her rebound fight was probably even worse.

Despite her highly controversial loss to Germaine de Randamie for the inaugural women’s featherweight championship, Holm proved her extraordinary talent on multiple occasions in the fight and finally regained her credibility with a vicious knockout victory over Bethe Correia at UFC Fight Night 111.

So, can she beat Nunes? Absolutely. What Holly represents is some of the most high-level boxing skills in MMA history, and movement to go alongside it. Her kicking is excellent, especially her head kicks, and she is more than capable of fending off grappling attacks from her opponents. Nunes’ awkward striking, range control and overall talent inside of the octagon may be enough to defeat Jackson-Wink’s prized possession, yet Holm is a tough matchup for the champion. She has more experience in world title fights and combat sports than just about anyone in the UFC and is no stranger to dethroning seemingly unstoppable kingpins at bantamweight. Although Nunes’ overall MMA skillset may be more honed and well-rounded, Holm definitely has the weapons necessary in her arsenal to reclaim her place as a world champion in the UFC once again.

Germaine de Randamie

Since De Randamie’s featherweight title was stripped for her refusal to face top contender Cris Cyborg, an air of negativity has surrounded the Dutch fighter.

She was recently forced to withdraw from her latest scheduled fight against Marion Reneau but the contender still has high aspirations for her career. After leaving the 145-pound division for good, De Randamie hopes to grow upon her recent three-fight win streak in the weight class she truly belongs in. However, her wish for a rematch against Nunes has been thwarted by a halt in her momentum. Therefore, I do not expect to see this fight within the next year, but that does not remove its relevance.

Despite Nunes defeating De Randamie in 2013 in dominant fashion, Germaine has proved in her latest run that she has grown massively as a martial artist. Once she has all of the elements of her game fitting together entirely, the 37-0 kickboxing ace can truly begin to implement the sublime striking skill that has caused her to rise to the pinnacle of combat sports. In the pair’s previous fight, De Randamie failed to stop Nunes’ far superior ground game and paid the price. Such a devastating TKO defeat is sure to have driven her to improve upon her grappling skills, and I believe in a rematch she would come into the fight ready to defend her opponent’s takedowns just enough to have some success on the feet.

If Germaine could drag Nunes into a stand-up war, the fight would certainly be inside her realm, and there are very few women capable of exchanging blows with the current number eight ranked contender at bantamweight.

Valentina Shevchenko

In spite of the fact that Peru’s Shevchenko is now 0-2 versus rival Nunes, it is undeniable that she has the ability to be the world champion. Their first fight was close, with Nunes definitively claiming the first two rounds, and Valentina coming into her stride late on to take the third. The rematch was even harder to score. It appears that a majority, including myself, feel that Shevchenko deserved to get her hand raised at last Saturday’s UFC 215, but the judges saw it differently. Nunes walked home with her title and a split decision victory after the contest, but the feud is far from over. Shevchenko has proven in both fights that she can defeat the Brazilian, and a slight elevation in her game might be enough to do so.

The trilogy fight may not be next on the agenda for Nunes but should she continue to retain her grip on the bantamweight championship, these two must face off for one final time. Do not allow the record books to fool you – both of these women are just about as equally matched as it gets in the world of MMA, and either of them could come out on top on any given day. Perhaps ‘The Bullet’ is the only answer to stop the dominance of ‘The Lioness’, and we will see this fight once more.

Exciting times ahead

The women’s bantamweight division has never been as open as it is in 2017. Contenders are always exploding onto the scene, with Ketlen Vieira being the latest after her submission of Sara McMann, and title fights continue to grow in appeal.

However, with Holm looking set to face Cyborg at featherweight, a clear number one challenger has yet to be established. This could leave the door open to a Nunes-Zingano rematch, or it could provide the platform for one woman to step up to the plate and make herself the next in line at 135 pounds. I cannot wait to see how events unfold in the coming months, and I am extremely intrigued to see if anyone can tear the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship from The Lioness’ grasp.

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  1. Who can beat Amanda Nunes?

    1. Cat Zingano
    2. Holly Holm
    3. Germaine De Randamie
    4. Valentina Shevchenko
    5. Other (comment below)
    52 votes
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David Murphy

David is an aspiring writer and combat sports enthusiast. He posts both informative and opinionated pieces on the subjects all MMA fans should read about, and seeks to spread the word and celebrate the skills of the many talented athletes who compete in mixed martial arts.

  • Juchi

    Gee, David, I’m surprised you didn’t mention the most obvious contender, Pennington. Although I don’t give anyone much of a chance against Nunes except Shevchenko, she would seem to have a clear edge over Holm, who lost to Tate who then lost to Rocky. Holm has managed one victory in her past 4 fights, and appeared to be apprehensive about mixing it up with Correia, of all fighters, until Bethe started clowning around in the 3rd round. Say what you will about Rousey’s striking; she connected with as many strikes with Correia in under a minute as Holly did over her first 10 minutes.

    Hopefully Zingano regains her place as a contender, but she has two straight losses accompanied by a lot of inactivity. I hardly see a justification for a title shot for her in the near future. GDR, who was not even in the top 10 at BW until she faced Holly for the FW title, has managed to eke out 2 victories in the past 2 years. One a controversial one over the afore-mentioned Holm, and the other over Anna Elmose. Yeah, I know, who? All I know is she is winless in the UFC. I would probably give Pena over any of the above named fighters not named Valentina.

    • David Murphy

      MMA math never works, so I don’t think that doing a run through recent fights is relevant when discussing who can beat Nunes. I wanted to somewhat justify each fighter’s claim to a title shot, but the main aim of this article is to discuss what stylistic matchups and which fighters would prove most challenging for Nunes. I want to see more of Pennington before I see her thrown in with Amanda – we really don’t know if she’s on her level yet. Few are. If we’re doing MMA math, I could throw up that Nunes beat Shevchenko who defeated Pena, who I still feel is very relevant. However, she has no history with Amanda and certainly will not be granted a title fight before she wins a couple of fights, or at least one against a top contender. Zingano has finished Nunes in the past, and with the hot potato dynamic of wins between the elite in the women’s division its hard to deny that their rematch is a fight that should happen.

      • Juchi

        Interesting. MMA math never works? While you can’t always rely on it, it’s usually the most commonly used method in ranking and setting up fights. Usually #2 ranked contender>#1ranked contender=title fight for #2 unless #2 has recently lost to the champ. At the very least, it establishes #2 as the new #1 ranked contender.
        You feel (and apparently the majority of the voters feel) that Zingano has the best chance of beating Nunes because she beat an exhausted Nunes in the third round. I think Nunes showed in her fight with Shevchenko that she now knows how to pace herself. And if you think Pena is irrelevant, what did Cat show you in her loss to Pena that she could defeat Nunes? It baffles me that more than twice the voters felt that Zingano had a better chance of beating Nunes than Shevchenko despite many viewers feeling Shevchenko should have won in her last fight with Nunes.
        Do you think Nunes is going to poke her head out at Holms, taunting her to clock her? If not, what else besides that highlight reel kick did she show you in her last fight with Correia that she could defeat Nunes?
        Pennington finished Tate, a former champion who finished Holm, but you’re concerned that she may not be on Nunes’ level yet after 4 straight victories? No one you mentioned is on Nunes’ level yet, other than Shevchenko, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

        • David Murphy

          MMA math establishes contenders because that’s how the ranking system works, but it doesn’t prove anything about who beats who in the future.
          People believe that Zingano can beat Nunes because she has done so in the past. Nunes paced herself against Shevchenko and very nearly lost her title. Zingano has to re-establish herself in the division, but when she’s on top, she can defeat anybody in the world. I feel Valentina has the best shot to beat her, but the chances are that she won’t be getting a title fight in the near future.
          Holm has been tentative, but usually struggles to push forward in fights when forced to. She is a counter-striker, and we haven’t seen much of Nunes fighting on the back foot so we must assume that she would try and push the pace with Holly, which plays into her game entirely. That fight could well end up being a razor close decision like the Shevchenko rematch, but you cannot deny that Holly’s striking prowess is some of the very best in MMA.
          Lastly, I’m not sure where you got the idea that Pennington finished Tate. She beat her by decision, and looked very impressive in doing so. However, Miesha was already on her way out in that fight and Nunes beat her down just four months prior. I don’t see how Pennington (at this moment in time) could withstand Nunes’ offense, nor do I see her out-grappling her. In due time she may arrive to a number #1 contendership spot, but another win is needed.

          • Juchi

            Nothing “proves’ who can beat someone. That is why you have so many upsets. But other than having already beaten the person, unless one fighter is very susceptible to another’s style, MMA math is probably the best indicator out there. However, even having beaten the person doesn’t “prove” that they can beat them again. Look at Rousey. Although she has only lost two straight, she would probably be an underdog against Zingano, despite Cat having lost her last two fights as well, one of which was to Rousey. I would imagine Cat would be a huge underdog against Nunes. The only reason she beat Nunes the first time was that Nunes was exhausted in the third round. In the meantime, Nunes has improved markedly while Zingano appears to have gone downhill, if her last fight against Pena is any indication.

            My bad on Pennington’s finish, and I hope that you didn’t get the impression that I thought Rocky could beat Nunes. However with 4 straight victories and with Cat’s 2 straight losses, I’d say Cat is much more in need of a victory to prove that she’s a #1 contender than Rocky is. With the exception of Shevchenko, Rocky probably has as good a chance as any of the fighters you mentioned. Very little.

UFC Women’s Bantamweight: Who can beat Amanda Nunes?

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