By a staff reporter
Two tough men beating the living daylights out of each other with the emphasis on the word ‘men’ has always been the predominant picture of the battle. Female boxing matches attracted criticism until the early 1980s, so much so that it was blamed for being simply a gratification of lewd men’s sensual thoughts.
Nevertheless, in the US and Europe, the 1990s saw a boxing boom and it was eventually introduced to the 21st Century Olympic Games. Female mixed martial arts fights started talking flight in the only nation able to challenge the limits, Japan, at the same time as women’s boxing came to fame in the United States.
The first female MMA battle in the US took place in the International Fighting Championship on March 28, 1997. But it took Strikeforce another 12 years to get the first female main event when Cris Cyborg beat Gina Carrano to become the first female Strikeforce Featherweight Champion.
Nunes originally grew up in Brazil’s Bahia, a small town outside Salvador. At the age of four, Amanda began her karate training and followed her boxing training at the early age of sixteen, leading her way as one of the best female MMA fighter ever. Initially, she competed in Brazilian jiu-jitsu after being welcomed by her own sister to the dojo, who is surprisingly well trained in the discipline as well.
She is the first openly gay fighter. Owing to her ferocious fighting style, she is known as “The Lioness”. In December 2018, in a whirlwind success that shocked the MMA world, she finished Cris Cyborg’s reign as featherweight champion in just 51 seconds. 20 fights and 11 years had gone back to Cyborg’s undefeated streak.
Nunes also finished Ronda Rousey’s career singlehandedly in 2016, knocking her out in 48 seconds. In MMA, she is an instance of what it takes to excel. She is the first woman to hold two division titles in the UFC while hanging on to them and the first to defend two titles.
Nunes played in 24 MMA professional bouts and won 20. She has also handed Bullet Valentina Shevchenko, another contender for GOAT, 2 of her only 3 losses, albeit by close decisions.
Currently, there is no woman like Cyborg in MMA. In all aspects: scale, strength, abilities, and expertise, she is leagues above her competitors. Cyborg is one of the most dominant fighters to ever put the gloves on, man or woman.
Before being discovered by Rudimar Fedrigo, a Chute Boxe Academy teacher, Cyborg was a national-level handball player in Brazil. Barring her only 2 defeats in her very first professional fight, Cyborg in her 10-year career has steamrolled past any rival. Cyborg has played 26 and lost just 2, one in 2005, and the other to Nunes in 2018.
In the past, Cyborg tested positive for illegal drugs however she has always maintained a threat among her competitors. In 2009, she was dubbed the ‘Female Fighter of the Year’ by several MMA magazines, winning the honor again in 2009 and 2010 at the World MMA Awards.
Ronda Jean Rousey was born in Riverside, California. With her mother, Rousey started judo at the age of 11. Rousey trained with her mother when she turned 13 when she fractured her mother’s wrist accidentally. At 17, Rousey was the youngest judoka ever to compete in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
With a record of 14-12, she was awarded Female Fighter of the Year 3 times at World MMA awards. In just 23 seconds Rousey is the first UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion. No one would deny that Rousey played a significant role in women gaining a level playing field and that she was untouchable, invincible at the height of her fame.
Rousey holds the distinction of being the first female fighter to being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame and most title defense by a woman. During her reign as champion, Rousey defended her belt several times when defeating different competitors in less than a minute.
In the main event at UFC 193 on November 15, 2015, Rousey faced Holly Holm in her seventh title defense. Rousey was unable to bring Holm to the ground despite being a strong betting favorite and did not react to Holm’s superior striking. On December 30, 2016, after more than a year away from the sport, Rousey returned to face the reigning champion, Amanda Nunes, in the UFC 2077 main event.
At just 48 seconds in the first round, she lost the fight via TKO due to punches and it turned out to be even more humbling than the one against Holm. She hasn’t returned to the ring after that fight and has unofficially retired. Rousey packed her bags and headed to WWE, where she is the core of the WWE Women’s Division and has transitioned effortlessly to pro wrestling.
On March 7, 1988, Shevchenko was born in Frunze, Kirghizia, U.S.S.R to a Ukrainian family. The Russian-born Shevchenko is perhaps today’s most underestimated female MMA competitor. In Taekwondo and Judo, Shevchenko has black belts and holds the position of Master in Sports in Kickboxing, Wrestling, and Muay Thai. She started Taekwondo at age 5, after becoming involved in fighting sports at an early age, under the influence of her older sister Antonina and her mother, all of whom engaged in the sport.
Shevchenko, popularly known as the Bullet, took out a 22-year-old man when she was just 12 years old. She won more than 50 match fights between 2003 and 2015, both amateur and professional. She has a record of eight IFMA World Championship gold medals to her credit. After beating Joanna Jędrzejczyk, whom she also beat three times in amateur Muay Thai bouts, Shevchenko became champion at UFC 231.
Shevchenko competed in MMA for a total of 22 matches and won 19, the majority by submission. She has 2 losses both coming to Amanda Nunes in UFC. Shevchenko is commonly considered one of the world’s greatest female warriors. She is ranked #3 in the UFC women’s pound-for-pound rankings as of 9 March 2020.
Namajunas was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 29, 1992. At the age of 5, Namajunas began studying Taekwondo. At the age of 9, she received her Poom Belt (Junior Black Belt). She went on to practice both karate and jiu-jitsu after that.
She started to compete in MMA in 2010 and made her professional debut in 2013. She lost the UFC Strawweight Championship crown against Carla Esparza in 2014 though. Her career took a turn after a string of losses when she gave one memorable shock in the history of the UFC by beating the unbeaten champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk to become the new UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion.
In a rematch against Jędrzejczyk, she successfully defended the title. She defeated Jędrzejczyk one by KO and others by submission. Her professional record is 14-10. Although she lost the title in May 2019, on July 12, 2020, she prevailed in the rematch.
The American currently ranks No.1 in the strawweight UFC women’s rankings and No.4 in the pound-for-pound UFC women’s rankings.
Joanna Jędrzejczyk was born in Olsztyn, Poland. When she was 16, Jędrzejczyk figured Muay Thai. Jędrzejczyk played for 10 years in Muay Thai and kickboxing, winning over 60 games. Jędrzejczyk has won five world championships during her professional career, including the WKN World Championship, J Girls Championship, WBKF Championship, WKF European Championship, and the WMC Championship.
In 2012, she made her MMA professional debut and went on to win her first 14 fights. UFC President Dana White described Jędrzejczyk as “the best female fighter on earth, pound-for-pound”. In 2015, when she captured the strawweight title, she became the first-ever female European UFC champion. She has retained the title five times, but Rose Namajunas claimed her crown in her sixth defense. Her professional record is 27–3.
Honorable mentions: Cristiane Justino, Jennifer Maia, Marloes Coenen, Claudia Gadelha