MMA Ratings Podcast

March 10, 2021

UFC Women's Featherweight: The Promotion's Shallowest Division Doesn't Have Long To Go

By Adam Martin

This past Saturday at UFC 259, pound-for-pound great Amanda Nunes had yet another dominant performance inside the Octagon, a performance so good that it might end up shutting down the entire division. After previously defeating Cris Cyborg to win the women's 145-pound title in 2018 and then defending it against Felicia Spencer in 2020, Nunes defended it for a second time when she tapped out former Invicta FC champion Megan Anderson in the first round of the pair's UFC women's featherweight title fight. It was another easy win for Nunes at 145 lbs, and it might be the last time she fights at that weight class. According to reports following that fight, the UFC women's featherweight division is on thin ice.

On Tuesday, just three days after getting tapped out by Nunes, Anderson took to her Twitch channel to announce that she has been released by the UFC and that the promotion is closing up shop on 145 lbs. Later reports indicated that Anderson has indeed been released, but that the UFC is still planning on keeping women's featherwight division. That's all fine and dandy, but the truth is, there really isn't much of a division, so there's nothing that they're keeping. Other than the ability to promote Nunes as a two-division weight champion and have an extra belt to put on a PPV card once or twice a year, 145 lbs just isn't doing much good. The UFC can say what it wants, but everyone knows featherweight's doomsday is coming.

There are two big problems with women's featherweight. The first is that Nunes is just far too dominant over the competition at this weight class. Back at UFC 232, she KO'd Cyborg to win the belt, then she beat down Spencer for five rounds at UFC 250 to defend it before defending it once again with a quick win over Anderson at UFC 259. There just hasn't been any competition for Nunes for the title, especially once Cyborg left for Bellator. And that dovetails into the second problem with 145 lbs: the lack of title contenders. It's the only weight class where there are no contenders listed in the official UFC rankings. That's because it's barely a division. There's Nunes, Spencer, and Danyelle Wolf, who has one pro fight and who was signed off of Dana White's Contender Series. That's it. That's not much of a division whatsoever.

As of right now, the UFC says it's going to keep 145 lbs, but it probably won't for much longer. Sorry, but three fighters don't make a division. So what next for these women? For Nunes, it's obvious. She'll stick around the UFC as the bantamweight champion until she retires. For Spencer, there are rumblings that she could try to cut weight and make 135 lbs. Otherwise, it would be off to another promotion for her, and the same goes for Anderson and for Wolf. Invicta FC would seem to be the ideal home for these women, but the all-women promotion is currently going through its own issues, and it currently does not have a streaming deal for its events, as the UFC Fight Pass deal recently concluded. Bellator, potentially, could get involved if it's looking for some new contenders to fight Cyborg, or maybe PFL asks a couple of them to move to 155 lbs. Overall though, it appears these women's 145-pounders dreams of fighting in the UFC are coming to an end.

If this is truly it for women's featherweight, it's hard to say if anyone will truly miss the division. The belt was introduced at UFC 208 in 2017 when Germaine de Randamie won a controversial unanimous decision over Holly Holm in a fight where she landed several illegal punches after the bell. Instead of fighting Cyborg, de Randamie gave up the belt, and Cyborg would go on to beat Tonya Evinger for the vacant title at UFC 214 in July 2017. Cyborg later defended it against both Yana Kunitskaya and Holly Holm before losing it to Nunes, who defended it against both Spencer and Anderson. So that's it. In the four-plus years that 145 lbs has existed in the UFC, there have only been seven total title fights in the division. And even when you add in the non-title fights to that tally, it still can't be much more than 20 featherweight fights total.

If the UFC is going to give up 145 -- and there are many reasons to do it -- then the fair thing to do would be to bring in another women's division to replace it. That would be women's 105 lbs, the atomweight division, which has plenty of talent for it worldwide. Invicta FC already has a solid division and then you can look at some of the Asian promotions for other contenders. There are more women's fighters at 105 lbs than at 145 lbs, so it makes sense. There are also a number of UFC fighters, such as Michelle Waterson, who could potentially drop down in weight. Replacing 145 with 105 is the fair thing to do for women's MMA fighters, while also keeping open the option for the UFC to promote another title.

Losing the women's featherweight division is not a huge deal for most MMA fans. Let's face it, it was barely a division anyways, and other than the few fighters that actually compete at 14 5lbs, this doesn't really hurt anyone else. The right thing to do is for the UFC to replace it with atomweight, which has far more talent. Ultimately, women's 145 just isn't ready for the big leagues right now. It's possible that five to ten years down the road we will have more women fighting at that weight class. But right now there just aren't enough fighters at 145, and the right call is to shut it down.

UFC 259
Amanda Nunes vs. Megan Anderson (UFC Women's Featherweight Championship): Amanda Nunes def. Megan Anderson via submission (armbar) at 2:03 of Round 1.

UFC 259: Błachowicz vs. Adesanya took place March 6, 2021 at UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click HERE for more UFC 259 Analysis

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