One of the most exciting developments in MMA in recent years has been the rise of female fighters in the various leagues, including the UFC. After Ronda Rousey first hit the world stage back in about 2010 as a mixed martial arts fighter. She won 12 consecutive MMA fights, including six in the UFC, before that first big loss to Holly Holm in 2015.
These days, Ronda is doing well in the WWE, but r r MMA career and the publicity surrounding it paved the way for a crop of fierce competitors who are now filling the ranks. There are dozens of top shelf female fighters nowadays who keep MMA fans happy with their skill and fighting spirit.
Here's a list of some of our favorite female MMA fighters, including current and former champions, vets who are still going strong, and relative newcomers to the sport who are making a mark and heading up the ladder.
15 Cristiane Cyborg Justino Dominates MMA
Cristiane Justino, born Cristiane Justino Venancio, aka Cyborg, has an impressive 20-1-0, 1 NC record, and is currently the top ranked women’s MMA fighter in the featherweight class. In December 2017, she faced one of her toughest opponents in Holly Holm at UFC 219 in Las Vegas, and emerged victorious. A native of Curitiba, Brazil, she’s now based in Huntington Beach, California.
Cristiane uses a combination of wrestling, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to fell her opponents, and it’s definitely working out for her — 17 of her 20 wins have come from knockouts.
She’s held several titles, including UFC Women’s Featherweight Champion and Former Invicta FC World Champion. She ran into some controversy in May of 2017, when she was cited for misdemeanor battery after allegedly punching Angela Magana at 2017 UFC Athlete Retreat.
14 Randa "Quiet Storm" Markos Has True Grit
Her nickname is Quiet Storm, and she and her family ended up in Canada after escaping imprisonment for trying to flee their native Iraq during the Gulf War. The early hardships probably had something to do with her single-minded sense of focus in the Octagon.
Randa won the six of her first 10 professional fights using a combination of wrestling and Jiu Jitsu. She’s known for her strength and a 63.5-inch reach.
As an example of her true grit, after winning her fight against Juliana Lima at UFC on Fox 27 on January 27, 2018, Randa grabbed the mic to tell the audience that she’d gone into the fight with an injured left knee. After the victory, she’s planning on training and healing for a few months before jumping back into the ring.
13 Jessica Eye Is Set To Make Her Mark
Jessica Eye is poised to take a run at the UFC flyweight division. She’s even earned praise from UFC President Dana White, who told Yahoo Sports she was a “pure fighter.” Jessica is set to take on Jessica-Rose Clark at UFC Singapore in June 2018. After leaving the bantamweight division, Jessica Eye made a successful debut at the flyweight level in January with a win on points over Kalindra Faria. Her professional record is 12-6, and her UFC Singapore fight is considered pivotal.
Jessica has a boxing background, and generally uses those techniques, including strikes and defensive jabs, against her opponents.
She’s becoming known for strong body kicks and elbow strikes, along with that fighting spirit.
12 Mackenzie Dern Is A UFC Newbie On The Rise
Mackenzie Dern was a multiple Jiu Jitsu world champion before entering the MMA, at one time the world No. 1 ranked IBJJF competitor, and she was a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Champion too. She’s made a name for herself in MMA circles with her crazy submissions and gutsy fighting style. Mackenzie’s record is 6-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC, having recently made her UFC debut with a win over Ashley Yoder in the strawweight division at UFC 222. The win showed some flaws in her UFC game, and she admitted in an MMA Junkie interview that, while pleased with her win on points, she had some things left to learn about MMA fighting. She’s said she wants to take her time after the fast pace of her pro career debut (five bouts in about 20 months) and plan a more deliberate climb to belt level.
11 Alexa Grasso Loves To Win
A native of Guadalajara, Jalisco Mexico, fighter Alexa Grasso says she started training after watching her uncle Francisco Grasso training. Alexa, her father, and uncle ran a gym for a while before Alexa decided to enter a Jiu Jitsu tournament. She won, got hooked on the feeling of being up on the podium, and never looked back. She uses a variety of martial arts styles and techniques in her MMA bouts, naturally favoring the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu where she holds a blue belt. Alexa underwent knee surgery in the fall of 2017, and has been easing her way back into fighting form. Her record is 10-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC, and we’re expecting big things in the strawweight division once she’s back on form.
10 Irene Aldana Is Ready To Take On The UFC
Irene Aldana celebrated her first win in the UFC in a bantamweight match up against Talita Bernardo in January 2018. It was a win in her column, validating her move from Invicta FC last year. She’s a gym mate of Alexa Grasso at Lobo Gym MMA in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
The win was decisive, and it sets her up for a climb through the bantamweight rankings.
She uses a range of techniques in her fights, from Muay Thai to boxing, and she’s got motivation and momentum on her side now. She told MMA Fighting that she’s ready to take on Bethe Pitbull Correia, a Brazilian fighter who’s currently ranked at #11 in the bantamweight division.
9 "Cat" Zingano Is A History Maker
Fiery "Cat" Zingano has been making history since 2013, when she became the first woman to win a UFC fight by technical knockout. She launched her career in MMA with a nine-victory winning streak — five of them knockouts — and only lost for the first time to Ronda Rousey at UFC 184.
Cat’s a bit of an all-purpose fighter, with skills in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, and Muay Thai, and a reach that is near 70 inches.
Cat is known for her super aggressive fighting style, and she’s a fan favorite. She’s currently ranked at #6 in the women’s bantamweight division with a record of 9-3-0.
8 Paige VanZant Is Tougher Than She Looks
Fighter Paige VanZant says Ronda Rousey is her hero and role model, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to climb into her spot. Paige 12 Gauge VanZant was a mere 18 years old when she started her pro MMA career. It was one of the more auspicious debuts in the sport, and it saw her winning seven of her first nine bouts. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is her specialty, along with a strong defensive game and grappling techniques. Paige fights in the flyweight division, where she is currently ranked #13. Paige proved her courage and gusty delivery doesn’t start and end in the Octagon. In April 2018, she released her autobiography, Rise: Surviving the Fight of My Life, where she details being the victim of a gang rape in high school, along with abusive relationships. She was bullied at high school after the incident, and even changed her name from Sletton to VanZant to get away from the stigma. MMA is clearly the right therapy for this fighter.
7 Joanna Jędrzejczyk Wants To Be The Best
Polish fighter Joanna Jędrzejczyk is currently ranked #1 in the strawweight division. The former Muay Thai kickboxer trains out of Coconut Creek, Florida College these days. Joanna made a splash in the UFC in 2015 after a memorable fight against Carla Esparza at UFC 185 to become strawweight champion over the favorite. She’d just crossed over into the UFC in 2012, but before that, she’d already fought her way to five world amateur Muay Thai championships. Her favorite move is the rear naked choke, and she likes to strike with elbows and punches. That’s what her opponents have been facing on Joanne’s quest for the top.
6 Amanda The Lioness Nunes Is Bantamweight Champion
Brazilian fighter Amanda Nunes is the current bantamweight champion, with an impressive 15-4-0 record. She’s known for her powerful style that uses a variety of influences, including Karate, Jiu Jitsu — where she won Gold in the Pan American Games — Judo, and boxing, and she’s been fighting since she was seven years old. Amanda made her pro MMA debut at the age of 19, and she’s been climbing ever since, ending all her fights either by knockout or submission. Three of her bouts lasted less than 30 seconds. Her official UFC bio includes a quote that explains her nickname. “The logo from my first gym was two lions. I was the only female fighter at the gym, so my old coach started to call me "Leoa" for my aggressive style and it stuck.”
5 Tecia Torres Is The Tiny Tornado Tears It Up
Tecia Torres is 5’1” and fights in the strawweight division. It’s her explosive style of fighting, based on her Muay Thai roots, combined with her small stature, that earned her the Tiny Tornado nickname. In the ring, she’s quick and takes down her opponents with Muay Thai moves, and burst of punches. Ground-and-pound is the fave grappling move of this fighting phenom. Tecia’s currently #5 in the strawweight rankings., with a 10-2-0 record. Tecia started out very young in martial arts, taking Karate from age five, then turning to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and mixed martial arts. She’s had her ups and downs in the UFC, but she’s tough enough to stay in it for the long haul.
4 Angela Hill’s Winning New Strategy
American fighter Angela Hill was the Invicta FC strawweight champion before making the switch to the UFC. Her background is in Muay Thai kickboxing, and that’s what forms the basis of her fighting technique. Her amateur record in Muay Thai is 14-0. Angela’s had more of an uphill battle in the UFC, where she’s #15 in the strawweight division, with an 8-4 record. But, she told MMA Junkie in February 2018 that a loss against Nina Ansaroff in November 2017 opened her eyes to the fact that she had to set the bar higher. Her revamped strategy seems to have worked — she put in a convincing win against Maryna Moroz in February. In between fighting and training, Angela also found the time to complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree from prestigious Cooper Union School of Art in New York City.
3 Valentina Shevchenko Dominates In The Flyweight Division
Valentina Shevchenko has a Peruvian-Kyrgyz background, and fights out of Lima, Peru these days. She came to the UFC with a background as a Muay Thai fighter, but her early roots were in Taekwondo, which she began studying at age five. Her inspiration was her mother, and martial arts were a family tradition — one that she’s upheld to their credit. Valentina was the World Muay Thai champion a whopping 17 times, and she’s currently ranked #1 in the flyweight division, with a record of 15-3-0. Her last fight, against Priscilla Cachoeira on February 3, 2018, was a win via submission in her column, and she got a Performance of the Night bonus for her trouble. The battle royale left Valentina with major bruised elbows due to her punishing ground-and-pound moves, and Priscilla with knee injuries that need surgery.
2 The Preacher's Daughter, Holly Holm Went From Boxing To UFC
Holly Holms, as it turns out, really is a preacher’s daughter, and she began her career as a fighter in the boxing ring. By the time she retired from boxing, she’d amassed a 33-2-3 record that included 9 KOs. Her UFC records is 11-4-0, and — of course — everyone remembers her stunning knockout victory over Ronda Rousey at UFC 193. Holly uses kickboxing and boxing as her basis, and with her powerful punches, she kicked off her MMA career with a 10 bout winning streak. She is the former UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion has since switched to the flyweight division.
1 Rose Namajunas Is Hanging On To The Championship
Rose Namajunas turned heads with two back to back victories over fierce contender Joanna Jędrzejczyk. In December 2017, she blasted through Joanna in just one round. Then, on April 7, 2018, she repeated the feat with a win by decision. Currently the Women’s Strawweight Champion, Rose fought the title out of Joanna’s hands and obviously has no intention of giving it up anytime soon, even though her division is a very competitive one in the UFC. The infamous Conor McGregor assault incident in New York City unnerved Rose, and she told reporters at the post-fight UFC 223 press conference that she was even considering withdrawing from the match — but we’re guessing she’s now very glad that she didn’t.
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