UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey capped off 2013 with arguably her biggest victory to date at “UFC 168: Weidman vs. Silva 2” on Dec. 28 in Las Vegas. The bronze medal-winning judoka kept her unblemished MMA record intact with a third-round submission victory over bitter rival Miesha Tate in one of the best female fights of the year.
Rousey and Tate first clashed for Tate’s Strikeforce women’s bantamweight title in March 2012. While Tate put on a solid showing in defeat, she succumbed to a Rousey armbar late in the opening round. Tempers flared between the bantamweight standouts this past summer during the filming of “The Ultimate Fighter 18,” where the women served as opposing coaches. The animosity continued to build leading up to UFC 168.
Early on in the rematch, Rousey (8-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) scored with knees in the clinch and she took Tate (13-5 MMA, 0-2 UFC) down on two occasions. A resilient Tate countered with a triangle choke from her back, but Rousey slammed her way free. Tate scrambled and tripped Rousey to the mat, but she soon found herself trapped in a triangle choke from the champion. Rousey landed some hard elbow strikes on the mat before the fight returned to the feet.
As the action-packed round progressed, Tate found success with punching combinations that backed Rousey up. However, Rousey emphatically slammed her to the canvas and she tried for an armbar from mount. Rousey secured another takedown late in the round and she landed ground and pound until shortly before the bell. After five hard-fought minutes, the fighters received a standing ovation from the crowd in attendance.
In round 2, Rousey took Tate back down, but the challenger defended well with upkicks from her back that prevented Rousey from mounting any offense. Tate eventually stood up and Rousey took her down on multiple occasions. She passed to side control, but Tate wrapped her legs around Rousey’s head in search of an armbar. Rousey countered with big punches from the top and she transitioned from an armbar to an inverted triangle choke before time expired.
Tate reversed a takedown early in round 3, but she was unable to retain top position for long. Rousey took her back in a scramble and latched on to Tate’s left arm. She rolled through with an armbar and Tate was forced to submit at the 58-second mark of the third round.
With her second win over Tate, Rousey retained her UFC title and the top spot in the 135-pound women’s division. The fast-rising star also proved some doubters wrong by fighting beyond Round 1 for the first time in her MMA career.
Rousey won’t have much time to savor her victory, however, as her next fight inside the Octagon has already been booked. At UFC 170 on Feb. 22, Rousey will compete in front of the Las Vegas crowd again when she faces off against fellow Olympic medalist Sara McMann (7-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who returns to action for the first time since April.
Rousey and McMann were initially in talks to face each other early on in their respective pro careers. However, an inability to agree on fight purses and a contracted fight weight resulted in the planned bout falling apart. Next month, the decorated Olympians will finally meet in the center of the octagon with MMA’s most prestigious women’s title on the line.
McMann, a 2004 silver medalist in women’s wrestling, made a successful UFC debut when she bludgeoned Sheila Gaff en route to a first-round TKO victory at UFC 159. She was next matched up against former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman, but withdrew from the fight due to personal reasons. McMann is widely regarded as one of the very best female wrestlers in MMA today and many pundits expect her to pose a serious threat to Rousey’s title reign.
Not to be left out, Tate has also received her next UFC fight booking. Tate, who has dropped three of her past four fights, battles former Strikeforce and UFC title challenger Liz Carmouche (9-4 MMA, 1-2 UFC) at UFC on FOX 11. The event takes place on April 19 in Orlando, Fla.
Like Tate, Carmouche also looks to get back on the winning track after suffering a tough defeat in her most recent outing. At UFC Fight Night 31 in November, Carmouche dropped a one-sided unanimous decision to Canadian standout Alexis Davis. Prior to the setback, Carmouche earned her first UFC win when she stopped Jessica Andrade at UFC on FOX 8 in July. With both fighters in potential must-win situations, the bout between Tate and Carmouche will be a pivotal one.
Jessica Aguilar wins eighth straight fight, claims WSOF strawweight title
This past Saturday, top-ranked strawweight Jessica Aguilar (17-4) captured her first major MMA title in her World Series of Fighting debut at “WSOF 8: Gaethje vs. Patishnock” in Hollywood, Fla. Aguilar became the promotion’s inaugural 115-pound women’s champion by submitting previously unbeaten challenger Alida Gray (4-1) with a first-round arm-triangle choke.
Aguilar has encountered her fair share of controversy during the past two years as a result of contentious victories and the abrupt closure of the women’s division in her former home at Bellator Fighting Championships.
At Bellator 69 in May 2012, Aguilar took a disputed decision win over Japanese legend Megumi Fujii. Following a lengthy layoff, she returned to the cage at Bellator 94 in March and eked out a split decision victory over Patricia Vidonic in a rematch that most observers scored in Vidonic’s favor. In October, Aguilar traveled to Japan to face Fujii for a second time at Vale Tudo Japan 3rd. She defeated Fujii once again, but the rematch was even more controversial than the first meeting due to injuries that Fujii sustained as a result of two eye pokes.
This past year, Aguilar made headlines by signing with WSOF. With most of the top female strawweights currently signed to Invicta FC or the UFC for “TUF 20” later this year, many questioned whether WSOF would be able to find any worthy opponents for Aguilar to face.
In her promotional debut on Saturday, Aguilar faced off against hard-hitting Texan Gray in a featured title bout on the main card. The fight was brief and one-sided. Aguilar took Gray’s back right away and she suplexed her to the mat. Gray stood, but Aguilar took her back down and moved to half-guard. From there, Aguilar postured up with powerful elbows that allowed her to set up an arm-triangle choke. She passed to side control and tightened the choke, which forced Gray to tap out at the 2:45 mark of Round 1.
Aguilar’s victory over Gray was her first submission win since November 2010. The American Top Team star remains at the top of the 115-pound women’s division, but that may change this year once the UFC formally launches its newest women’s weight class and crowns the first UFC women’s strawweight champion. The UFC now has most of the top ten strawweights on its roster, leaving Aguilar to fight fringe contenders during her remaining tenure with WSOF.
Alexis Davis vs. Jessica Eye booked for UFC 170
Mere hours before Ronda Rousey and Sara McMann face off in the UFC 170 main event next month, two of the women’s bantamweight division’s fastest rising stars will collide in a featured matchup on the event’s preliminary card. Canadian jiu-jitsu ace Alexis Davis (15-5 MMA, 2-0 UFC) is set to take on well-rounded Ohio native Jessica Eye (11-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) in a fight with major title implications.
Davis has quickly risen to become one of the top contenders in the bantamweight division with wins in seven of her past eight fights. Her current four-fight winning streak includes submission victories over Hitomi Akano and Shayna Baszler, as well as UFC wins over Rosi Sexton and Liz Carmouche. In her most recent fight in November, Davis showcased her ever-improving striking skills by dominating Carmouche on the feet en route to a clear-cut decision victory.
Eye brings a stellar eight-fight winning streak into the bout with Davis, which will be her biggest and most important fight to date. After making a name for herself in her home state of Ohio, Eye went on to post a 3-0 record for Bellator that included a 58-second win over former Bellator star and current Invicta FC fighter Zoila Frausto Gurgel. At UFC 166 in October, Eye made her much-anticipated Octagon debut and defeated former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman via razor-thin split decision.
Both Davis and Eye have their sights set on the UFC women’s bantamweight championship, which will be up for grabs when Rousey defends against McMann in the UFC 170 headliner. An impressive win for either Davis or Eye could be enough to earn a title shot for the victor later this year. The Davis-Eye fight headlines the UFC 170 preliminary card.
“TUF 18” winner Julianna Pena meets Jessica Andrade at UFC 171
After making history as the first-ever female winner of “The Ultimate Fighter” in November, Julianna Pena (5-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) will make her post-TUF octagon debut on March 15 at “UFC 171: Hendricks vs. Lawler” in Dallas. Pena is scheduled to face Brazilian prospect Jessica Andrade (10-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC), who has won eight of her past ten fights.
Pena was seen as an underdog throughout her time on “The Ultimate Fighter 18,” but she proved doubters wrong by defeating Gina Mazany, Shayna Baszler and Sarah Moras in succession to earn a spot in the tournament final. At The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale, Pena overwhelmed former boxing champion Jessica Rakoczy with ground and pound to earn a first-round TKO victory and a six-figure contract with the UFC.
Andrade’s journey to the UFC was much different than that of her UFC 171 foe. After making her pro debut at age 19, Andrade went on to win eight of her first ten fights in her home country of Brazil. This past April, she traveled to Russia to face local favorite Milana Dudieva at ProFC 47. Andrade’s second-round submission win over Dudieva earned her a UFC contract, and while her promotional debut ended in defeat, Andrade proved that she is a prospect to watch for by defeating veteran Rosi Sexton at UFC Fight Night 30 in October.
Pena has made no secret of the fact that she plans to one day challenge for the UFC women’s bantamweight title, but she must first get past a formidable opponent in Andrade in March.
Mika Nagano retires, seven fights set for Deep Jewels 3 card
Seven fights have now been announced for the all-female Deep Jewels 3 card, which takes place on Feb. 16 in Tokyo. The event is headlined by the inaugural Deep Jewels lightweight (114-pound) title bout between teen prodigy Mizuki Inoue (7-1) and grappling specialist Emi Tomimatsu (6-7). Both women earned big wins at Deep Jewels 2 in November.
Inoue became a breakout star in Japan after making her pro MMA debut at age 16 in October 2010. She won that year’s Jewels Rough Stone Grand Prix at 56 kilograms and has since gone on to become a two-time Shoot Boxing Girls S-Cup champion in the 53.5-kilogram division. This past July, Inoue made her Invicta FC debut and earned a unanimous decision victory over Australian star Bec Rawlings. She then returned to Japan and defeated veteran contender Emi Fujino in the semifinal round of the Deep Jewels lightweight grand prix.
Tomimatsu enters next month’s title fight as a significant underdog, but her modest MMA record belies her fighting talents. Since returning to the sport in 2011 following a lengthy injury hiatus, Tomimatsu has won four of her seven fights. Her three defeats each came via razor-thin decisions against former Valkyrie champion Mei Yamaguchi, top Jewels star Mika Nagano and unbeaten Hawaiian prospect Kailin Curran. At Deep Jewels 2, Tomimatsu faced off against Nagano for a second time and she put on her most impressive performance to date en route to a well-deserved unanimous decision victory.
In addition to the inaugural championship fight, Deep Jewels 3 also features an exhibition retirement bout. The aforementioned Mika Nagano (14-9) competes for the final time when she faces fellow ex-Jewels star Saori Ishioka (12-7) in an exhibition match. Nagano and Ishioka first met under MMA rules on the inaugural Jewels card in November 2008. Ishioka prevailed via unanimous decision and both women went on to become the faces of the promotion.
In November, Nagano’s four-fight winning streak was snapped by Tomimatsu in the Deep Jewels lightweight GP semifinals. The loss prompted the talented wrestler to shift her focus away from MMA and she will formally retire from the sport following the exhibition match with Ishioka. Of Nagano’s 14 career wins, 11 came via submission, and she remains one of the most recognizable female fighters in Japanese MMA history.
Elsewhere on the Deep Jewels 3 card, Shizuka Sugiyama (10-3-1) faces Mizuho Sato (6-5-1) in an open-weight bout. With a win, Sugiyama is expected to be granted a shot at the inaugural Deep Jewels bantamweight championship. Former Jewels champion Naho Sugiyama (9-3) looks for her second straight win when she faces prospect Satomi Takano (3-2). Rounding out the card to date, Masako Yoshida (17-19-5) takes on Miyoko Kusaka (4-7-1), Yuko Oya (6-3) meets Mamiko Mizoguchi (2-5-2), and Sachiko Fujimori (2-0) faces the debuting Shiori Hori (0-0).
Lynn Alvarez makes successful return, stops Amber Stautzenberger at Dakota FC 17
Competing for the first time in 14 months, strawweight striker Lynn Alvarez (6-3) made a triumphant return to the cage on Jan. 11 at “Dakota FC 17: Winter Brawl 2014” in Fargo, N.D. Alvarez choked out highly-touted prospect Amber Stautzenberger (4-2) in just 45 seconds.
Alvarez’s absence from competition clearly did not diminish her striking power and she badly rocked Stautzenberger with two big right hands to open the fight. As Stautzenberger staggered, Alvarez dropped her with a follow-up combination. Stautzenberger rolled over in an attempt to defend against Alvarez’s ground and pound, but that provided Alvarez with an opportunity to lock on a rear-naked choke. Stautzenberger was quickly rendered unconscious and the brief bout was stopped at the 45-second mark of Round 1.
Alvarez had dropped back-to-back fights against Jessica Aguilar and Carla Esparza prior to the bout with Stautzenberger, but her impressive win gets her right back on track in the division. She holds key victories over fellow Invicta FC signee Michelle Ould and Invicta FC atomweight champ Michelle Waterson. In nine professional fights, Alvarez has never fought to a decision.
Quick results Elaine Albuquerque (7-3) def. Osmana Fialho (0-2) via unanimous decision at Garanhuns Fighting Championship 20 on Dec. 27 in Tabira, Pernambuco, Brazil. Albuquerque rebounded from the first stoppage loss of her career with the win. She has finished five opponents to date.
Shannon Gunville (2-0) def. Rena Counts (0-1) via submission (rear-naked choke) at the 1:21 mark of Round 1 at “M-NT Native Sports and Entertainment: Turtle Mountain Throwdown 3” on Dec. 28 in Belcourt, N.D. Gunville picked up her second straight stoppage victory with the quick win. She previously scored a first-round TKO triumph at Turtle Mountain Throwdown 2.
Aisling Daly (14-5) def. Karla Benitez (11-6) via submission (armbar) at the 4:26 mark of Round 2 at Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 63 on Dec. 31 in Dublin, Leinster, Ireland. Daly took Benitez down right away in Round 1, but Benitez countered with upkicks and a tight armbar. Late in the round, Benitez was docked two points for an illegal 12-to-6 elbow. After a lengthy striking exchange in Round 2, Daly took Benitez down and transitioned from back control to mount. She flurried with punches and locked on an armbar that forced Benitez to submit. The bout marked Daly’s return to the strawweight division for the first time since August 2010.
Also at CWFC 63, Catherine Costigan (3-0) def. Morgane Delagnau (0-1) via submission (rear-naked choke) at the 2:22 mark of Round 3. Costigan held an edge in the striking exchanges and she took Delagnau down in all three rounds of the inaugural CWFC women’s atomweight fight. One minute into Round 3, Costigan slammed Delagnau down to the mat and she moved to a top-side crucifix. Delagnau held on, but Costigan locked on a rear-naked choke in a scramble and Delagnau had no choice but to tap out.
Rounding out the women’s portion of the CWFC 63 card, Amanda English (1-0) def. Slavka Vitaly (2-1) via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28). English pressed the action with leg kicks and knees and she dominated the fight on the ground with punches from top position and a series of submission attempts. Vitaly managed to land some decent counterpunches on the feet, but she was unable to mount any sustained offense. English took her back down in Round 3 and cruised to a well-earned decision win in her pro debut.
Jozette Cotton (4-0) def. Jessica Halverson (4-3) via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) at “Dynasty Combat Sports 6: The Future” on Jan. 11 in Omaha, Neb. Cotton was aggressive with punches and knees in Round 1 of the 160-pound bout. She taunted Halverson throughout the final 10 minutes of the fight and kept her opponent at bay with a series of stiff jabs. Cotton was forced to go the distance for the first time in her pro career, but she easily secured the victory.
Halleigh Haak (1-0) def. Lynae Lovato (0-3) via technical submission (guillotine choke) at the 29-second mark of Round 2 at “Triple A MMA: Caged Hostility” on Jan. 16 in Fort Worth, Texas. Haak made a successful pro debut in the fight by securing a standing guillotine choke early in the second round that rendered Lovato unconscious.
Aline Serio (7-4) def. Elaine Albuquerque (7-3) via unanimous decision at Pink Fight 3 on Jan. 18 in Campos dos Goytacazes, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Serio extended her winning streak to three with the decision victory in the Pink Fight 3 main event. Albuquerque, who was competing for the second time in a three-week span, has dropped two of her past three bouts.
In other action on the Pink Fight 3 card, Edlaine Franca Godoy (1-1) def. Raiane Abreu (0-2) via submission (rear-naked choke) at the 58-second mark of Round 3. Amanda Lopes Torres (2-1) def. Paula Baack (0-2) via submission (armbar) at the 4:32 mark of Round 3. Dayana Silva (5-2) def. Mayara Aguiar (0-1) via TKO (punches) at the 2:02 mark of Round 1, and Hellen Bastos (2-1) def. Priscila de Souza (2-1) via submission (armbar) at the 4:46 mark of Round 1.
Kristi Lopez (1-0) def. Tyra Parker (3-4) via split decision at “Gladiator Challenge: Kaboom” on Jan. 18 in El Cajon, Calif. Lopez followed up on her 3-1 run as an amateur by picking up her biggest win to date in the fight against Parker, who had won three of her past four fights.
Also on the Gladiator Challenge card, Alexis Dufresne (4-0) def. Catalina Madril (0-2) via TKO (punches) at the 1:06 mark of Round 1. All four of Dufresne’s pro wins have come inside the first round. Her longest fight to date lasted just 2:20.
Brianna VanBuren (2-1) def. Patricia Vidonic (9-7) via unanimous decision at “Rogue Fights 25: Fight Night 2” on Jan. 18 in Redding, Calif. VanBuren bounced back from a close decision loss to reigning XFC champion Stephanie Eggink in April by outpointing the much more experienced Vidonic in the Rogue Fights 25 main event. She now takes a big step up towards the top ten in the 115-pound women’s division.
Upcoming fights DeAnna Bennett (2-0) faces Sharon Jacobson (0-0) at “Showdown Fights 13: Lopez vs. Castillo” on Jan. 24 in Orem, Utah. Bennett is coming off of a close decision victory over “TUF 18” winner Julianna Pena. Jacobson, a standout wrestler, makes her pro MMA debut on the card.
Justine Kish (3-0) faces Randa Markos-Thomas (3-0) at “Resurrection Fighting Alliance 12: Ortega vs. Koch” on Jan. 24 in Los Angeles, Calif. Kish most recently scored a unanimous decision victory over Chinese veteran Jin Tang in November. She previously scored a notable win over Invicta FC fighter Munah Holland in 2010. Canadian grappling specialist Thomas remains unbeaten in her pro career and she is coming off of a decision victory over Kara Kirsh on the inaugural Provincial Fighting Championships card in October.
Erin Cooney (0-0) faces Shannon Harney (0-0) at Cage Titans Fighting Championship 17 on Jan. 25 in Plymouth, Mass. This bout is a rematch from the pair’s first fight as amateurs at Cage Titans FC 16 in October. Cooney needed just 63 seconds to stop Harney in the first meeting.
Sarah Alpar (4-2) faces Delaney Owen (0-0) at “Sugar Creek Showdown 21: No Surrender” on Jan. 25 in Hinton, Okla. This fight will be contested for the vacant SCS women’s flyweight title. Alpar captured the KOTC women’s flyweight championship in May 2012, but lost the belt to Brenda Gonzales in her first title defense. She most recently defeated Jocelyn Lybarger in July. Owen makes her professional debut in the title fight following a 7-2 run as an amateur.
Summer Bradshaw (0-0) faces Brittney Elkin (0-0) at “Sparta Combat League: Validation” on Jan. 25 in Denver, Colo. Both fighters make their professional debuts following brief stints as amateurs. Bradshaw earned wins in all three of her amateur fights, while Elkin went 1-1.
Rachael Ostovich (0-0) faces Jennifer Liou (0-0) at “Destiny MMA: Na Koa 4” on Jan. 25 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Ostovich is currently one of the sport’s top female prospects in the flyweight division. During her 6-0 amateur career, Ostovich became 808 Battleground women’s champion and she later became a two-division amateur titleholder for Destiny MMA. Liou went 3-2 as an amateur and she most recently defeated Ariel Beck this past month.
Amanda Lovato (0-0) faces Raquel Magdaleno (0-0) at “North American Fighting Championship: Super Brawl 2” on Jan. 31 in Milwaukee, Wis. Lovato was originally set to make her pro debut earlier this month, but her planned fight against Jessica Armstrong-Kennett was scrapped when Armstrong-Kennett came in 8.5 pounds overweight. During her amateur career, Lovato went 3-1 with two first-round TKO victories. Magdaleno returns to NAFC for the first time since she suffered her lone career defeat against prospect Stephanie Alba in September.
MMAjunkie.com publishes the Women’s MMA Report every few weeks. Its author, Robert Sargent, is a veteran MMA journalist who also runs MMARising.com. Feel free to email us at news [AT] mmajunkie.com with any questions, news tips or suggestions.