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UFC Women’s Bantamweight Division: Results, Ranking, History, Fighters to Watch

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UFC Women’s Bantamweight Division: Results, Ranking, History, Fighters to Watch

The UFC women's bantamweight division is undeniably the most important UFC division in women’s mixed martial arts history. It boasts an extensive history filled with shocking title changes, dominant champions, classic fights, and much more. 

With the division hosting women’s mixed martial arts pioneer and UFC hall of famer Ronda Rousey, as well as dominant champion and many people's consensus greatest female fighter of all time Amanda Nunes, the UFC women’s bantamweight division was the premier women’s division.

We dive into the complete history of the division, fighters to watch this upcoming year, and much more.

UFC Women’s Bantamweight Division Explained

The UFC women’s bantamweight division, where female fighters weighing between 126 and 135 pounds compete, stands as what once was for many years the premier weight class across women's mixed martial arts. 

These fighters continually evolve, bringing heart, technique, and back and forth affairs for the fans when they enter the octagon. UFC women’s bantamweight fights showcase a unique blend of power and physicality amongst women’s mixed martial arts, as well as incredible technique.

Over the years, the women’s bantamweight division has transitioned from being perceived as the best women’s division in the UFC, to the intriguing in between stage the division is at now since the retirement of long standing champion Amanda Nunes. 

Initially introduced in 2012 as the first female division in the UFC, the division got off to a red hot start with the first fight between champion Ronda Rousey and challenger Liz Carmouche generating much excitement and fanfare for the division. Rousey would beat Carmouche via her signature armbar submission, and the division would keep climbing to new heights, whether under Rousey’s or Nunes’s dominant title reigns, shock title victories from underdogs, or more, the women’s bantamweight division established itself as one of the sports most exciting.

The crazy fights combined with the stars of women’s bantamweight fights ensured over the years that fans are treated to exciting, action-packed spectacles each time these athletes step into the cage. The fighters in this division often possess excellent physical attributes, often making for exciting spectacles, as well as many fights with finishes.

The most recent year for the division has seen a downturn in intrigue after the retirement of long time champion Amanda Nunes, with the most recent title fight at UFC 297 failing to generate fan interest or be an exciting affair. However, with a fun mix of both new contenders and experienced veterans in the division’s rankings currently, the women’s bantamweight division is looking to rebuild and recapture its former glory in the coming years. 

Recent UFC Women’s Bantamweight Results

Recently at women’s bantamweight, a new champion was crowned with Raquel “Rocky” Pennington besting young contender Mayra Bueno Silva in a flat five-round affair. Many fighters and media members labeled the bout “one of the worst title fights in UFC history”, both partially unfairly before the fight had even taken place, and then very fairly after the completion of the January bout.

Also recently at UFC 296, Irene Aldana bounced back from her flat performance in her UFC 289 title bout with Amanda Nunes, delivering a decision victory in a back and forth war with fellow contender Karol Rosa. The fight earned a performance bonus for fight of the night and was labeled as a potential fight of the year for 2023.

Upcoming UFC Women’s Bantamweight Fights

By far the most intriguing women’s bantamweight fight coming up takes place at UFC 300 between former champion Holly Holm and UFC newcomer, women’s mixed martial arts superstar and Judo Olympic Gold Medalist Kayla Harrison. 

Kayla Harrison is one of the most high profile fighters in the women's game, and intrigue surrounds her UFC debut, not only with how she will perform, but also if she can make the 135 pound weight limit, as Harrison has been fighting previously at 145 and even at 155 pounds.

Also upcoming in the UFC women’s bantamweight division is a fight at a UFC Fight Night on March 16th between contenders Pannie Kianzad and Macy Chiasson. On this card also is another bout between Chelsea Chandler and surging Josiane Nunes.

Current UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion

“Rocky” is a fitting nickname for the new UFC Bantamweight Champion Raquel Pennington, whose road to the title has been long and remarkable to say the least. A UFC veteran by this point, Pennington is still at the top of her game at 35 years old, and with sharp wrestling and jiu-jitsu she poses a threat to anyone in this division.

Pennington first entered the UFC over 10 years ago in 2013 as a contestant on the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter, titled “The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs Team Tate”. Although ultimately eliminated from the competition in the semi-finals, Pennington impressed enough to earn herself a UFC contract, and on “The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale” card, Pennington beat Roxanne Modafferi in her official UFC debut.

Since then, Pennington amassed another 15 UFC fights, beating a who’s who of competition before earning her first title shot against Amanda Nunes. 

Ultimately Pennington came up short but she never gave up, eventually earning her shot against Mayra Bueno Silva at UFC 297 in January 2024. A sizable underdog heading into her title fight with Bueno Silva, Pennington defied all odds to earn a victory and claim UFC gold for the first time in her career.

With a long list of former champions, experienced veterans, and new contenders lining up for their shot at the title, the future looks to be interesting and busy for the new champion Pennington.

Current UFC Women’s Bantamweight Rankings

The current UFC women’s bantamweight rankings as of March 2024 are:

   (C) – Raquel Pennigton

  1. Julianna Pena
  2. Mayra Bueno Silva
  3. Ketlen Vieira
  4. Irene Aldana
  5. Holly Holm
  6. Pannie Kianzad
  7. Yana Santos
  8. Miesha Tate
  9. Karol Rosa
  10. Macy Chiasson
  11. Norma Dumont
  12. Julia Avila
  13. Josiane Nunes
  14. Chelsea Chandler
  15. Melissa Dixon

These division rankings are of importance in determining the next challengers for the champion, as well as giving guidelines to matchmakers in making the most exciting and important fights for the division. It also allows fighters to know where they stand within the company, and be able to plan their path to the top of the division.

Fighters often call out one another in order to move up the rankings too, and when two ranked opponents face each other, it adds even higher stakes to a bout.

Fighters to Watch in the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Division

Kayla Harrison

Despite not even having weighed in or debut in the UFC yet, Kayla Harrison is one of the most exciting prospects in the division's history. Known for her dominant Judo skills and immense physicality, the former two time Olympic Gold Medalist has made her name known in the female martial arts space. Matched up against former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Holly Holm at UFC 300, the buzz around Kayla’s UFC debut is loud, and if she can pull off the victory her 2024 is set up to be an exciting ride for martial arts fans.

Irene Aldana

Mexico’s Irene Aldana is one of the most complete and entertaining fighters in the UFC women’s bantamweight division, owning an impressive 50% knockout rate in her 6 UFC bouts. After her disappointing title performance against Amanda Nunes in 2023, Aldana bounced back in a fight of the year bout against Karol Rosa, and is looking to make a big splash in 2024, and hopefully get herself back into a UFC title bout soon.

UFC women's bantamweight division

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Julianna Pena

Former champion “The Venezuelan Vixen” Julianna Pena has been talking a lot over social media since her last fight, a 2022 title loss to Amanda Nunes. The 12-5 Pena traded wins and losses since her octagon debut in 2017, but after a 2021 upset to win the title over long time champion Amanda Nunes, Pena’s stock rose immensely, making her one of the most interesting fighters in the women’s bantamweight division. 

With on point jiu-jitsu technique, and dominant grappling, Pena has shown her skills in many performances, including that win over Amanda Nunes, and in her 2017 bout over former UFC Flyweight Champion Nicco Montano. Since a new Bantamweight Champion was crowned at the start of 2024, Pena is looking to challenge and hopefully reclaim her title in this upcoming year.

History of UFC Women’s Bantamweight Division

The UFC women's bantamweight division has been a focal point of women's mixed martial arts since its introduction in 2012, providing a platform for talented fighters to showcase their skills at the highest level. With a weight range of 126 to 135 pounds, the division has witnessed remarkable athletes like Ronda Rousey and Amanda Nunes, as well as historic title changes, contributing to its status as one of the premier weight classes in women's MMA.

The inception of the UFC women's bantamweight division can be traced back to November 2012 when Ronda Rousey, an Olympic medalist in judo, made history by becoming the inaugural champion. Rousey's unparalleled dominance and charisma played a pivotal role in bringing attention and legitimacy to women's MMA. Her electrifying performances, often ending in quick and devastating armbar submissions, turned her into a transcendent figure in the sport.

Rousey's title reign continued until November 2015 when she faced a formidable challenge in Holly Holm at UFC 193. Holm, a decorated boxer and kickboxer, executed a flawless game plan, avoiding Rousey's grappling and securing a stunning head-kick knockout in the second round. The upset victory marked one of the most significant moments in MMA history and ended Rousey's undefeated streak and title reign.

Holm's reign, however, was short-lived as she faced another tough competitor in Miesha Tate at UFC 196 in March 2016. Tate, known for her grappling skills and resilience, secured a dramatic comeback victory by submitting Holm in the fifth round, becoming the new UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion. Tate's triumph added depth to the division and set the stage for new rivalries and challenges.

Next for Miesha Tate was Amanda Nunes, a powerful and skilled Brazilian fighter, who was emerging as a dominant force in the women's bantamweight division. Nunes faced Tate at UFC 200 in July 2016 and delivered a stunning first-round submission victory, capturing the title. Nunes' reign saw her successfully defend the belt against top contenders, including Ronda Rousey at UFC 207, where she finished the former champion in just 48 seconds.

One of the notable title defenses for Nunes occurred at International Fight Week on UFC 239 in July 2019, where Nunes faced former champion Holly Holm. Nunes displayed her dominance, securing a first round knockout in which she knocked Holm out with a head kick, the same way Holm won the title against Rousey in 2015.

Nunes had looked and continued to look unstoppable at Bantamweight when she stepped up to face contender Julianna Pena in December 2021. Heavily favored to win the bout, and looking like her normal self in the first round, Julianna Pena shocked the world when she submitted Nunes in the second round to take the title. This result was shocking and ranks as one of the biggest upsets in UFC title history.

Nunes would win back her title in dominant fashion when she rematched Pena in 2022, dominating all five rounds and re-establishing why she is the woman to beat in the division. She would then face Irene Aldana in 2023, where she would win another dominant decision and afterwards would lay down the gloves and retire in the octagon, vacating her titles and ending her run as one of the greatest fighters the sport has ever seen, irrespective of gender.

A new champion needed to be crowned and in January of 2024, surging contender Mayra Bueno Silva would get the chance against veteran Raquel “Rocky” Pennington. This fight would throw another curveball in the story of this division, and Pennington emerged victorious as the underdog, in a fight that can only be described as a low point in the division's history, with fighters and analysts coming out to speak against the fight, labeling it boring and unbearable to watch.

As the women's bantamweight division continues to evolve, new contenders will undoubtedly emerge, creating fresh narratives and captivating storylines. With the days of Rousey and Nunes over, the division has a fresh start, and fighters across the globe aspire to challenge for the title and start the next chapter in the division's history.

Common Women’s Bantamweight Division FAQs

Who Is the Current Weight Class Champion at UFC Women’s Bantamweight?

The current UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion is Raquel “Rocky” Pennington. She captured the title against Mayra Bueno Silva at UFC 297 in January 2023.

What Is the Weight Limit for the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Division?

The weight limit for the UFC women’s flyweight division is 135 pounds, with fighters being allowed to weigh in up to 136 pounds for non title fights.

Who Holds the Most Finishes in UFC Women’s Bantamweight History?

Brazil’s Amanda Nunes holds the most finishes in UFC women’s flyweight history with eight finishes across her UFC career.

Who Has the Most Wins at Women’s Bantamweight in UFC History?

Former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes holds the record for the most wins in the division's history with 13 wins.

How Many UFC Women’s Bantamweight Fighters Are There in the UFC?

Currently as of February 2024, the UFC has 25 active women’s bantamweight fighters.

Bren Gray is our resident Kiwi, and has been writing about sports since he could first string words together. He first fell in love with boxing when David Tua took on Lennox Lewis in 2000, and hasn't looked back since.