On July 23rd, 2016, the future of the Women’s Bantamweight division looks to become just a little bit clearer.
In the main event, former champion and #2 ranked Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm aims to earn her way back to the belt against the Muay Thai ace and #7 ranked: Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko. With yet another new champion taking the reigns at 135lbs now is the perfect time for contenders to make their case.
The once stable and autocratic Women’s Bantamweight division has become a rogue state without any consistency. So while, for the time, there is a new champion (Amanda “Lioness” Nunes) one has to wonder how long her reign will last.
With former champ Miesha “Cupcake” Tate on the shelf for at least a few months with a broken nose, and the division’s inaugural Queen, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, still in a state of limbo, the road to the title has never been quite as clear.
Some would argue that Juliana “The Venezuelan Vixen” Pena is next in line following her win over “Alpha” Cat Zingano. Although she is on a four-fight win streak, I suspect her recent inactivity coupled with the fact that she has only beaten two women in the top 10 reduces her chances significantly. It seems likely that Pena will either fight someone in the bottom half of the top ten or face Tate when she returns.
In the absence of any obvious contenders, it appears as though the main event on UFC Fox 20 is a title eliminator. Both combatants have good cases for earning a title shot with a win on Saturday but it is patently obvious who the UFC would prefer.
Holy Holm is a star. She has considerable drawing power, an exciting style, and is known worldwide as the women who knocked out Ronda Rousey. There has been no attempt, on the UFC’s part, to hide the fact that they wanted Holm to sit on the shelf and wait for the Rousey rematch: what would have been an insane payday.
Yet, Holm had different motivations and on March 5th her will to stay active cost her the bantamweight crown. For the UFC this was a bitter pill to swallow, after all, they too had just lost out on a monumental financial return.
Yet, their new Champion, Tate, also had a memorable storyline with Rousey and their trilogy fight would have surely done big business. But this time Tate would agree to fight a dangerous challenger, one without a name and her loss would cost the UFC yet another mammoth title fight. Check out the article I wrote just before Tate vs. Nunes for a more in depth analysis of why that was a terrible fight to make from a financial perspective.
At UFC 200 Murphy’s Law prevailed and among other debacles, Nunes became the new Bantamweight Champion. To reiterate, with that division starved for any legitimate and or marketable contenders, the winner of Holm/Shevchenko is likely to be the first to take a crack at Nunes. While a title fight between either of the potential victors makes sense, there isn’t the slightest doubt about who the UFC would prefer to challenge for and hopefully win the title.
Yes, Shevchenko and Nunes have history. In their fight at UFC 196 Nunes held on to a decision win but struggled mightily in the later rounds. So while a five-round title fight would almost certainly be different, the amount of attention it would draw would be mediocre at best. While a Shevchenko win probably earns her a hesitant title shot, Holm will certainly earn that privilege should she get her hand raised on July 23rd.
The UFC want Holm to win for obvious reasons. She has perhaps the second biggest name in Women’s MMA, combined with a large following. Her fighting style is nothing to scoff at either.
A Holm title fight is a big deal and at the risk of putting the cart before the horse, if she were to recapture the belt, a rematch with Rousey would be historic. This is clearly the most attractive route for the UFC but they may be forced to settle for a title fight between two no names on the Fight Pass Prelims should Shevchenko pull an upset.
Murphy’s Law came into effect before, during, and after UFC 200. Who’s to say UFC on FOX 20, perhaps the least stacked card of the year, won’t fall victim to it as well?