In the brief history of the UFC women’s bantamweight division, there have been four champions.
Ronda Rousey was the first and a true trailblazer for women’s MMA. She is also the only fighter to successfully defend the title, doing so on six occasions. New champions have emerged but all have failed to replicate her authority at 135lbs, the belt now the central piece in a game of pass the parcel.
The carousel is this: Holly Holm dethroned Rousey last year, but was then chocked out by Miesha Tate in March. That same rear-naked choke technique used to win the title then proved to be Tate’s downfall as she was submitted in the first round by Amanda Nunes in the elevated main event of UFC 200 in Las Vegas yesterday.
In effect, the Brazilian is now the woman who beat the woman, who beat the woman, who beat the woman. Chaos. As the division has strengthened since its inception in 2013, the ability to maintain any command of the belt has weakened. Now, it’s wide open but regardless, in becoming the first Brazilian women’s UFC champion, Nunes has made an emphatic statement.
“I feel amazing,” said Nunes, who along with Tate replaced Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier in the main event after Jones was pulled for a doping violation on Wednesday.
“Every fighter has something to change. I am this kind of fighter. I always have to work to try to make things happen in my life. Everybody knows that I respect Miesha a lot, but I’m the new champion.”
It was a flawless performance from Nunes. She capitalised on the lethargy of Tate, who is notorious for her slow starts, by dictating the clash with merciless pressure striking.
The champion had deposed a slick boxer in Holm but was simply bulldozed by the brutish power punches from ‘The Lioness’. Quite simply, every strike came with bad intentions. She utilised a crisp jab and backed it up with stone-like right hands, one of which slammed through the gap and busted Tate’s nose. Another rapid-fire flurry and Tate was down. Nunes swiftly took her back as she turtled up and sunk in a neck-crank submission quicker than a flame through bushes. And the defeated Tate admitted she played with fire too much.
“It’s a long road, but I think that’s kind of my personality, I’m kind of a juggernaut when it comes to this sport,” said Tate with a towel to her face to stem the flow of blood from a suspected broken nose. “One fight doesn’t make or break me.
“I’m obviously disappointed with what I did tonight. I know Amanda was a fast starter, and I played with fire a little bit too much. But you know, she caught me, and I wasn’t able to recover. And I was hoping to drag this fight to a little bit later.”
In the co-main event, Brock Lesnar left fans, and maybe even himself, wanting more.
Competing in MMA for the first time in 1,653 days – he retired from the sport following a first-round loss to Alistair Overeem in 2011 – the WWE superstar returned to score a unanimous decision victory over Mark Hunt. The 38-year-old was cautious and stuck to his obvious strengths, his wrestling pedigree, to avoid the lethal overhand right of ‘The Super Samoan’. And ultimately, his outrageous physicality proved the difference as he pummelled Hunt on the ground.
Lesnar was given special dispensation to fight at UFC 200 by his current employers the WWE but there is a sense the two promotions will meet again to discuss the freak athlete’s future.
“Brock Lesnar does what Brock Lesnar wants to do,” he said. “I’ve been gone five years, I step into the Octagon with a guy ranked No8 in the world. You can write what you want to, but I think I’m the toughest son of a b****, and it puts me right in the game. Granted, I’ve got some work to do. If I want to make that decision to keep fighting, I will.”
Conor McGregor has already sent a message to Jose Aldo, and he didn’t need a single word to convey it.
The Brazilian dismantled Frankie Edgar to become a UFC champion once more, claiming the interim featherweight title via unanimous decision at UFC 200 Saturday.
And the man Aldo will undoubtedly face next was stood stalking in the shadows of the Octagon, watching and waiting as a rival to his 145lbs throne emerged. Indeed, McGregor was the man UFC 200 wanted to forget after he was booted from the card for his reluctance to fulfil media obligations.
But with one icy-cold stare in the backdrop of Aldo’s victory, he sent a chilling reminder that he will be back. Of course, he is currently embroiled in another rivalry with Nate Diaz, which could come to a close at UFC 202 in August, but after that a rematch with the man he knocked out in 13 seconds will be next.
“Frankie’s a great competitor,” Aldo said after his win. “But I have one goal and it’s to beat this piece of **** (pointing at McGregor) and he can be sure that next time I catch him here he’s not going to be as lucky as he was the first time.”
That may well be the case as Aldo, one of the greatest featherweight MMA fighters of all time, put in a stellar performance to negate the dangerous attack of Edgar.
While ‘The Answer’ was clearly the more active fighter, Aldo stayed on the backfoot and timed his counters to perfection, bloodying Edgar’s nose and controlling the fight. Just like in their first clash, at UFC 156, it went the full five rounds but in contrast the Brazilian did not fade in the later rounds, instead growing with confidence as he picked off a frustrated Edgar on his way to a vital victory.
“I was born to be the champion, if I’m the interim champion or whatever I was always the champion,” Aldo said. “If I get the fight next with him I’m going to still be the champion. I’m prepared and we can fight right now if we wanted to.”
Elsewhere, Daniel Cormier was bizarrely booed by those inside the T-Mobile Arena after he scored a one-sided win over Anderson Silva.
For a man who should have been considered a saviour of UFC 200, he was instead painted as a villain. The light-heavyweight champ was initially due to take on Jon Jones until the latter failed an out-of-competition drugs test. Cormier remained on the card and Brazilian legend Silva stepped up on two days notice. ‘DC’ used his smothering ground game to nullify the menacing striking of the middleweight great.
And clearly the fans were hoping for a more reckless strategy.
“I can’t really pay attention to that anymore,” he said of the boos. “People don’t understand the situation I had this week.”
Some people it seems, just don’t understand the sport either.
In the co-main event, Brock Lesnar beat Mark Hunt with a unanimous decision as the former champion won over all three judges.
The former champion boasted his fine wrestling skills in the much anticipated fight and nullified Hunt's attacks.
Lesnar certainly made the most of the WWE's "one-off opportunity" grant to let him compete at UFC 200.
AMANDA NUNES VS MIESHA TATE
Elsewhere, Amanda Nunes took the women's bantamweight championship from Miesha Tate. Nunes knocked Tate to the ground and earned a submission win in the first round.