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.”