Editorial Commentary by Peter Parsons
You regularly hear the strawweight division referred to as the deepest women’s division in the UFC. This was the case until recently. In the past few months, the flyweight division has become the deepest in the UFC.
When talking about the depth of the division, look no further than the bottom of the rankings. No. 15 ranked flyweight Casey O’Neil was one of the breakout stars of 2021 going 3-0 with 3 finishes. O’Neil faces No. 12 ranked Roxanne Modafferi this Saturday.
The last three spots in the women’s strawweight (115-poound) division are: 13. Jessica Penne, 14. Brianna Van Buren, 15. Luana Pinheiro. The last three spots in the women’s flyweight (125-pound) division are: 13. Maycee Barber, 14. Manon Fiorot, 15. Casey O’Neil.
After being out for four years, the current No. 13 ranked strawweight Jessica Penne went 2-0 in 2021 with victories over Lupita Godinez and Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
No. 14 ranked Brianna Van Buren is 1-1 in the UFC with her only victory coming in 2019 against Livinha Souza. She has been out of action for 19 months. In her last fight, Van Buren lost to perennial ranked fighter Tecia Tores.
After winning a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2020, No. 15 ranked Luana Pinheiro went 2-0 in 2021 with a disqualification victory over veteran Randa Markos and a unanimous decision over Sam Hughes.
No. 13 ranked flyweight Maycee Barber started her UFC career going 3-0 with her third victory coming against Gillian Robertson who was ranked at the time. After dropping her next two against Roxanne Modafferi and Alexa Grasso, Barber rebounded in her last fight with a win over top prospect Miranda Maverick.
No. 14 ranked Manon Fiorot started her UFC career with two second round TKO’s. The French fighter stepped up in competition in her last fight to defeat Mayra Bueno Silva by unanimous decision to go 3-0 in the UFC.
No. 15 ranked Casey O’Neil (8-0) is 3-0 in the UFC. The Scottish born Australian has stoppage victories inside the Octagon over Shana Dobson, Lara Procopio and Antonina Schevchenko.
When you look outside the rankings, the women’s flyweights have more top prospects than the strawweights. Erin Blanchfield is looked at by many as one of the top prospects in all of women’s MMA going 2-0 so far in the UFC. Montana De La Rosa, Miranda Maverick, Gillian Robertson, and Mariya Agopova are other names that we could see in the rankings in the near future.
In the strawweight division, there are not the same level of unranked prospects as there are in the flyweight division. Some names include Kanako Murata, Loma Lookboomee, Lupita Godinez, Polyana Viana, and Cheyanne Vlismas. The strawweight division is not as deep as the flyweight division.
A case could be made that the top of the strawweight division is deeper than the top of the women’s flyweight division. A part of the reason why it may appear this way is because current champ of the flyweight division, Valentina Schevchenko, has been so dominant. The women’s flyweight champ is the current pound for pound queen and has defeated most of the top contenders at 125 pounds. It looks like Schevchenko has cleaned out the division; however, there always appears to be new contenders emerging like No. 5 ranked Taila Santos (19-1) who has won four in a row in the UFC and is coming off a first round submission victory over Joanne Wood.
The women’s flyweight division was thin for awhile mainly because it was a new division. For a few years, we just had the strawweight and bantamweight women’s divisions. Since the UFC brought in the women’s flyweight division, we have seen 135-pound women drop down to 125 and 115-pound fighters move up to 125. The most recent example of a women’s fighter planning to come down to flyweight is former bantamweight champ Meisha Tate who is expected to make her flyweight debut in May against No. 3 ranked Lauren Murphy who had won five in a row before challenging Valentina Schevchenko for the title in her last fight.
Upcoming Notable UFC Women’s Flyweight Fights
Feb 12 (12) Roxanne Modafferi vs. (15) Casey O’Neil
Mar 5 – (9) Jessica Eye vs. (14) Manon Fiorot
Mar 5 – Mariya Agapova vs. Maryna Moroz
Mar 12 – Ariane Lipski vs. JJ Aldrich
Mar 19 – Molly McCann vs. Luana Carolina
Mar 26 – (7) Joanne Wood vs. (11) Alexa Grasso
Apr 23 – (13) Maycee Barber vs. Montana De La Rosa
Apr 30 – Antonina Schevchenko vs. Courtney Casey
May 14 – (6) Viviane Araujo vs. (8) Andrea Lee
May 14 – (3) Lauren Murphy vs. (8-BW) Meisha Tate
Which UFC women’s division do you think is the deepest? Express your thoughts in the comments below.