Coming out of UFC Houston, one thing has become abundantly clear: the UFC strawweight division is absolutely stacked.
This isn’t an argument for a women’s flyweight division in the UFC, though that absolutely needs to happen. No, this is simply a review of just how awesome the 115-pound weight class is at the moment. A division that was once-threadbare for contenders now has several marketable names knocking at the door for title shots.
That should keep champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk busy for a while.
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Speaking of, is there a more dominant champion in the UFC right now? Avoiding the hyperbole that led to the downfall of Ronda Rousey, Joanna Champion has striking at a level that makes her male counterparts take notice. She’s scary good, in other words, and one of the most exciting fighters in the sport.
Yet the next batter up at the plate, Jessica Andrade, is also scary. Scary powerful. The former bantamweight is a beast at 115-pounds and is likely the biggest threat to Jedrzejczyk’s crown. 3-0 since dropping to strawweight, her Fight of the Night victory over Invicta FC champ Angela Hill in Houston Saturday had everyone talking. That wave should crest as she approaches her title shot with Jedrzejczyk.
Speaking of Hill — even in a loss, many see her performance in Houston as a coming out party. She may find herself ranked shortly, and should be sticking around the UFC for a while. It’s been something to watch her develop over the years. Remember, she had next to no experience prior to The Ultimate Fighter 20.
Let’s not forget Felice Herrig, who also appeared on TUF 20, and was victorious on the UFC Houston card as well. Now on a two-fight win streak, she’s bounced back nicely from her defeat to Paige VanZant at UFC on FOX 15 in 2015. Herrig took a year off to hone her skills, and it has paid off in spades. Beating one of the UFC’s strawweight “It” girls, Alexa Grasso, has her stock up considerably.
Grasso, meanwhile, took a bit of a hit — but not too much. Like Paige VanZant, she’s still young, marketable, and has lots of time to grow as a fighter. Don’t worry about these fighters in their early 20s. Think of what they’ll be like around 25 to 27, heading into their prime.
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Tecia Torres boosted her stock this past Saturday as well, grinding out a decision over Bec Rawlings. Torres was once considered by many to be a lock as strawweight champion some day. Rose Namajunas put a damper on that talk, but another win or two, and Torres is back in the mix.
Michelle Waterson is riding a wave of popularity. Paige VanZant never seems to be hurt by losses. Maryna Moroz seems to be the forgotten strawweight of late, but don’t count her out either. A couple of wins (she’s on a two-fight streak currently), and she’s knocking on the door.
Notice that Claudia Gadelha and Carla Esparza have yet to even be mentioned. Strawweight is rife with names at the moment, which is a problem the UFC should absolutely adore.
In fact, maybe this is a call for a flyweight division. With Gadelha unlikely to get a third shot at Jedrzejczyk, Joanne Calderwood, Valerie Letourneau, Bec Rawlings, and others primed for the weight class, it feels like the perfect time to make it. It certainly wouldn’t hurt the depth of strawweight nearly as much as some seem to think.