What was likely the toughest test for one of the UFC’s champions was passed with flying colors this weekend at UFC 239.
If I write a sentence like that, it’s a safe bet most people will think I’m referring to UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. While he had a very tough test Saturday night against Thiago Santos that he also passed, the fight itself was a letdown and Jones was very close to being on the wrong end of a massive upset. The ace performance on Saturday night actually belonged to the champion who fought in the co-main event; UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes.
Nunes successfully defended her title against Holly Holm, who many picked to become champion again and who others thought would be the toughest test Nunes encountered to date as champion. It wasn’t just that Nunes kept her title, it was the way she did it – with a devastating head kick that led to a first-round TKO finish. The fact it was the first time Holm was finished in the first round in her career also adds to how impressive Nunes’ accomplishment actually was.
Her victory over Holm means that Nunes has effectively cleaned out the UFC women’s bantamweight division. The next UFC card on Saturday, July 13, features a main event of Aspen Ladd and former UFC featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie. The winner of that bout would have a case for being the next bantamweight title contender, but let’s be honest. Would anyone think either Ladd or de Randamie have even a miniscule chance of dethroning Nunes? Especially after Nunes already finished de Randamie in the first round when the two previously met in 2013?
Nunes also joins UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier as the only UFC fighter to defend a title while being a double champion. Nunes is also the UFC featherweight champion after knocking out former champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino in just under a minute late last year and ending Cyborg’s 13-year undefeated streak.
These accomplishments alone make Nunes the undisputed greatest female MMA fighter of all time, and she absolutely belongs in the discussion of the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world as well, regardless of weight class or gender.
If that isn’t enough of a convincing argument about why Nunes has nothing left to prove as a fighter, here is a list of current and former champions defeated by Nunes, mostly by knockout or submission: Cyborg, Holm, de Randamie, Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Valentina Shevchenko and Julia Budd. All of these fighters are or were titleholders, and the fact Shevchenko is the only one on that list who wasn’t finished by Nunes is extraordinary.
Just as there are no viable contenders for Nunes at bantamweight, there are virtually no viable contenders for her at featherweight, either. There was discussion for quite some time of giving Cyborg a rematch with Nunes for the belt, and Nunes herself is open to the idea. But Cyborg is fighting former Invicta FC featherweight champion Felicia Spencer at UFC 240 later this month, in what will likely be little more than a tune-up fight for Cyborg against an overmatched opponent.
If Cyborg defeats Spencer, then a rematch with Nunes will likely be booked. Nunes previously alluded to considering retirement after defending her bantamweight title against Holm and giving Cyborg a rematch for the featherweight title. While Nunes, like any other fighter, deserves the opportunity to fight for as long as he/she wants, all athletes dream of going out while he/she is still the best in his/her sport.
Nunes defeated two fighters who were previously thought unbeatable in Rousey and Cyborg. She won her first title in the main event of the UFC’s landmark 200th pay-per-view card, and she has beaten the who’s-who of women’s MMA. In my book, Nunes has nothing left to prove and could leave MMA as the best female fighter there’s ever been.