Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Pena/Miesha Tate
“The Lioness” returned to the cage a few months removed from her phenomenal upset of former title contender Sara McMann late last year, to round up a hard earned decison win against multiple time Muay Thai champion Valentina Shevchenko. Amanda Nunes notched her third straight victory which is the second longest active streak in the division behind new champion Miesha Tate (5). This was also Nunes’ fifth victory inside the Octagon which is tied with Tate for the second most victories in the women’s Bantamweight division behind Ronda Rousey (6). Amanda has certainly proven to be a dark horse contender in the newly competitive division and has now bought a high placed stock atop the weight class in the championship picture. While one more high profile win can do the trick and cement her as a number one contender, it also wouldn’t be too surprising if she is awarded the opportunity against Miesha Tate for the Bantamweight title. Should the UFC opt for Nunes to face one more test, Julianna Pena makes for the perfect candidate. Pena too is looking for the opportunity to climb the ladder further and launch herself into the limelight of the title picture. Both women are ferocious competitors and this match-up would clearly decide which woman truly wants it more.
Corey Anderson vs. Jimi Manuwa
Anderson fought a competitive and closely judged bout with “Filthy” Tom Lawler and managed to sway the scorecards in his favor. Anderson has now won three bouts in a row and ties with Ilir Latifi in having the longest streak of any fighters not named Jon Jones, which goes to show just how competitive that division has been. Anderson continues to win and improve we are likely to see him facing the divisions elite someday. The next best thing for him at this point would most likely Jimi Manuwa. A very dangerous striker who would definitely test Corey’s offense both standing and in the wrestling department as very few men have succeeded in taking Manuwa to the mat.
Ilir Latifi vs. Francimar Borroso/Nikita Krylov winner
Ilir, like Anderson, has put together a terrific three fight winning streak. Two of them coming by opening minute knockouts. Latifi has room for improvement but is quickly becoming the talk of the town at Light Heavyweight, and with a few more noteworthy wins could see him take take the next step in competing against the upper echelon of his division. A bout between two competitive up and comers in Borroso and Krylov takes place in early may where the winner could provide Latifi for his next possible victim or equally as possible next huge test.
Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes / Holly Holm
Tate showed the world who she is when she became just the third woman to become champion in the UFC’s Bantamweight division. Tate showed the true intellect, heart, and spirit of a champion and made one of the biggest comebacks of the year against one of the most dangerous opponents shes ever faced in Holly Holm. Despite being down on the judges scorecards going into the fifth and final round, Tate never swayed from her gameplan, never lost focused, and more importantly never lost patience. Capitalizing on a takedown scramble that positioned Tate at the back of Holm, Tate went for broke and secured a conscience-deterrent rear naked choke to garner her the biggest win and highlight of her already decorated career. Now down to business as usual. Who is next for Miesha Tate? The UFC brass would have you believe former champ and rival Ronda Rousey would be next. It is not yet known however when Ronda will be ready to return or even if that happens as Rousey has declined to comment on her fighting career as of late. With that in mind, lets leave her out and discuss our insured options. Nunes could make a legitimate claim to a title shot, having won three straight, five altogether, and finishing four of those opponents. Holm could potentially get a rematch however if she decides to argue the fact that she was up on the scorecards en route to a judges decision has she survived the round. Really, either way you swing it, both match-ups are terrific, even more so as the division has never been more competitive and exciting since Rousey’s absence.
Nate Diaz vs. Eddie Alvarez
Diaz. Wow. Not much to say other than that. In a stunning bout that saw Nate prove a multitude of naysayers wrong, Diaz cemented himself in the history books for good as this will not be a bout that fight fans forget anytime soon. Back to back wins over top-10 ranked Michael Johnson and Featherweight champion Conor McGregor have Nate Diaz on a career high that we haven’t seen since before he fought for the Lightweight title 3 years ago. Many probably doubted we’d see Nate here again, but here we are. Hell, Nate could potentially be looking at a rematch with Dos Anjos after this past Saturday. Even crazier is the notion that he may face Robbie Lawler for the Welterweight title according to Dana White. In either case, both fights seem like a stretch, though you wont hear me or Diaz complaining if he is granted either. However if he wants to continue a well-earned rise to glory a bout with top-5 Lightweight Eddie Alvarez would certainly test out just far along Nate has truly come as a fighter.