It’s a new year, so Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of MMA in 2018. Throughout the next few weeks, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
In what was certainly a runaway, Amanda Nunes was hands down the Combat Press 2018 “Female Fighter of the Year.”
Entering 2018 as the UFC women’s bantamweight champion after ending Ronda Rousey’s career in 2016 for the title and keeping the belt with a win over Valentina Shevchenko in 2017, Nunes was already cemented as the best 135-pounder in the world. The year 2018 not only served to further prove this claim, but also provided her with the opportunity to become the best 145-pound fighter in the world.
Nunes started off her 2018 campaign with a successful title defense over the criminally underrated Raquel Pennington. The durable Pennington was no match for Nunes, who secured the win via ground-and-pound strikes in the fifth round.
Nunes was then booked for the biggest fight of her life — yes, even bigger than the Rousey fight — in what was billed as a year-end superfight. She was pitted against female GOAT Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino to co-headline the year-end UFC 232 card. While Nunes had proven herself a world-beater, many gave her little chance over a terminator like Cyborg.
Pundits, experts and fans were forced to eat their hats, and quite quickly. In just 51 seconds, Nunes transformed Cyborg from unstoppable machine into human. Nunes did it with such ease, landing massive sledgehammers in a striking exchange with Cyborg that left the now-former featherweight champion in a haze.
For many in the MMA world, this win cements Nunes as the new GOAT of women’s MMA, although some still consider Cyborg the GOAT based on her full body of work. Regardless of this debate, the victory not only made Nunes the certified baddest woman on the planet, but it helped her walk away as the 2018 “Female Fighter of the Year.”
Lord knows what the New Year will bring for Nunes, but many fans and experts think an immediate rematch with Cyborg is definitely warranted. Other options on the table for the Brazilian include the winner of the fight between Holly Holm and Aspen Ladd, on-the-mend undefeated Brazilian Ketlen Vieira, an unknown featherweight challenger for her newly acquired championship, or even a superfight with the aforementioned Shevchenko, who now reigns as the UFC women’s flyweight champion.
Other finalists: Valentina Shevchenko, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, Tatiana Suarez
Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2018 MMA Award winners.