Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino (Scott Hirano/Invicta FC)

What’s Next for the UFC Women’s Featherweight Division?

Germaine de Randamie is the first-ever UFC women’s featherweight champion. So… now what?

The inaugural women’s featherweight title fight between de Randamie and Holly Holm at UFC 208 last weekend didn’t end without its share of controversy. At the end of the second and third rounds, de Randamie landed clearly illegal strikes to Holm after the horn sounded, with one of those strikes visibly rocking Holm. However, the referee declined to take a point away or to disqualify de Randamie.

De Randamie was awarded the title via unanimous decision, but it didn’t take long for the calls of a rematch to begin ringing out, including from Holm herself after the fight. But then her management team came out this week and expressed some skepticism about a rematch with de Randamie:


Creating a new division was a really good idea for the UFC, wasn’t it?

Besides the drama between de Randamie and Holm, the new 145-pound women’s division in the UFC just doesn’t have any other fighters in it right now. It currently doesn’t have any rankings to speak of on the UFC’s website. It’s likely this division was created with the idea to showcase Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, the Invicta FC featherweight champion who has competed in a couple of 140-pound catchweight bouts in the UFC but typically fights at featherweight.

But then Justino had to go and possibly violate the UFC’s anti-doping policy, which likely resulted in the current mess the UFC finds itself in with its newest division and champion.

It doesn’t help that de Randamie has been sending mixed messages to the public following her victory. She alluded to needing surgery on her hand in her post-fight interview and then seemed open to the idea of facing Cyborg before turning around and offering Holm a rematch this week on social media. So, which is it for the new champion? Surgery? Cyborg? The Holm rematch?

Let’s dispel the notion, right off the bat, of Holm receiving a rematch. If the referee took a point away from de Randamie for illegal strikes during last weekend’s fight, the fight would have been scored a draw and we still wouldn’t have a women’s featherweight champion. As it was, no points were taken away and the record books show that Holm lost. It was her third straight defeat, so she should be nowhere near a title fight in any weight class right now.

If de Randamie decides to take time off for surgery, let’s hope and pray to the MMA Gods above that the UFC does not introduce yet another interim title. It would automatically devalue the worth of the new featherweight title before it even has a chance to be defended. Furthermore, if Holm is the recipient of an interim title shot while on a three-fight skid, then the UFC women’s featherweight title doesn’t have any credibility whatsoever.

Let’s say de Randamie puts her planned surgery on the backburner and Cyborg has to address her possible anti-doping violation. Who should the UFC pick to face “The Iron Lady” next for the featherweight title? Here are a few suggestions of contenders who would make a good addition to the UFC’s newest division:

Megan Anderson: She recently became the Invicta FC interim (there’s that word again!) featherweight champion while Cyborg pursues fights in the UFC. Anderson is a hard puncher who has won her last four fights by knockout and has been clamoring on Twitter for a shot at both Justino and whomever the UFC women’s featherweight champion was going to be. Anderson’s height, range and punching power would make her a difficult match-up for anyone.

Cat Zingano: I realize it’s somewhat hypocritical to make the case for Zingano, who’s lost two fights in a row, while dispelling any notion of Holm receiving a title rematch after suffering three consecutive losses. However, Zingano is in a bit of a no man’s land at bantamweight. Her recent losses included a 14-second submission to then-champion Ronda Rousey, and she just seems unlikely to climb back into bantamweight title contention anytime soon. Moving up in weight might give Zingano a clearer path to a title shot, and her Muay Thai skills present some intriguing match-up possibilities with other featherweights, most notably de Randamie.

Raquel Pennington: While she is coming off an impressive victory over Miesha Tate at UFC 205 last year and has won four fights in a row overall, “Rocky” also doesn’t look any closer to getting a bantamweight title shot with an overall record of 9-5. But she’s fought some of the toughest and most well-known female fighters around, and her preference for closing the distance and making her fights get down and dirty could take fighters who like to rely on precision striking — like de Randamie — to her limit.

There’s no doubt that the UFC’s newest division has gotten off to a rocky start. But it’s not too late to get things back on solid footing.