Ask any MMA fan what the sport’s best division is, and you’ll most likely hear one answer across the board: UFC’s lightweight division. And with the mouth-watering clash of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson set to finally happen, the return of one Conor McGregor, and a laundry list of world class talent, it’s not hard to see why. Featherweight and Welterweight also get their fair share of praise, however for me, there’s a division I feel doesn’t get the attention and buzz it deserves: Strawweight. Women’s Bantamweight and Flyweight are relatively shallow rn, (mostly due to the sheer dominance of their respective champions). Strawweight however offers many potential stylistically interesting, and fan-friendly matchups that I personally have my eye on heading into 2020.
Strawweight kept us on our toes throughout 2019, with fan favourite Rose Namajunes’ championship reign coming to a brutal conclusion in the form of a slam from one Jessica Andrade at UFC 237. While many expected Andrade to bulldoze through the division in a similar fashion, Andrade’s first title defence in August saw her lose her gold in 42 seconds to the lesser-known underdog Zhang Weili; a victory that very few saw coming (although I did think Zhang Weili was special after her victory over Tecia Torres earlier in the year). This unpredictability keeps the division fresh and exciting, and it only continues as you go down the rankings.
Zhang Weili’s first title defence takes place 7th of March against Joanna Jedrzejczyk. The former champ Jedrzejczyk has a charisma and a killer-like mystique unlike anyone in any women’s division, and seems to have recaptured that recently with her impressive victory over Michelle Waterson; another talented, highly likeable figure in a division full of them. Just above Jedrzejczyk in the rankings however is the undefeated Tatiana Suarez. With Olympic level wrestling that has earned her the nickname, ‘The Female Khabib,’ and a touching story of overcoming cancer to make it to the UFC, Suarez, in my opinion, has all the ingredients to potentially be one of the company’s next big female stars. Any pairing in the top 5 is a must-see matchup for sure, but even the lower ranks have something to offer. For Example, UFC 246 next month will see Jedrzejczyk’s former rival Claudia Gadelha face Alexa Grasso, the latter of whom recently lost a controversial split-decision to former champion Carla Esparza in one of the best women’s fights of 2019 .
With the impossible-to-dislike Rose Namajunes expected to return next year, dozens of hard to predict matchups taking shape, and several other downright likeable figures, the strawweight division is one of the UFC’s most consistently intriguing divisions, and one certainly not to be ignored.
Current Champion Zhang Weili, moments after upsetting Jessica Andrade.
Former champion and current number one contender, Joanna Jedrzejczyk.