MMA fighting opened its doors for female fighters in 2013, and with it came the rise of female UFC champions left and right from around the globe. Despite being relatively new to the field, it has undoubtedly made a legion of elite female UFC champions out there.
Many notable people on this list have become household names and for a good reason. Apart from their legendary contributions in the ring, these fighters have also fought their way to the top to become the winners they have always aspired to be. Take a look at some of the best women in MMA below.
30. Meisha Tate
Former UFC bantamweight champion, Meisha Tate is a tough fighter in the ring. Known for her grappling ability, she is excellent on the floor, and uses that against her opponents.
She was the first fighter to escape Ronda Rousey’s noteworthy armbar on several occasions. Ronda even once described her as “much more savvy on the ground as I anticipated.”
Now retired, she will always be remembered as a legend and for her unique fighting skills and stamina on the ground.
29. Nicco Montano
Nicco Montano is an MMA fighter who competes in the UFC flyweight championship. She joined the UFC from the King of the Cage Championship, where she emerged as the winner.
In 2017, she won the UFC women’s flyweight title by defeating Roxanne Modafferi via a unanimous decision.
In 2018, she was forced to withdraw from her title defense at UFC 228 because of weight cut problems.
28. Carla Esparza
Carla Esparza, the first-ever women’s UFC strawweight champion, is considered one of the best fighters to have stepped foot in the championship. She is ranked #4 best in the UFC women’s strawweight rankings and #13 in the women’s pound-for-pound ranking.
These rankings are dated as recent as January 2021. With a total of 17 professional wins on her record, she is known for her great wrestling skills and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
She also earned the UFC Fight of the Night award for her fight against Alexa Grasso.
27. Juliana Pena
Another woman’s “first-ever” champion, Julianna Penna is the first woman to snag the title ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’
Although troubled with injuries and breaks throughout her career, she has won her fair share of great and upsetting games. She has defeated great fighters such as Cat Zingano and Nicco Montano.
In all, Julianna Pena is a worthy fighter and ranks #6 in the UFC women’s bantamweight rankings as of February 2021.
26. Tecia Torres
Double T or “Tiny Tornado” as she is usually called is not so tiny in the ring. In fact, as of December 2020 ranking, she is now ranked #9 in the UFC strawweight division.
Her fighting skills are a combination of taekwondo and effective kicks. She once held the title of The Performance of the Night among other awardees such as Jessica Andrade and Ronda Rousey.
Since 2011, she has proven herself among the top fighters with her unique skill and fighting style. Of her MMA record, she has had a total of 12 wins and 5 losses by decision.
25. Michelle Waterson
Being the number one atomweight fighter in the world from 2013 – 2014 is no joke. Now fighting in the UFC women’s strawweight division, her black belt in karate has proven to be useful, giving her the nickname, the “Karate Hottie”.
Michelle Waterson is currently ranked #8 in the women’s strawweight rankings.
She has also won awards like the Performance of the Night award and the Fighter of the Night award against Angela Hill.
24. Raquel Pennington
Raquel Pennington is the only fighter to be tied with champion Amanda Nunes for most fights in UFC women’s bantamweight division history.
She has also gained the Fight of the Night honors against Jessamyn Duke and won the Performance of the Night one time in a fierce battle with Jessica Andrade.
Her fighting style is boxing and she has been an active name in MMA since 2009. She is also the fourth fighter in the whole UFC history to finish a fight with a bulldog choke. That awful finish was given to Ashlee Evans-Smith at UFC 181 in 2014.
23. Cat Zingano
Cat Zingano was the first woman to win a UFC fight by technical knockout (TKO). Yeah, she led the way for other greats. Although she left the UFC, she was ranked as the #7 in the UFC bantamweight rankings before she left.
Another award from the UFC given to this skilled brown belt fighter is the Fight of the Night award which she held one time, alongside Meisha Tate, and was the first to win that as well.
She has also won other championships outside the UFC including the Ring of Fire Flyweight and Bantamweight champion.
22. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Karolina is a Polish MMA artist fighting in the UFC strawweight championship division. Before joining the UFC, she was the KSW women’s flyweight champion.
‘The Polish Princess’ as she’s called, uses her skills in krav maga and muay thai, in her fights, and is known to defeat Randa Markos on her first debut. She also defeated Rose Namajunas at the UFC 201 in 2016.
She has been awarded the Fight of the Night award in the UFC as well as Invicta Fighting Championships.
21. Claudia Gadelha
Brazilian fighter, Claudia Gadelha is one to mention as she won the first women’s strawweight fight in history. She is known for her Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, having a black belt, and has won over 15 championships under BJJ.
She has also won the UFC Fight of the Night award twice against Jessica Andrade and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
To add, her fighting skills awarded her the Performance of the Night award against Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
20. Irene Aldana
Of course, the 4th ranked UFC women’s bantamweight division fighter would be mentioned. The 5-foot 9-inch Mexican fighter is a two-time awardee of the Fight of the Night award against Leslie Smith and Lucie Pudilova.
She has the second-best takedown defense in UFC history with a rate of 93.5%. She has also been awarded in the Invicta Fighting Championships for the Performance of the Night award three times.
19. Jessica Eye
Jessica Eye is known to be one of the best strikers in the women’s UFC flyweight division. She is also the #8 in the flyweight division rankings as of January 2021.
She is fast, agile, and knows how to use different sets of skills to her advantage.
Although she has not won a UFC title yet, she is an undefeated NAAFS amateur women’s champion. She is also a Ring of Combat women’s champion.
18. Randa Markos
The ‘Quiet Storm’ as she is called, is a name you hear in the UFC women’s strawweight division. Randa won the Performance of the Night award in 2019 in a remarkable fight.
She defeated Angela Hill in the first round by an armbar submission. She is also tied with the same Angela Hill for the most fights in the UFC strawweight division.
She has also been awarded the Fight of the Night award one time when she fought against Jessica Penne.
17. Bethe Correia
An excellent tough puncher, Bethe Correia is known to use boxing and cutting off the edge against her opponents. A particular fight where her fighting style was evident was against Jessamyn Duke.
Although Correia had a reach disadvantage, her quick punches closed the gap and forced Duke towards the cage where Correia got her at the right spot. She won the fight in 2014 by unanimous decision.
Now retired, she delighted us when she competed against other champions in the UFC bantamweight division. Of her professional MMA fights, she has won a total of 11 and lost only 6.
16. Joanne Calderwood
Joanne Calderwood is the #6th ranked fighter in the UFC flyweight division as of January 2021. She is Scotland’s first professional female MMA fighter and brings honor to her country.
She uses muay thai in fighting and also has a kickboxing record. Of 20 professional matches, she has won 15 defeating the likes of Jessica Eye, Courtney Casey, and Ariane Lipski.
She has been awarded the UFC Fight of the Night award against Courtney Casey among other press awards and kickboxing awards.
15. Alexa Grasso
Mexican Alexa Grasso is another fierce boxer in the UFC women’s flyweight division. As of February 2021, she is ranked #10th. Her boxing skills have won her several fights. A few of her defeated opponents include Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Randa Markos.
Of 16 professional matches, she has lost only 3. She has also been awarded the Fight of the Night award with Carla Esparza in 2019, although she lost that fight.
She has the second most significant strikes thrown in a fight, which is 369 against Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
14. Sijara Eubanks
Sijara Eubanks is a professional MMA fighter in the UFC bantamweight division. She is ranked #13 in this division as of February 2021.
Her fighting style is Brazilian Jiu-jitsu of which she wears a black belt. She has won gold, silver, and bronze awards in the World Jiu-jitsu Championship, so her skills there are no joke. Of her total professional games, it comes at a tie of 6 wins and 6 losses.
She has also been awarded the Fight of the Night award once when she fought Aspen Ladd, even though she was not victorious in that fight.
13. Karol Rosa
Following Sijara Eubanks in the UFC women’s bantamweight rankings as #14 is Karol Rosa, who has a successful UFC career so far for her age.
Of 17 professional fights, she has lost just three. Of her wins, she has defeated prominent UFC bantamweight fighter, Jessica Andrade! Yeah, of Jessica’s few defeats, the 26-year old is among the list.
Her debut in the UFC was against Lara Procopio at the UFC Fight Night: Andrade vs Zhang, which she won by split decision.
12. Sarah Kaufman
Sarah Kaufman, although not famous for the UFC, she is the Invicta FC champion. She is more like the Amanda Nunes of Invicta FC.
She is the first Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion. But that is not the only “first” she has gathered. She is also the first and only HCF women’s bantamweight champion.
She employs Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (a black belt wearer) and kickboxing for her fighting style. Of her 27 matches in her MMA record, she has won 21 fights. She is ranked number #8 pound-for-pound female MMA fighter in the world.
11. Jessica Penne
Jessica Penne was the first-ever Invicta FC atomweight champion. Now fighting in the UFC women’s strawweight division, she applies her black belt skills into her fights to give her an advantage.
Of her 17 professional MMA matches, she has won 12 fights, 7 of which were by submission. She has been awarded the UFC Fight of the Night award twice alongside other accomplishments in the Invicta FC and Women’s MMA awards.
She also became the first Bellator FC champion at Bellator 5.
10. Germaine de Randamie
Called “The Iron Lady,” Germaine de Randamie proves that she is a winner through and through. As a matter of fact, she was crowned as the first-ever UFC Women’s Featherweight Champion in 2013 and is now the current number one holder of the UFC Women’s Bantamweight division.
De Randamie made her debut on July 27, 2013, where she fought against Julie Kedzie. Kedzie was drawn very much into the game, especially with de Randamie constantly for her knees, leading de Randamie to win the fight via a split decision.
Other notable fights under her belt include winning in UFC 185 during the second round, at UFC Fight Night 139 via unanimous decision, and just in 2020, versus Julianna Pena via a submission win, the very first win of its kind in her career.
9. Jessica Andrade
A Brazilian national, Jessica Andrade takes pride in holding the UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion title, taking it from Rose Namajunas during UFC 237. She also holds the number one ranking in the women’s flyweight rankings and is fifth place in pound-for-pound rankings.
While Namajunas proved to be a worthy opponent against Andrade, especially with her equally powerful slew of punches, Andrade slammed onto Namajunas, quickly knocking her out.
Despite her young age, Andrade has secured some of the most coveted titles in UFC history, including having engaged in the most fights and winning Performance of the Night and Fight of the Night four times each.
8. Holly Holm
Then underdog Holly Holm won her fight with Ronda Rousey in that fateful UFC 193, shocking everyone to secure the bantamweight title, and solidifying her prowess in the ring.
Besides putting a nail in Rousey’s career, Holm was also awarded Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night awards, becoming the first person to secure awards in MMA and boxing.
Today, her fighting style is very much in sync with boxing, with Holm showing love for punches and combos to take out her opponents.
7. Zhang Weili
Zhang Weili left a strong impression on the crowd when she fought against Jessica Andrade. Weili secured a technical knockout against the then-defending Strawweight Champion, Andrade, making her the new titleholder in just the first round.
Apart from winning the much-coveted title for the said division, Zhang also secured a Performance of the Night award thanks to her masterful showmanship in that fight against Andrade.
Zhang also successfully defended her title against Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248 after putting up a fight for 25 minutes. Jedrzejczyk sustained massive injuries to her forehead, sending her to the hospital later on. The same fight also earned Zhang her first Fight of the Night and Fight of the Year awards.
6. Rose Namajunas
Perhaps one of the most versatile female UFC fighters out there, Rose Namajunas, proves that she is a ‘Thug’ through and through by toughing it out in the ring. She is currently ranked number one in the UFC Women’s Strawweight division after defeating Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the title in UFC 217.
Despite facing the crowd favorite, Namajunas never faltered even though she was the underdog, winning the fight by a knockout in the first round. The same fight earned her another Performance of the Night award under her belt and the first KO in the whole of her career.
Namajunas went on to defend her title against Jedrzejczyk, where she won. While losing to Jessica Andrade at UFC 237, she won the fight of the Night award for the same match. In the rematch against Andrade last July 2020, Namajunas won again and claimed the Fight of the Night award to boot.
5. Valentina Shevchenko
Touted as ‘The Bullet’, Valentina Shevchenko lives up to her name in the ring with her equally fast moves. At present, Shevchenko holds the title for the UFC Women’s Flyweight division and remains active in the same division. She also holds the second rank in the pound-for-pound division.
Shevchenko attained the championship belt for the UFC omen’s flyweight division by defeating Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231. Before this, the Russian female fighter had already defeated Jedrzejczyk in muay thai fights three times.
The Bullet’s notable fights include winning against Holly Holm in 2016 and when she faced Jessica Eye in UFC 238 in 2019 and defended her title with a kick to the head. Her phenomenal act proved her worthy of her nickname and a Performance of the Night award to go with it.
4. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
This Polish female UFC female fighter is renowned in the industry, especially after having competed in two divisions: the strawweight and flyweight divisions. She defeated both Juliana Lima and Claudia Gadelha in the same year.
Jedrzejczyk went up against Carla Esparza in UFC 185 for the UFC Strawweight Championship, defeating Esparza via technical knockout in just the second round. Her win allowed her to secure the belt as the first Polish UFC title-holder and the first female one from Europe.
Throughout her career, Jedrzejczyk went on to successfully defend her title five times from 2015 to 2017, the last time against Jessica Andrade. To date, Joanna has secured the most significant strikes in the whole of the UFC championship history, the highest strike differentials, and the most leg fights.
3. Cris Cyborg
Cris Cyborg is one of the most formidable female fighters in the history of female UFC fighters. Throughout her early career, many of the fighters that went against her found it hard to defend themselves, including Lina Lansberg.
Cyborg only won her first UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship in 2017 as she went against Tonya Evinger. Cyborg continued to defend her title twice, first against Holly Holm and the second against Yana Kunitskaya, the latter of which Cyborg won in just the first round.
Although Cyborg attempted to defend her UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship title against Amanda Nunes, she failed to do so, experiencing her first knockout downfall throughout her foray into the MMA industry.
2. Ronda Rousey
Among these female UFC champions, it appears that Ronda Rousey is one of the most popular, if not the most well-known winners in this list. After all, she gained traction in the field after winning an Olympic bronze medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics for judo, the first-ever American to do so.
As UFC held its first female championship in 2013, Rousey quickly proved her MMA skills by defeating Liz Carmouche in the match with an armbar move, thereby being named the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion.
Rousey continued on a strong streak to defend her title six consecutive times until she lost to Holm. Apart from defending her titles six times, Rousey also won Performance of the Night four times, Fight of the Night two times, and a Submission of the Night award.
1. Amanda Nunes
Amanda Nunes is not called ‘The Lioness’ for nothing. As the reigning UFC Featherweight Champion and someone who holds UFC titles in two divisions (bantamweight and featherweight), she is considered the first of the female UFC champions to earn that prestigious accomplishment.
Nunes is touted as one of the greatest UFC fighters in the field, if not the greatest one. Apart from holding two titles at once, she is the only one to successfully do so both in the male and female divisions. She has also won Performance of the Night and was awarded the most wins in female UFC history.
Apart from this, she has also defeated the other greats in the industry, including Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, and Holly Holm. Holm was defeated in a matter of seconds at UFC 232, not only putting her at the top of her game but also listing her as the greatest female fighter in UFC history.
The Bottom Line
Since women were allowed to join the UFC back in 2013, they have come out swinging, performing incredible mixed martial arts skills to defeat their opponents with great spectacle.
These women are the top of their sport and have the skills and the knockouts to prove it.