For the most part of 2015, most eyes were on Ronda Rousey.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk grabbed some of the spotlight, with the remainder going to Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino. The bulk of the WMMA world was championed by three ladies.
What about the rest? And who can we expect to keep the WMMA momentum going in 2016?
Let’s take a look at 10 fighters to watch for in 2016.
10 – GABRIELLE GARCIA (1-0-0)
Gabrielle Garcia currently is fighting with the Rizin Fighting Federation. She is a 10-time World BJJ Champion, and a 6-foot-2, 217 pound heavyweight. She fought in December and secured a spinning backlist TKO finish. Her striking needs work, so becoming well-rounded should be the name of the game for her this year.
Did I mention she’s 6-foot-2 and 217 pounds?
She’s 19-years-old and currently fights for Invicta FC and coming off a tough loss to Roxanne Modafferi, but needs to be taken seriously. Fighting in the flyweight division with a brown belt in Judo, she’s been competing since she was 15. A ton of potential and a ton of time to tap into that potential.
Karoline Kowalkiewicz Just made her UFC debut against Randa Markos and won. What’s interesting is Markos is currently ranked 9th in the UFC, and competed in TUF. For Karoline to come in and to take down someone already in the top-10 speaks only of the possible potential yet to come, especially with more experience.
When we talk about well-rounded, Andrea Lee is one of those fighters. From her Golden Gloves wins, to a 27-5-0 amateur record (combined Muay Thai, boxing MMA), she will cause problems for anyone. Currently with Invicta FC, she fights in the flyweight division and would be a good choice to help lead the way if the UFC were going to start a 125-pound women’s division.
Yet another fighter trying to lead the way to change Bellator MMA. Julia is currently riding a six-fight win streak and has losses only to Ronda Rousey and Amanda Nunes back in 2011. Fighting with a Muay Thai style, Budd does damage from a distance, but also has a submission game. When it comes to leading an organization, Budd has the experience and heat behind her to change anything. Having her on the team is a huge asset for Bellator.
Souza is a finishing machine. She holds the Invicta FC strawweight title and has seven submissions in her eight victories. Basically, don’t let her get a hold of a limb. When we think about the current UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, she struggled against Claudia Gadelha because of takedowns and grappling. Someone like Souza would give Joanna the same kind of challenge.
Currently the flyweight Champion for Invicta FC, she’s on a nine-fight win streak, including two title defences. She has wins over veterans of the sport such as Leslie Smith, Vanessa Porto, and Aisling Daly. She’s well-rounded, and if the UFC were thinking about starting a 125 division, Honchak’s name should be amongst the top to be the one to lead the way.
The Karate Hottie signed with the UFC, but is currently injured after a debut win over Angela Magna. She was the atomweight champion in Invicta previously. She is well-rounded with her karate stance, monstrous kicks, blue belt in BJJ, and speed. Recovering from a knee injury, she will mix up the strawweight division when she returns later this year.
To debut for the UFC, take on former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman who is ranked 9th and get the win is amazing. Her kickboxing record is 56-2, with 21 of those by KO. She has boxing experience, and as she showed in her UFC debut, she can grapple. Shevchenko is a major threat in the bantamweight division with her background which would give Holm a run for her money as well. A key point to mention, she also has a win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
1 – TALITA NOGUERIA (6-0-0)
She joined the Scott Coker’s Bellator team to help relaunch the women’s division. She was set up to fight Julia Budd, but due to a knee injury had to pull out. She is currently undefeated with four submissions and two TKOs. A 2011 BJJ Champion and Female Fighter of the Year at the Brazilian MMA Awards. She usually walks about at 160lbs, so she’s a featherweight. Nogueira will make noise where ever she fights.
For 2016, I will continue to bring names to light that should be brought forward, but haven’t found the right stage.
See you next time.