Current Champion: Amanda Nunes
A Short History of the UFC Women’s Featherweight Division
The UFC Women’s Featherweight Division (145 lbs) was introduced in February 2017, with the division’s inaugural title fight taking place at UFC 208. Due to a lack of female fighters active at 145 lbs, Women’s Featherweight fights are a rarity and the division’s future is constantly up in the air.
The first UFC Women’s Featherweight champion was kickboxing sensation Germaine de Randamie, who beat Holly Holm at UFC 208 over five rounds. De Randamie failed to mount a defence and was stripped by the UFC just four months later after refusing to fight Cris Cyborg.
Cyborg was given a title shot against Invicta FC Bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger at UFC 214. Cyborg dominated the fight and eventually finished a wilting Evinger via knees in the third round.
After seeing off challenges from Holly Holm and Yana Kunitskaya, the UFC struggled to find viable opponents at Featherweight until Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes came up a weight class to challenge Cyborg at UFC 232.
Over a brief but ferocious fight, Nunes repeatedly stunned Cyborg before sending her face-first into the canvas, becoming the first female two-weight champion in UFC history. Nunes has defended her belt twice with victories over Felicia Spencer and Megan Anderson.
Current champion Amanda Nunes does not have a title defence lined up at Featherweight thus far. UFC President Dana White has repeatedly expressed uncertainty about the future of the division, with so few female martial artists able to compete at 145 lbs.
Complete History of the UFC Women’s Featherweight Division
A 145 lb female division
The UFC had two female weight classes – Strawweight and Bantamweight – by the time it added a Featherweight division in early 2017. The UFC would also introduce a fourth female division, Flyweight, later in 2017.
The first female Featherweight bout in the UFC was the inaugural title fight between Germaine de Randamie and former Bantamweight champion Holly Holm, which took the headline spot at UFC 208.
With both fighters boasting an elite kickboxing pedigree, the fight mostly played out on the feet. Despite Holm pushing the pace in the championship rounds, De Randamie edged the fight and was crowned the first UFC Women’s Featherweight champion.
The fight is remembered for two illegal after-the-buzzer shots landed by de Randamie at the ends of Rounds 2 and 3, both of which went unpunished. Given the narrow 48-47 scorecards in favor of de Randamie, many felt a point deduction should have been applied.
Cris Cyborg takes over
Brazilian fighter Cris Cyborg had dominated both the Invicta FC and Strikeforce Featherweight divisions, accumulating a 15-1 (1 NC) record before signing with the UFC. A frightening knockout artist, 13 of Cyborg’s 15 wins had come by KO and she was considered a cut above everyone in her weight class.
As a UFC Women’s Featherweight Division didn’t exist when Cyborg joined, her first two fights in the UFC were 140 lb catchweight bouts against Leslie Smith and Lina Lansberg, with Cyborg winning both via knockout.
The inaugural Featherweight title fight was clearly earmarked for Cyborg. However, a doping violation in December 2016 forced Cyborg out of a planned title fight, with Germaine de Randamie and Holly Holm instead fighting for the belt.
Cyborg was later granted a therapeutic exemption and her doping violation was rescinded, freeing her up to face newly-crowned champion de Randamie. But de Randamie refused to defend her belt against Cyborg, stating that she would not fight a “proven cheater”.
She was referring to a 2011 doping violation when Cyborg was the Strikeforce Featherweight champion. Many claimed de Randamie was throwing up excuses to avoid fighting the most feared female fighter in the sport.
After much controversy and back-and-forth, de Randamie was stripped and the UFC set up a fight between Cyborg and Megan Anderson for the vacant belt. However, a month before UFC 214, Anderson pulled out of the fight and was replaced by Invicta FC Bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger.
Cyborg outclassed Evinger, who endured a vicious beating and finally succumbed to strikes in Round 3. Former Bantamweight champion Holly Holm stepped up next to face Cyborg at UFC 219. The fight was closer than many expected, although Cyborg walked away with a unanimous decision victory to retain the title.
Her next defence came against +800 underdog Yana Kunitskaya, who was making her debut in the UFC. Cyborg blitzed Kunitskaya on the feet and secured a first-round knockout victory, taking her professional record to 20-1 (1 NC).
The first female two-weight champion
Featherweight champion Cris Cyborg had faced very little adversity over her two years in the promotion. Next up was an explosive match-up against Women’s Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes at UFC 232. Despite her dominance at Bantamweight (9-1 in the UFC), Nunes was a +210 underdog going into the fight.
After spending the second half of 2018 bulking up to 145 lbs, Nunes’ power was immediately evident as she repeatedly rocked Cyborg with heavy strikes. Nunes finished the fight with a devastating overhand right to knock Cyborg out cold and claim the belt.
In doing so, she became the third simultaneous two-weight champion in UFC history and the first woman to achieve the feat. Nunes is now almost universally considered the greatest female fighter of all time.
Nunes has defended her Featherweight title twice with convincing victories against Felicia Spencer and Megan Anderson. She dominated Spencer over five rounds at UFC 250 and eviscerated Anderson at UFC 259, ending the fight via triangle armbar in Round 1.
The future of the UFC Women’s Featherweight Division is unclear at the moment. Nunes has not revealed if she will defend her belt again, while UFC President Dana White recently stated he “doesn’t know” what will happen with the division in 2022.
UFC Women’s Featherweight Rankings
|Fighter||Pro Record||Last 5||Next fight|
|C||Amanda "The Lioness" Nunes||21-5||