1. Miesha Tate (18-5)Tate came up short in her first bid for UFC gold but did not allow her second chance to go to waste. At UFC 196, “Cupcake” pulled off a fifth-round upset submission of Holly Holm to become the top female bantamweight in MMA. Tate, who has now won five in a row, will likely defend her belt for the first time against old nemesis Ronda Rousey, who is expected to return sometime in 2016.
2. Holly Holm (10-1)Less than four months after Holm shocked the world by knocking out Ronda Rousey, “The Preacher’s Daughter” found herself on the receiving end of an upset in the co-main event of UFC 196. Holm fought a measured and technical fight against Miesha Tate but let her guard down in the fifth round and paid the price when she was put to sleep by a rear-naked choke.
3. Ronda Rousey (12-1)Rousey was on the receiving end of a Holly Holm head kick knockout that was equal parts brutal and stunning at UFC 193 on Nov. 14. The first defeat of the decorated judoka’s MMA career came before a record-setting crowd in Melbourne, Australia, and cost her the UFC women’s bantamweight title, shattering her aura of invincibility. Rousey is expected to return in 2016.
4. Amanda Nunes (12-4)Nunes continued her march toward a UFC title shot on March 5, when she wiped out prospect Valentina Shevchenko in a largely one-sided unanimous decision. The win was the third in a row for the Brazilian “Lioness,” who went a full three rounds for the first time in six Octagon appearances.
5. Alexis Davis (17-6)Eight years after their first meeting and three years after their second, Davis finally got revenge on old rival Sarah Kaufman with a second-round armbar at UFC 186. The bout was Davis’ first appearance since being punched out in 16 seconds by reigning bantamweight queen Ronda Rousey in July 2014, and the victory brings her UFC record to 4-1. The Canadian has since announced she was pregnant and taking an indefinite leave from the MMA scene.
6. Valentina Shevchenko (12-2)After bursting onto the scene with a win over tough vet Sarah Kaufman, “Bullet” had her upward trajectory halted at UFC 196. The 28-year-old Kyrgyzstan native was overwhelmed and out-grappled by rising contender Amanda Nunes, dropping a unanimous decision after three rounds.
7. Sara McMann (8-3)McMann had surprisingly little to offer Amanda Nunes, as the Olympic wrestler succumbed to a first-round rear-naked choke from the “Lioness” in their brief Aug. 8 encounter. It was the first submission loss in 11 pro fights for McMann, who finds herself on the first losing streak of her career after back-to-back defeats at the hands of Nunes and Miesha Tate.
8. Tonya Evinger (16-5)Nine years into her career, Evinger has finally found a home on the big stage. The 34-year-old Missouri native captured the vacant Invicta bantamweight title on June 9 with a four-round beatdown of Mexican upstart Irene Aldana and then defended the belt on Sept. 12 with a quicker battering of Pannie Kianzad. Evinger will enter her next title defense riding a career-high eight-fight winning streak.
9. Julianna Pena (7-2)Sidelined with injuries for a year after winning the 18th season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Pena has returned in fine form to pick up a pair of victories in 2015. The 26-year-old collected her biggest win to date at UFC 192, where Pena outmuscled Jessica Eye on the ground to take a unanimous decision and improve to 3-0 inside the Octagon.
10. Liz Carmouche (10-5)Carmouche got back in the win column with a contentious decision over Lauren Murphy in April 2015, though the Strikeforce veteran has not competed since that bout. “Girl-rilla” had been outpointed in her previous two outings against contenders Miesha Tate and Alexis Davis.
Other Contenders: Ashlee Evans-Smith, Jessica Eye, Sarah Kaufman, Raquel Pennington, Marion Reneau.
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