1. Cristiane Justino (20-1)The carnage continues for “Cyborg” in the women’s featherweight division. With the UFC 222 card in need of a headliner and less than a month to prepare, the 32-year-old Brazilian stepped in to defend her title against former Invicta bantamweight queen Yana Kunitskaya. What transpired was something more resembling a sacrifice than athletic competition, as Justino rolled to a first-round TKO win against her overmatched Russian counterpart. A potential superfight against 135-pound titlist Amanda Nunes looms for Justino in the second half of 2018.
2. Julia Budd (11-2)In the first defense of her Bellator featherweight title, Budd replicated her October 2016 decision win over Arlene Blencowe in even slimmer fashion. After prevailing over “Angerfist” almost 14 months earlier via majority decision, Budd played the grinder for 25 minutes in their Dec. 1 rematch and took a debatable split decision. Unbeaten over the last six years, Budd will make her second title defense against undefeated Brazilian Talita Nogueira in the Bellator 202 headliner on July 13.
3. Arlene Blencowe (10-7)Three straight wins earned Blencowe a second crack at Julia Budd after losing a majority decision to “The Jewel” in October 2016. Her rematch with Budd came with the Bellator featherweight title on the line, but “Angerfist” lost a questionable split decision across 25 minutes on Dec. 1 and may struggle to get a third stab at Budd and second chance at the throne.
4. Germaine de Randamie (7-3)Ever since de Randamie defeated Holly Holm to claim the company’s inaugural women’s featherweight title at UFC 208 in February 2017, her career has been a bit messy. First, she was stripped of her title after refusing to face Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, whom she labelled a “steroid cheat.” When she announced her return to 135 pounds and was set to face Marion Reneau at UFC Fight Night 115 in her native Netherlands, a persistent right hand injury required surgery. She was then linked to a bout with undefeated prospect Ketlen Vieira in early 2018 before publicly stating she had never accepted the contest and would need more time to rehab her hand injury.
5. Holly Holm (12-4)Holm entered mixed martial arts known as a boxing world champion, but her skills have gradually evolved over the years. That was most evident at UFC 225, where the Jackson-Wink MMA representative outwrestled and outgrappled Octagon newcomer Megan Anderson in a relatively easy decision triumph. Not only did Holm end talks of Anderson as the next featherweight title challenger, but she set herself up for yet another high-profile bout down the road. Whether that comes at 135 or 145 pounds likely depends on the opportunities presented to the New Mexico native.
6. Megan Anderson (8-3)Any notion of Anderson as the next challenger for Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino went out the window at UFC 225. Despite possessing a size advantage, the 28-year-old Aussie was outwrestled and outgrappled by Holly Holm en route to a clear-cut unanimous decision loss. Holm was a significant step up in competition for Anderson, who had feasted on 145-pound opposition under the Invicta Fighting Championships banner. What comes next for Anderson is unclear, as the UFC women’s featherweight division is lacking for depth.
7. Talita Nogueira (7-0)Nogueira had her first bout in nearly four years at Bellator 182 in August, when she choked out Amanda Bell in the first round. That performance was impressive enough to warrant a shot at featherweight gold, as the 32-year-old Brazilian will lock horns with reigning champion Julia Budd in the Bellator 202 main event on July 13 in Thackerville, Oklahoma.
8. Charmaine Tweet (9-6)Tweet’s sensational spinning back fist knockout of the previously unbeaten Latoya Walker earned her a crack at the interim Invicta featherweight title in January 2017. However, in the main event of Invicta 21, the Saskatchewan, Canada, native was head kicked and knocked out by rising stalwart Megan Anderson. Tweet’s last three losses have come to divisional standouts Anderson, Cristiane Justino and Julia Budd.
9. Amanda Bell (5-5)Never afraid of a challenge -- her .500 record reflects as much -- Bell was eager to jump in the cage against undefeated Brazilian Talita Nogueira at Bellator 182 on Aug. 25, this after Gabrielle Holloway went down to injury. Unfortunately, Bell’s submission defense let her down, as “Treta” got the advantage on the floor and choked her out in the first round, breaking Bell’s bid for three wins in a row.
10. Gabrielle Holloway (6-5)Coming off of back-to-back losses to fellow ranked fighters Arlene Blencowe and Amanda Bell, Holloway’s March 2017 TKO stoppage of UFC veteran Alexis Dufresne gave her the breakout win of her career. Unfortunately, “The Gabanator” will have to wait to put some momentum together, as she was forced out of her slated Aug. 25 bout at Bellator 182 with Talita Nogueira due to an injury and replaced by the aforementioned Bell.
Other Contenders: Jozette Cotton, Cindy Dandois, Amber Leibrock, Reina Miura, Felicia Spencer.
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