1. Jessica Aguilar (19-4)The World Series of Fighting strawweight champion is not the only notable woman in the division outside the UFC, but her position is the most unique. Aguilar, who has not tasted defeat in more than four years, last defended her WSOF strap in November by winning a five-round unanimous decision over tough Brazilian Kalindra Faria and has been vocal about her desire to fight actively against the best women in the world. “Jag” might be the most accomplished woman in the division, but heading in 2015, the UFC, not the WSOF, is the destination for the top 115-pounders in the world.
2. Carla Esparza (10-2)In 2010, a 22-year-old Esparza was fast-tracked for success at 115 pounds. Four years later, she validated her hype and promise, dominating Rose Namajunas en route to a third-round submission in the final of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 20 to become the first-ever UFC women's strawweight champion. However, “Cookie Monster” will have little time to enjoy the thrill of being the inaugural 115-pound champion, as her first defense in the 2015 figures to come against sharp-striking Polish contender Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
3. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (8-0)Few women if any had as impressive a 2014 campaign as Jedrzejczyk. The Arrachion MMA Olsztyn fighter earned dominant, eye-opening wins over Karla Benitez, Rosi Sexton and Juliana de Lima Carneiro to earn a crack against highly regarded, unbeaten Brazilian Claudia Gadelha. At UFC on Fox 13 in Phoenix, Jedrzejczyk went well beyond giving Gadelha “a fight,” dropping her late in the first round and winning a contentious split decision that figures to give the Polish fighter a crack at new champion Carla Esparza in 2015.
4. Claudia Gadelha (12-1)The 26-year-old Gadelha missed out on “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 20, as she felt she could not make the 115-pound limit several times in a few short weeks. However, many still pegged the Brazilian dynamo as the best strawweight in the world, given the benefit of a full training camp. That idea met stern opposition at UFC on Fox 13 in Phoenix, where Gadelha was upended in a razor-thin split decision loss to unbeaten Polish prospect Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
5. Joanne Calderwood (9-0)Calderwood was submitted by Rose Namajunas in the semifinals of “The Ultimate Fighter 20,” but the loss has done little to dampen the enthusiasm around the 27-year-old Scottish striking savant. “Bad Mofo Jojo” ably strutted her stuff in her official Octagon debut, dominating rugged Deep Jewels atomweight champion Seo Hee Ham with her standup and showing off the fighting style that will make her a quick favorite in the UFC's embryonic 115-pound class.
6. Katja Kankaanpaa (10-1-1)One of the unsung stalwarts in the 115-pound division, Kankaanpaa proved her elite status at Invicta Fighting Championships 8 in September with her thrilling fifth-round comeback against Stephanie Eggink, earning the promotion’s vacant title with a brabo choke. Given the working relationship between Invicta and the UFC, it is hard to imagine the Finnish grinder will not find her way to the Octagon in the near future.
7. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (6-0)In her first fight outside her native Poland, the 29-year-old Kowalkiewicz was sensational, using her slick, technical game to take a split decision over Japanese standout Mizuki Inoue. More importantly, the win should set up Kowalkiewicz for an even more serious clash with Invicta strawweight champion Katja Kankaanpaa in 2015 -- a fight that could potentially advance the victor to the UFC.
8. Tecia Torres (5-0)Following her stint on “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 20, “The Tiny Tornado” showed off her trademark style in her UFC debut, cruising past castmate Angela Magana with her ceaseless pressure and combination punching. Despite her 7-0 amateur mark and 5-0 pro mark, the American Top Team fighter is just 25 years old and still has considerable untapped physical potential that should make her a real player in the 115-pound division in the future.
9. Mizuki Inoue (8-3)It was a tough year for 20-year-old prodigy Inoue. She missed weight for her February bout with Emi Tomimatsu and was disqualified for the infraction despite winning the fight handily. After redeeming herself with an armbar submission of Tomimatsu in August, Inoue returned to Invicta against steep opposition, ultimately losing a split decision to unbeaten Karolina Kowalkiewicz. The crafty karateka has nothing but time, though; she does not turn 21 until August.
10. Kalindra Faria (15-4-1)Brazilian hitter Faria earned her spot in the division the old-fashioned way. She finally got a big fight in November, meeting WSOF strawweight champion Jessica Aguilar. However, Faria could not hang with the superior grappling of “Jag” and lost a unanimous decision that snapped her three-year, 11-fight unbeaten streak. Fortunately for Faria, there has never been a better time to be a strawweight, never mind an aggressive, exciting one.
Other Contenders: Stephanie Eggink, Felice Herrig, Rose Namajunas, Jessica Penne, Livia Renata Souza.