Amanda Nunes looks as dominant as any champion in the sport.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight titleholder extended her run of consecutive victories to seven, as she put away a game but outmatched Raquel Pennington with elbows and punches in the fifth round of their UFC 224 main event on May 12 at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro. Beaten for the first time in more than three years, a battered and bloodied Pennington met her end 2:36 into Round 5.
Nunes was in complete control for most of the fight, slowly walking her latest challenger into a trap from which there was no escape. According to FightMetric data, the champion nearly doubled Pennington in terms of significant strikes, 124-64, answered a takedown with three of her own and outperformed “The Ultimate Fighter 18” semifinalist in the following categories: head strikes (72-49), body strikes (31-10), leg strikes (21-5), strikes from distance (96-56), clinch strikes (15-7) and ground strikes (13-1).
The decisive win against Pennington followed victories over Valentina Shevchenko (twice), Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Sara McMann and Shayna Baszler. Nunes casts quite a shadow over the 135-pound weight class, leading to calls for a superfight with UFC women’s featherweight champion Cristiane Justino.
Related » Sherdog Women's Divisional Rankings
1. Amanda Nunes (16-4)Nunes strengthened her stranglehold on the division at UFC 224, where she gradually wore down Raquel Pennington en route to a fifth-round technical knockout in the Rio de Janeiro headliner. “Lioness” has seven consecutive wins under her belt and could be set to make her next defense against Brazilian Ketlen Vieira if she remains in the division. However, a superfight against Cristiane Justino could also be a possibility somewhere down the line.
2. 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.
3. Rose Namajunas (8-3)Namajunas got the better of Joanna Jedrzejczyk in their rematch, outpointing her rival over the course of five hard-fought rounds in the UFC 223 headliner at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. What made the triumph more impressive than her first-round stoppage of Jedrzejczyk at UFC 217 in November was the fact that Namajunas had to overcome adversity against an opponent who was experienced in five-round affairs. A scary thought for the rest of the division: Namajunas only seems to be getting better.
4. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-2)Without a harrowing weight cut, Jedrzejczyk was a much-improved fighter in her rematch against Rose Namajunas in the UFC 223 co-main event. However, it was not enough to secure the victory, as the Pole dropped a five-round verdict to “Thug Rose” at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Jedrzejczyk will compete in her first non-title bout since 2014 when she meets Tecia Torres at UFC on Fox 30 on July 28.
5. Jessica Andrade (18-6)Andrade appears to be on the verge of her second title shot since moving to 115 pounds. After a slow start against Tecia Torres in the UFC on Fox 28 co-headliner, “Bate Estaca” imposed her will through takedowns and ground-and-pound over the final 10 minutes to earn a convincing unanimous decision. Andrade is now 5-1 since moving to strawweight and was undoubtedly an interested observer when Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejczyk squared off for a second time at UFC 223 on April 7.
6. Claudia Gadelha (16-3)It was not pretty, but Gadelha held off a hard-charging Carla Esparza to earn a critical split decision victory in a pivotal strawweight clash at UFC 225. While the Brazilian absorbed her share of punishment on the feet, she took advantage of her customary size advantage to get the better of her opponent on the mat. “Claudinha” has won three of her last four but is clearly behind Jessica Andrade -- the last woman to defeat her -- at 115 pounds.
7. Jennifer Maia (15-4-1)Maia seems to always be in close, competitive decisions lately, but she keeps getting her hand raised. At Invicta 26 on Dec. 8, the Chute Boxe star returned to action for the first time in 15 months and hammered out a tight unanimous verdict over the previously undefeated Aga Niedzwiedz to retain her flyweight title. Maia, who has not lost in over three years, will make her UFC debut against Liz Carmouche on July 14 in Idaho.
8. Valentina Shevchenko (15-3)Already one of the world’s top bantamweights, Shevchenko emphatically announced her presence at 125 pounds at UFC Fight Night 125 in Belem, Brazil on Feb. 3. Paired with Octagon newcomer Priscila Cachoeira, Shevchenko brutalized her Brazilian opponent for nearly two full rounds, winning via rear-naked choke at the 4:25 mark of the middle stanza. “Bullet” now has her sights set on a title shot against reigning UFC flyweight queen Nicco Montano.
9. Ayaka Hamasaki (15-2)Hamasaki managed to put the memory of her first-round knockout loss to Livia Renata Souza in the rearview mirror, as she returned to the win column with a three-round verdict over Alyssa Garcia at Rizin Fighting Federation 10 on May 8. The 36-year-old Hamasaki has vacated her Invicta Fighting Championships atomweight crown, so she figures to continue to compete in Rizin -- or elsewhere in Japan -- for the foreseeable future.
10. 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.
Sherdog’s divisional and pound-for-pound rankings are compiled by a panel of Sherdog.com staff members and contributors: Tristen Critchfield, Mike Fridley, Brian Knapp, Jesse Denis, James Nietering, Eric Stinton, Ben Duffy, Josh Stillman, Nathan Zur, Kevin Wilson, Edward Carbajal, Jason Burgos, Anthony Walker, Tudor Leonte, Mark Raymundo, Jordan Colbert, Jordan Breen and Joao Baptista.