UFC's New Division Without Depth

UFC 208 saw the crowning of the first female 145-pound champion when Dutch striking specialist Germaine de Randamie edged out a decision win over Holly Holm. But what comes next?

The decision-heavy card had barely created excitement when Holm and De Randamie entered the cage to fight for the inaugural UFC Featherweight Championship. After five hard rounds including two instances of De Randamie hitting her opponent after the bell had sounded, Bruce Buffer announced the 32-year-old Dutch as the new champion, who then soon stated that she needed hand surgery—an injury she suffered against Larissa Pacheco almost two years ago. 

Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino watched the fight live at Brooklyn's Barclays Center and was caught by TV cameras multiple times throughout the night. Initially, the UFC created this 145 pound championship for “Cyborg” who might have failed a doping test in December. With her future in the Octagon in jeopardy—although Justino’s camp believes she will not be suspended—and De Randamie claiming she needs surgery, the newly-established division looks already like a joke.

Apart from a few 135-pound fighters who could move a division up, the UFC does not have any other female featherweight competitor on their roster. Not coincidentally, Bellator posted a tweet moments after the fight last night announcing that Marloes Coenen and Julia Budd will compete for the organization’s inaugural featherweight title. This bout was already scheduled for Bellator 155 last May, but Budd had to pull out due to an injury which put Bellator’s plans for a women’s featherweight division on hold. 

It is a typical strategy by Bellator’s CEO Scott Coker to use the buzz of other MMA events letting his staff send out press releases and tweets. With the controversy surrounding the bout between De Randamie and Holm plus the overall disappointment that brought UFC 208, it was a smart decision to point at Bellator’s move to establish an own featherweight division. 

That said, it means that the UFC has three, Bellator has nine and Invicta FC, where “Cyborg” still holds the title and Megan Anderson was recently crowned the interim champion, has eight female 145 pounders. None of the three promotions possesses a completely functional division, which would include more than one or two credible title contenders. 

If referee Todd Anderson had deducted a point from De Randamie for her blows after the bell, the fight last night would have ended in a draw—probably the more fitting result for the UFC’s pointless attempt at establishing this new division without having the necessary roster depth. 

It underlines the shortcomings of the promotion’s current strategy. Since WME-IMG bought the company, the UFC has let go several fighters, set up multiple interim title fights and made questionable matchmaking decisions in general. Trying to create a division on the shoulders of three fighters just fits in the bigger picture. 

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