One week after last weekend’s pivotal main between Mackenzie Dern and Xiaonan Yan, which saw Yan emerge victorious in a highly competitive decision, let’s take a look back at the Top 10 performances in women’s main events.
This list focuses on the technicality, overcoming adversity, entertainment value, and showmanship of the bout. However, only main events have been considered, so Namajunas vs. Weili, Weili vs. Jędrzejczyk, and Shevchenko vs. Andrade are ineligible.
10. Amanda Nunes In Nunes vs. Shevchenko II – UFC 215
This eternally controversial rematch headlined UFC 215 after Ray Borg was deemed unfit to fight Demetrious Johnson. The bout that had many online scoring the bout for Shevchenko, and even the media was split. Ten media members gave the bout to Nunes, ten to Shevchenko, and two scoring the bout a draw. The only round that every judge agreed on was the first, with all three giving it to Nunes.
It makes our top 10 list due to Nunes’ patience and gameplanning. Given her prior experience with Shevchenko, she controlled the distance extremely well, countered, and secured a crucial takedown in the final round. This takedown likely swung the final round in her favor in the eyes of judges Sal D’Amato and David Therien, retaining the belt for Nunes. One she got Shevchenko to the ground, it didn’t look like she was going anywhere.
9. GDR In de Randamie vs. Holm – UFC 208
The first women’s featherweight bout in UFC history headlined UFC 208. Yet another bout marred with controversy that overshadows the sheer technicality of the bout. The first round saw Holm remaining mobile on the outside, picking de Randamie off with calf and oblique kicks. However, de Randamie’s huge right hand found its mark at several points throughout the round.
R2 began similarly to R1, but Holm began to engage the clinch in to neutralize some of de Randamie’s power. However, this is where controversy struck. On the break from the clinch, GDR threw a hellacious left-right just as the buzzer sounded.
The shot rocked Holm badly, but she came back in R3, and landed a beautiful question mark kick, and almost ended it with a straight kick, only for GDR to land two more shots after the bell. Holly pushed hard in the last two rounds, seeming to be seeking a finish, but GDR would secure the decision by outlanding Holm to the body and head 62-39.
8. Jéssica Andrade In Namajunas vs. Andrade – UFC 237
Boasting a 7-1 record at 115lbs in the UFC, Jéssica Andrade welcomed Rose Namajunas to Brazil in the main event of UFC 237. Namajunas was looking practically unstoppable, going 6-1 in her last seven, after ending Joanna Jędrzejczyk‘s reign of terror over the division in her last two. The one loss came via split decision to Karolina Kowalkiewicz, who is 2-7 since.
“The scariest five-foot-one athlete on the planet” (h/t Jon Anik), was determined not to let Brazil go without a win on the main card. Andrade began throwing big check-hooks but was cut early by a straight shot down the middle.
Rose was landing at will until Andrade attempted a level change. In a remarkably similar fashion to how the bout ended, Andrade attempted to slam Rose, who threw up three submission attempts before the slam. The round would end with Rose landing a huge knockdown, but unable to finish.
What cements this in our top 10 is that despite all this adversity in the first round, Andrade came out SWINGING in the second. She walked through everything Rose could throw, closing the distance and locking up a clinch halfway through R2.
Rose was attempting a kimura lock, but what goes up must come down. Andrade lifted Namajunas into the air and brought her down with the slam, winning the title and securing her place in the history books.
7. Amanda Nunes In Tate vs. Nunes – UFC 200
The main event of UFC 200 ushered in a new era of women’s MMA, as plucky 12-4 (5-1 UFC) Amanda Nunes stepped up for a title shot. Her opponent, Miesha “Cupcake” Tate, proved she was as dangerous as she was sweet when she dominated Holly Holm. However, neither woman would get the respect they deserved after this bout, as most viewed the belt as still belonging to Ronda Rousey, who had lost the belt to Holm.
In hindsight, Nunes’ pressure and dominance should have put the fear of God into Rousey. Nunes had 11/12 finishes, and 9 by KO. A hip toss and follow up shots would be the beginning of the end for Tate.
Once they got back up, Nunes began teeing off, and left Meisha looking like a deer in the headlights. Nunes made Tate look like a shadow of her former self before taking her back, as she painted the gaudy gold octagon floor with Tate’s blood before sinking in the RNC to claim the title and a place in our top 10.
6. Ronda Rousey In Rousey vs. Carmouche – UFC 157
It was 2013. Two years after Dana White said that women would never fight in the UFC. The 6th dan judo black belt was made the inaugural UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion when the promotion bought Strikeforce, and their roster. In the meantime, Carmouche had won two Invicta bouts against top opponents by finish and was selected as Rousey’s first opponent in the UFC.
Rousey pressured and landed early, before tying up a clinch and throwing Carmouche. In the scramble, Carmouche ended up on Rousey’s back, and Carmouche tried for a neck crank, but “Rowdy” shook her off. Rousey picked her ground and pound shots with precision and rolled into a bulldog choke.
Rousey would keep Carmouche hooked, landing short, sharp shots. Carmouche would eventually attempt an inverted triangle that would initiate a roll, but Ronda’s legs were locked and with 11 seconds left, Rousey hyperextended Carmouche’s arm, forcing the tap.
5. Holly Holm In Rousey vs. Holm – UFC 193
From the highest of highs, to the lowest of lows. Rousey looked unstoppable. Barely more than three rounds total time inside the Octagon in tension with five title defenses after defeating Carmouche. People were talking about her fighting Floyd Mayweather. Holm, fighting out of Jackson-Wink, home of Jon Jones, had entered the UFC 6-0. She secured a title shot with wins over Raquel Pennington and Marion Reneau. Someone’s “0” had to go.
Many speculate as to the impact of the hype on Rousey’s performance. From the get-go, she didn’t look like herself – or perhaps Holly was just that good. The first 90 seconds saw Rousey chasing Holm around the Octagon with not much damage, other than a significant straight left from Holly.
On the break from a clinch, Holly buckled Rousey, hurting her with a combination. Holm would survive Rousey’s next takedown attempt too and avoided her patented armbar.
By now the damage was showing on Rousey, landing every time she moved in. The writing was on the wall. Huge straight lefts from Holly would leave Ronda open mouthed and bloody. As if that wasn’t enough, Holm would take Rousey down with relative ease to close the round. The second round would begin with Ronda chasing Holly around, swinging heavy and off balance. An incredible read off of a clinch would see Holly Holm bring her left shin to Ronda’s chin, claiming the title, as well as Upset and KO of the Year, and a place on our list.
4. Shevchenko In Shevchenko vs. Carmouche II: UFC Fight Night Montevideo
This one makes our top 10 list for being an absolute masterclass. Shevchenko was fresh off her head kick KO of Jessica Eye. The visage of Shevchenko dancing on Eye’s limp body was still fresh on everyone’s minds, and it showed in the betting line. The “Bullet” opened at a -600 favorite… and closed as high as -1250. Carmouche on the other hand had gone 5-3 since losing to Rousey, but all three losses were stylistic nightmares for the Dutch kickboxer.
Shevchenko knew that her key to victory would be avoiding Carmouche’s right hand and played to that. Shevchenko allowed Carmouche to land only 23% of her significant strikes, and only one to the head.
Additionally, Shevchenko racked up almost eight minutes of control time, while giving up none. While some were disappointed that Shevchenko didn’t push the pace, she looked every part the -1200 favorite she closed as. An absolutely technical masterclass and almost complete shut out from the “Bullet” against a much bigger opponent.
3. Amanda Nunes In Nunes vs. Rousey – UFC 207
An entire year removed from her KO of the Year loss to Holly Holm, the women’s bantamweight belt, which many considered to still belong to Rousey, had not yet been defended. Meisha Tate had wrestled it away from Holly Holm, and Amanda Nunes had club-and-subbed Tate into submission while Rousey was nowhere to be seen.
When the UFC announced that Nunes’ first defense would be against the former champion, all eyes were on Ronda. Nunes was a +220 dog at open, and UFC 207 was built entirely around Rousey’s comeback.
The reality could not have been more different. From the opening bell, Nunes had Rousey’s number. “The Lioness” walked Rousey down, landing several vicious teeps to the ribcage, and peppered her with 1-2s, before fire huge hooks like head-seeking missiles.
Rousey was out on her feet when Herb Dean stepped in. Nunes’ hushed the crowd, silencing the haters, while Rousey thought the bout was still happening. To quote Joe Rogan, Nunes “lit Ronda up like a Christmas tree”, cemented her legacy, and a spot in our top 10.
2. Amanda Nunes In Nunes vs. Péna II – UFC 277
The main event of UFC 277 was filled with intrigue. Nunes had to postpone the initial bout, scheduled for UFC 265 a year prior, due to a positive COVID-19 test. When the bout eventually did happen at UFC 269, the +700 dog pulled off the 2021 Upset of the Year as she absorbed everything “The Lioness” could throw, before taking her down, and choking her out.
In the aftermath, Nunes revealed an injury had been nagging her, and that she didn’t want to pull out twice. After all, Péna was the only woman in the promotion who was calling her out.
However, when the cage closed behind the pair for the second time, Nunes not only looked in significantly better shape physically, but mentally too. Amanda paced herself in R1, only to come out swinging in R2, where she scored three knockdowns.
Over the following 15 minutes, Péna would land one for every three absorbed, and while Amanda was unwilling to engage in grappling, she posted and reigned down strike after strike on the profusely bleeding “Vixen”.
By the time the bout was over, Péna was bruised and bloodied, with streaks of blood all across the octagon. Nunes would be crowned double-champ again, leaving no doubt that the first bout was barely more than a fluke with a dominant 50-43 UD.
1. Zhang Weili In Andrade vs. Weili
Barely three months removed from her brutal slam-KO over Rose Namajunas, Jéssica Andrade stepped up to headline UFC on ESPN+ 15, deep in enemy territory in Shenzhen, China. Putting her 115lb title on the line against “Magnum” Zhang Weili. Weili came to the UFC from Kunlun Fight MMA, and tore her way through the division on her way to her shot against Andrade.
Early, Weili would follow the blueprint set by Rose Namajunas, circling when pushed, and picking off Andrade. However, she threw every strike with venom, and after two big leg kicks, landed two massive counters. Weili’s striking was crisp, fast, and accurate, but that didn’t deter Andrade, who was not afraid to get hit, but was forced to initiate a clinch.
However, this was a mistake, as Weili’s Muay Thai clinch allow her to launch knees straight up the middle, and elbows over the top. The end came quickly when Andrade broke the clinch, and two huge G’n’P shots would end the bout, writing history as the first Chinese UFC champion.
Do you agree with our top 10? Let us know in the comments below.