Who can stop Amanda Nunes?
That question was echoed many times this past Saturday at UFC 250, as Nunes continued her winning ways. Fighting at featherweight for just the second time in her UFC career, “The Lioness” single-handedly decimated Felicia Spencer. As a result, Nunes (20-4) successfully defended her UFC Featherweight Title. Also the current UFC Bantamweight Champion, she became the first fighter in UFC history to defend two belts while still holding onto them.
When you look at her wall of victims, the 32-year-old is untouchable. She has taken out Julia Budd, Germaine de Randamie (2x), Valentina Shevchenko (2x), Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, and Holly Holm. All champions at some point, Nunes’ growth has resulted in quick finishes or dominant displays of athleticism. It makes you wonder who can dethrone her, in either division.
Nunes is expected to take the rest of the year off to focus on herself and her baby with partner Nina Ansaroff.
“A break for sure,” Nunes stated when asked what’s next, via MMA Fighting. “I have to see what’s going on with my legs. I always get hurt with this leg — I don’t know what’s going on. And my baby is coming in three months, she’s going to be here. I have to organize a lot of things, her room, and I really need a break right now. … I think maybe off [the rest of the year] for sure.”
If she is serious about taking time away, it could help the bantamweight division rise again. It could also help the UFC find featherweight contenders for her. Fighters can increase their records while also growing themselves. Here is FIGHT SPORTS’ take on who could be the best contenders to face Nunes down the line.
**Note: Shevchenko is not on this list. UFC President Dana White stated there is no traction on a trilogy fight between the UFC Flyweight Champion and Nunes. Anything is possible, however, especially when the second fight between the two was close.**
Likely: Irene Aldana
One of the top choices may end up earning her way to championship glory in the next few months. Aldana (12-5) joined the UFC in 2016 following a stint in Invicta. She is 5-3 with the promotion and 3-1 in her last four fights, all in 2019. After losing to Raquel Pennington in July, she rebounded with a unanimous decision win against Vanessa Melo in September.
Aldana ended the year (December) by beating Ketlen Vieira at UFC 245 via first-round KO. Viera was considered a true contender as she was 10-0 heading into the fight. “Robles” is reportedly set to face Holly Holm in August. Main eventing against a former UFC Bantamweight Champion, a win could give Aldana, ranked fifth in the UFC’s bantamweight rankings, a three-fight win streak and move her past the second-ranked fighter.
Dark horse: Aspen Ladd or Sarah McMann
Both fighters are on one-fight win streaks and are set to face off against one another on June 27. Ladd is third in the UFC’s bantamweight rankings while McMann is ninth.
Ladd (9-1) is 4-1 in the UFC and 2-1 in her last three fights. After losing to Germaine de Randamie in July 2019, which propelled the latter to earn a title shot, Ladd beat Yana Kunitskaya via TKO in December. McMann (12-5) last fought in January, beating Lina Lansberg via unanimous decision. It was a rebound following a two-fight losing streak. Debuting in the UFC in 2013, McMann is 6-5 with the promotion.
Likely: Megan Anderson
The featherweight division is tricky because there isn’t that much glue to hold it together. There aren’t even fighters ranked in the division’s standings. However, if there was a fighter who was ready for the challenge in the division, it would be Megan Anderson.
A former Invicta FC Featherweight Champion, Anderson (11-4) debuted in the UFC in 2018. Losing to Holm in her debut, the Australian is 3-1 in her last four fights. After losing to eventual contender Felicia Spencer, Anderson rebounded with wins over Zarah Fairn Dos Santos and Norma Dumont Viana. The challenge of Nunes might be tough for the young but battle-tested Megan Anderson. If she were to win one or two more fights, the UFC might ben convinced she deserves a title shot.
Dark horse: Kayla Harrison
The 2019 PFL Lightweight Champion (155) has quickly grown before our very eyes. Kayla Harrison (7-0) joined MMA in 2018 for the PFL after a 45-7 judo record. A two-time Olympic gold medalist, Harrison’s style is unique enough for her to stand out. Not giving her opponent any chance to breathe, Harrison can take someone down and either submit or destroy them with heavy shots.
Harrison is still with the PFL, who just had to cancel the entire 2020 season due to the coronavirus. Speaking with MMA Junkie a while back, Harrison discussed exploring her options, especially at 145.
“I don’t love the idea of ’45, but I’m willing. Everyone has a price, right?” Harrison stated. “I firmly believe in not cutting weight. I firmly believe in the lifestyle that I have. But obviously I understand that if I want to go down as one of the greatest of all time, I’m going to probably have to fight at 145, and that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make in order to reach the goals that I’ve set for myself.”
If the PFL was to break away from her as a result of the lost season, or the UFC was able to provide her with a lucrative offer, the chance of a Nunes bout at 145 seems likely.
Who would you like to see Amanda Nunes face?