Female MMA fighters have broken boundaries that even the men couldn’t touch this year. Here, we profile the five women nominated for ‘Female Fighter of the Year’ at the Eighth Annual Fighters Only World MMA Awards.
One of the lesser-known fighters on this list, Evinger became the Invicta FC bantamweight champion last July with a TKO win over Irene Aldana. She went on to defeat highly-touted opponent Pannie Kianzad via TKO at Invicta FC 14 in September.
Evinger may not have achieved the same level of celebrity stardom as Ronda Rousey or the same viral exposure as Holly Holm, but her consistency in women’s MMA’s premier organization makes her a highly deserving candidate for inclusion on this list. And if her form continues throughout this year, it might not be long before she gets the call to fight on the biggest stage of them all in the UFC.
Polish strawweight Joanna Jedrzejczyk, otherwise known as ‘Joanna Champion’, became and overnight MMA sensation when she beat Carla Esparza in March for the UFC women’s 115lb title. Following two more impressive wins, the ultra-aggressive former Muay Thai champ has become a favorite of fans, media and promoters alike.
Joanna is Poland’s first ever UFC champion and just the second ever European fighter to win a UFC title, after Andrei Arlovski (heavyweight). She is also statistically the UFC’s most successful champion of 2015, with three championship victories. But will it be enough to see her upset the likes of Rousey and Holm to be officially crowned the best female fighter of the year?
Holly Holm shocked the world when she knocked out Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 to claim the UFC women’s bantamweight championship. The win also earned her nominations in not only this category, but for ‘Breakthrough Fighter of the Year’, ‘Knockout of the Year’ and ‘Upset of the Year’ as well.
UFC 193 at the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne broke attendance records with over 56,000 fans at the live event. Unsurprisingly, the roof came off when Holm landed a head kick in the second round and knockout out the previously unbeatable defending champ. The win skyrocketed Holm’s celebrity profile and the veteran boxer/kickboxer has since been seen hanging out with the likes of Jamie Foxx and Beyonce at various events.
Holm now looks set to defend her title against Miesha Tate at UFC 197, and could see her status climb even higher if she continues her run of dominance.
She may have ended the year with her MMA career at a low-point after her loss to Holm, but there’s still no denying that Rousey did more for women’s MMA, and perhaps even the sport as a whole, over the last year.
Her 14-second submission win over Cat Zingano and 34-second KO victory over Bethe Correia alone should be enough to include ‘Rowdy’ among the five picks for last year’s best female fighter. Add in roles in big screen movie releases Furious 7 and Entourage and there’s a strong possibility that Ronda brought more mainstream attention to the sport of MMA in the last 12 months than any other fighter has in their entire career.
It now looks like Rousey will be taking some extended time out from competition, meaning we likely won’t see her back in the Octagon until late 2016. But, whatever the case, she certainly left a strong mark on 2015, both inside and outside the cage.
Fighting on the Asian circuit under the One Championship banner, Angela Lee might not be a name you’ve heard before if you’re not a truly hardcore fan of the sport. However, she’s definitely one you should take notice of.
Lee is currently undefeated in pro MMA at 4-0 – all four of her wins coming within a seven-month period, and all coming by way of submission. Her twister submission of Natalie Gonzales Hills in November was a particular standout moment for the young prospect.
At just 19 years old, Lee still has plenty of time to develop her skills. And considering how good she has looked at this fledgling stage in her career, don’t be surprised if you see her challenging the best of the best in the strawweight division with the next few years.
Fans can cast their votes for ‘Female Fighter of the Year’ and other awards at worldmmaawards.com.