Freelance: 5 Female UFC Fighters That Can Effectively Replace Ronda Rousey

The once dominant but forever historic “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey set the world on fire by winning 12 fights by stoppage (mostly championship fights but that total includes her amateur career.) She amassed an amount of time in the cage (prior to her infamous two consecutive losses) of just over 27 minutes—barely more than the length of one full-length fight for a belt.

It now appears that she has mirrored friend, fellow actor, and former WWE superstar, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson by further pursuing a career in Hollywood. So, the question the UFC seems to be looking to answer as of late given a number of recent female fights is: Who’s next?

5. Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson

“The Karate Hottie” and fighting mother took out the UFC’s latest poster-girl in “12 Gauge” Paige VanZant by rear-naked choke last December after being on a hunt to “take what she has.” Waterson is the better fighter (a 10-year veteran of combat sports) and just as marketable given her background as a young mother and model. The fight with VanZant elevated Waterson’s record to 14-4 in MMA.

Strawweight (115-pound) champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk expects to face either Waterson or “Thug” Rose Namajunas in the future pending the result of their fight at UFC on Fox 24. The Colorado native is one of few fighters signed to entertainment giant, WME-IMG. Another name on that list is Rousey’s. With another win, she also feels that she is on deck for Jedrzejczyk as well.

4. Cris “Cyborg” Justino

Cris “Cyborg” Justino may always have the dark cloud of one failed drug test back in her Strikeforce days looming over her head. Since that failed 2011 test, she has been clean every time. She has a history with the UFC brass, and so, may never have their backing—but there can be no denying her dominance (17-1, 1 No Contest with 15 wins by KO/TKO.)

Justino was the sole reason the UFC created its new women’s featherweight (145-pound) division but then she was flagged for a potential violation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for which she has been cleared due to medical reasons. She has the potential to surpass the dominant Rousey (her greatest rival in the eyes of many despite the fact that they have yet to fight) but more unfortunate news may be on the horizon for her fans.

Justino previously had a joint deal with the all-female Invicta FC and has been fighting catchweight bouts in the UFC. When she was flagged by USADA, Holly Holm and Germaine De Randamie (the current champion of women’s 145) took her place in the inaugural title fight.

During her time away, Justino vacated her Invicta featherweight title to focus on the UFC. However, she’s at the back of the pack on this list because at the time of this writing, she has yet to be booked in another fight and is asking for that to change or her release from the UFC.

3. Cynthia Calvillo

Cynthia Calvillo may be young and a relative unknown, but she is a finisher that UFC President Dana White can’t seem to stop talking about. Calvillo debuted at Legacy Fighting Alliance (essentially the NCAA or developmental league if the UFC were the NFL or NBA) 1 and then punched her ticket to the big show.

Her LFA fight lasted into the third round but she walked away with a win by finish. Calvillo is now 5-0 as pro (2-0 in the UFC, taking back-to back fights in as many months against Amanda Bobby Cooper and Pearl Gonzalez) with four finishes.

Overall, the Team Alpha Male product and teammate of VanZant is 10-1 with her only loss being based on points and also only having three wins by decision.

White told the media following her performance against Gonzalez at the recent UFC 210 pay-per-view event:

“I was telling [Calvillo] tonight there were times in my career where I was sitting there, and two women fight, and when the fight was over I told one of my guys, I said, ‘When she’s done showering, when she’s ready, will you have her come sit out here,’ and she sat out there and came out with me and watched the rest of the fights,” White said. “It was Joanna Jedrzejczyk.”

2. Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko

Thanks to the other names on this list, Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko has silently been working her way back to the top of the division Rousey once owned (women’s bantamweight-135 pounds.)

Much of the female conversation has concerned the stacked strawweight division. Current women’s bantamweight queen Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes was overlooked (as expected prior to Rousey’s return. That was before she stopped Rousey in even quicker fashion that Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm, taking just 48 seconds. With Rousey out of the picture, there seems to be only one fight to make in the division: Shevchenko vs. Nunes 2.

The Peruvian fell to Nunes in their first meeting but topped Holm, a former champion, over the course of a five-round main event, proving that she can go the full distance for a title. “Bullet” then took out the only other real contender in the division at this time (she’s not listed because of it) in Juliana “The Venezuelan Vixen” Peña via second-round armbar in January.

Although she is just 3-1 in the UFC, this contender is now 14-2 overall in MMA with 10 finishes (and she’s proving herself as both a striker and as a grappler six submissions. Shevchenko also has a 58-2-1 kickboxing record with 21 KO/TKOS in addition to eight titles listed in kickboxing and 12 in mauy thai.

She is dangerous and Nunes’ only option regardless of how the champion feels. Shevchenko, like Rousey has suffered to losses in MMA, but has only been finished once—almost seven years ago.

1. Joanna Jedrzejczyk

A friend of Rousey and the current/only UFC women’s strawweight champion “Joanna Champion” has already effectively replaced her friend. With an exciting yet tactical style that mirrors dominant champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, Jedrzejczyk (13-0 in MMA with five stoppages) is entering her fifth title fight against Jessica Andrade at UFC 2011 in May.

Should she win, she will be one win away from tying Rousey’s female title defense record (six,) a record she looks to break. Jedrzejczyk said during the summer of 2015 that she wanted to be the Rousey of her division. Despite a language barrier that some others on this list also must combat, the Polish multiple-time kickboxing (4) and muay thai (11) world champion has been to this point.

Jedrzejczyk blew out her rivals Claudia Gadelha and Korlina Kowalkiewicz arguable four rounds to one in both of those fights and (although she has an opponent for UFC) is also starting to mirror Johnson by lacking any real challengers.

Again, who’s next?