At the end of this month, UFC 168 will be the stage that hosts the women's bantamweight title fight between undefeated champion Ronda Rousey and former Strikeforce champ Miesha Tate. The rivalry has been played out in the media and on The Ultimate Fighter, where both women coached.
Rousey, of course, won the Strikeforce title from Tate not long ago and defended it against Sarah Kaufman. She was then crowned UFC champion and successfully defended that title against Liz Carmouche.
When the dust settles from this intense rivalry, who will be there to step in and challenge for the belt next? Let's look at three ladies who could fit the bill.
The obvious top candidate to get the next title shot is the woman who was set to be in Miesha Tate's place to begin with: Cat Zingano. Zingano defeated Tate, earned a coaching spot opposite Rousey and earned her title shot.
Then she got injured. It was a devastating knee injury that required surgery and has laid her up to this day.
One has to think she'll be the top contender when she returns. Zingano is undefeated as a pro, holding an 8-0 record with all but one finish.
Her last three wins came over Takayo Hashi, Raquel Pennington and Tate. That type of resume speaks for itself.
Plus, she is very good on the mat. I don't know if she can outgrapple Rousey, but she could definitely give her a run for her money.
The fighter most similar to Rousey in the UFC is definitely Sara McMann, given their Olympic backgrounds and success in international competitions. Rousey was a bronze-medal judoka, while McMann was a silver-medal wrestler.
McMann has been missing in action for a while, which has been a head-scratcher to WMMA fans. She was set to fight Kaufman back in August, but she mysteriously pulled out of that fight and hasn't really been heard from since.
That being said, McMann is undefeated and has the wrestling to test both Tate and Rousey. To this day, she has defeated Shayna Baszler, Hitomi Akano and Tonya Evinger, among others.
She has the blueprint to be a champion. The sky is the limit, and if she is ready in the near future, she could potentially draw a title shot.
Who should get the next crack at W135?
The dark horse of the entire women's bantamweight division has to Canadian Alexis Davis, who rarely gets brought up in the mix of the title hunt. That is a mistake, as she has proved to be well-rounded and capable at the highest level.
Her current four-fight win streak has been impressive, to say the least. In that stretch, she has dominated Liz Carmouche, choked out Shayna Baszler and tapped Hitomi Akano, all of which have drawn great praise.
She is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, which would be a great challenge to either Rousey or Tate. She may be one more win away, but keep your eye on Davis in the future.