The hottest thing in women's MMA these days is “The Four Horsewomen.”
Ronda Rousey, Marina Shafir, Shayna Baszler and Jessamyn Duke have developed a tight bond post-The Ultimate Fighter and have taken from the greatest stable in all of professional wrestling history—The Four Horsemen.
For those of you who have been absent from the professional wrestling scene since the mid-1980s, The Four Horsemen were a stable consisting of Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and Ole Anderson. The latter two would be replaced with other wrestlers throughout the years. They were a dominant and ruthless faction.
The fighters, and pro wrestling fans, have taken the moniker and implemented it into their social media profiles. Ronda Rousey has posted videos on her Instagram account of their professional wrestling moves.
What will the fighters do in the UFC? Time will ultimately tell, but we have seen enough to project their ultimate upside in the sport.
Pound-for-pound, Shafir has the best nickname in MMA today—“The Supernova From Moldova.”
She is a featherweight, and thus she cannot compete in the UFC yet. The division is not deep enough to warrant a spot in the premier organization of the sport, but we can still project where she will be in the highest rung of her division.
Shafir is a longtime friend and training partner of Rousey. As such, her judo skills have transitioned well into MMA. She is 5-0 as an amateur with five first-round submissions—four by way of armbar. She is set to make her professional debut in April.
If Shafir continues her first-round dominance in her pro debut, it will be hard not to rank her in the top 10, and possibly the top five, of the featherweight division. It is that shallow, and she is that good.
Ultimately, she is still a neophyte in MMA. She will still be developing her all-around skill set, but what she has already shown puts her among the best in the division. She has tremendous upside in MMA, and we could see her potentially take on the elite of the division sooner rather than later.
Duke is currently ranked No. 14 in the division. She made a successful UFC debut against Peggy Morgan at The Ultimate Fighter 18 finale last November, and she is set to take on Bethe Correia at UFC 172 in Baltimore.
Duke was one of the top prospects in the bantamweight division in 2012. She turned pro in Invicta FC with two straight wins. She battled Miriam Nakamoto in her third pro bout and was defeated, but the result was overturned to a no-contest after it was deemed the knee that ended the fight was illegal.
Duke's length is an asset at bantamweight. She holds a distinct reach advantage over most in the division, but she is still developing the skills to go behind her physical gifts. Training with the likes of Rousey will help maximize her abilities.
Truthfully, the sky is the limit for Duke.
There is no rush for her to challenge her teammate for the championship. She has the fortune of having time to grow as a fighter. Under the tutelage of her team, she will have all the opportunity to become one of the more feared fighters in the division.
We won't know how her new training camp has benefited her until she gets a couple more fights under her belt, but you could be looking at a potential top-five fighter in a couple of years. That is her current ceiling.
Baszler is one of the longtime vets of women's MMA. She has fought a who's who—from Cris “Cyborg” Justino to UFC contenders Sara McMann and Alexis Davis.
She has lost all of those important bouts. Her next outing will be against contender Sarah Kaufman. It will be a rematch of their 2009 encounter, which Kaufman won by unanimous decision.
Baszler is a competent grappler with a growing striking ability. Her ceiling is not as high as Duke's for one reason: age.
“The Queen of Spades” is 33. She does not have the same time that Duke has to become a legitimate threat in the division. Baszler is a gatekeeper. While that comes with negative connotations, it is a needed role within the division. It also gives her a glimmer of hope to potentially insert herself as a title contender with a couple key wins.
Baszler could begin to thwart the notion of being a gatekeeper with a dominant win over Kaufman later this year. It would move her into the top 10 of the division, but the likelihood of getting multiple key victories in a row is slim.
Her value will come from the knowledge she has accrued during her career. Baszler can impart her knowledge onto her two young Four Horsewomen teammates to assist their growth as fighters. She is more valuable as a coach.
Rousey is pound-for-pound the best women's fighter in the game today. She finally got to show a little sampling of her striking against Sara McMann, and she finished with a brutal knee to the midsection in the first round.
It is silly to question what she can do in the UFC, as she is doing it. Pure domination.
It remains to be seen how long she will stick around with a growing acting career, but it is hard to see who can challenge her at this point. She is that good.
Her fight IQ is unmatched.
There is little to say about Rousey that you do not already know. She is one of the biggest stars in the sport today, she is one of the most dominant champions and there is no end in sight for her reign atop the bantamweight mountain.