B/R Women's MMA Rankings, May 2014

Riley Kontek@@BigRIlesMMAFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2014

B/R Women's MMA Rankings, May 2014

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Women's MMA is growing, and with that, we must keep up with the times. Women are getting more and more opportunities in mixed martial arts, as well as becoming more prevalent on the big stage.

    The UFC, Invicta and World Series of Fighting are just three of the major organizations that host female fighters. When you consider Deep Jewels, MMA Super Heroes and several others who let the ladies compete, you have a bunch of proving grounds for these up-and-coming athletes.

    Bleacher Report's Riley Kontek and Mitch Ciccarelli have ranked the women of the five major weight classes and will give some insight on what's going on in each division. Here is this month's installment of the Bleacher Report's women's MMA rankings.

    Note: Last month's rankings are in parentheses next to nationality.


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    Jeff Chiu
    1. Cris "Cyborg" Justino (BRA) (1)
    2. Marloes Coenen (NET) (2)
    3. Julia Budd (CAN) (3)
    4. Ediane Gomes (BRA) (4)
    5. Veronica Rothenhausler (USA) (5)
    6. Ashlee Evans-Smith (USA) (6)
    7. Talita Nogueira (BRA) (7)
    8. Pannie Kianzad (SWE) (8)
    9. Faith van Duin (NZE) (9)
    10. Marina Shafir (MOL) (NR)
    11. Tamikka Brents (USA) (11)
    12. Fiona Muxlow (AUS) (10)
    13. Kate da Silva (NZE) (12)
    14. Charmaine Tweet (CAN) (13)
    15. Annalisa Bucci (ITA) (14)
    • Dropped out of the rankings: Maria Hougaard Djursaa (DEN) (15)

    The featherweight division just got a lot more interesting because of one lady: Marina Shafir.

    An Olympic judoka and running buddy of Ronda Rousey, Shafir made her long-awaited pro debut in April when she quickly submitted Chandra Engel. It immediately put her on the map, as she is considered one of the best prospects in all of women's MMA.

    She should immediately become a target of Invicta FC, which is the best promotion for women's MMA that offers a 145-pound division. She would join the likes of Cris "Cyborg" Justino, Julia Budd, Ediane Gomes and Veronica Rothenhausler on the stacked roster.

    The rankings will also take a bit of a shake-up when Australian Kate da Silva makes her permanent drop to 135 pounds in May. This is likely in an attempt to make a UFC run, which could be a great possibility given her skill set and Australian roots, which is something the UFC can never have enough of.

    All in all, featherweight has some nice young prospects and some crafty veterans littering the top 15. Once the division gets more active, there is no telling how things will shape up in the land of female giants (in the MMA world).

    Top-15 Results in April

    Marina Shafir (10)def.Chandra Engel

    Top-15 Fights in May

    *Kate da Silva (13)*vs.Charlene Watt
    *Kate da Silva (13)*vs.Desiree Maaka
    Pannie Kianzad (8)vs.Annalisa Bucci (15)
    **Charmaine Tweet (13)**vs.Anna Barone
    Talita Nogueira (7)vs.Lina Akhtar Lansberg
    Annalisa Bucci (15)vs.Maria Hougaard Djursaa

    *Fight will be contested at 135 pounds.

    **Fight will be contested at 155 pounds.


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    USA TODAY Sports
    1. Ronda Rousey (USA) (1)
    2. Cat Zingano (USA) (2)
    3. Alexis Davis (CAN) (3)
    4. Miesha Tate (USA) (5)
    5. Sara McMann (USA) (4)
    6. Jessica Eye (USA) (6)
    7. Sarah Kaufman (CAN) (7)
    8. Lauren Murphy (USA) (8)
    9. Amanda Nunes (BRA) (10)
    10. Shayna Baszler (USA) (11)
    11. Liz Carmouche (USA) (9)
    12. Holly Holm (USA) (12)
    13. Germaine de Randamie (NET) (13)
    14. Rin Nakai (JPN) (14)
    15. Miriam Nakamoto (USA) (15)
    • Dropped out of the rankings: N/A

    The UFC has done wonders for the women's bantamweight division. The women in the company are among the most recognized female fighters in the sport, outside of maybe Gina Carano, Cyborg and a select few others.

    Of the 15 fighters in our rankings, 11 are currently in the UFC. That said, the four who are not in the UFC (Murphy, Nakai, Nakamoto, Holm) are all high-quality fighters who would add great depth to the current division of around 20ish fighters.

    Lauren Murphy and Miriam Nakamoto are both with Invicta, with Murphy as the champion and Nakamoto as a former title challenger. Nakamoto is also a muay thai fighter, which is likely why she doesn't want to be in the UFC, as she would want to stay active.

    Rin Nakai is a star in Japan, as she is recognized as the poster woman of Pancrase. She is a power wrestler and submission fighter, reminding us of many of the old-school Pancrase fighters of past (minus the WWE-style speedo tights).

    Holly Holm has been kept out of the UFC from poor contract negotiations but has been dominant since entering MMA with most of her wins via brutal KO. She would be a great addition, if she can agree on a sensible number.

    Top-15 Results in April

    Holly Holm (12)def.Juliana Werner
    Sarah Kaufman (7)def.Leslie Smith
    Miesha Tate (4)def.Liz Carmouche (11)

    Top-15 Fights in May

    Rin Nakai (14)vs.Sarah D'Alelio


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    Leslie Smith left her third spot for the UFC BW division.
    Leslie Smith left her third spot for the UFC BW division.USA TODAY Sports
    1. Barb Honchak (USA) (1)
    2. Vanessa Porto (BRA) (2)
    3. Jennifer Maia (BRA) (4)
    4. Nina Ansaroff (USA) (5)
    5. Zoila Gurgel (USA) (7)
    6. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (POL) (6)
    7. Munah Holland (USA) (9)
    8. Brenda Gonzales (USA) (10)
    9. Julia Berezikova (RUS) (11)
    10. DeAnna Bennett (USA) (12)
    11. Tina Lahdemaki (FIN) (13)
    12. Pearl Gonzalez (USA) (14)
    13. Aline Serio (BRA) (15)
    14. Ericka Almeida (BRA) (NR)
    15. Alexa Grasso (MEX) (NR)
    • Dropped out of the rankings: Leslie Smith (USA) (3), Juliana Werner (BRA) (8)

    The flyweight division is underrated when it comes to talent. Just think about it: Women like Leslie Smith, Jessica Eye, Jessica Andrade and Bethe Correia are in the UFC when they are really 125ers.

    Imagine if they returned to the 125-pound division with currently inactive fighter Michelle Ould, who tried out for The Ultimate Fighter 20. The division would be loaded.

    That being said, with their non-inclusion in this division right now, it is still in good shape. The under-the-radar top-15ers to watch are XFC champ Pearl Gonzalez and DeAnna Bennett.

    Gonzalez has quietly stormed up the rankings with impressive performances against gritty vets. She has shown great all-around skills that have carried her thus far.

    As for Bennett, she holds the distinction of a victory over TUF 18 women's champion Julianna Pena, which stands out on her resume. She has proved worthy in the cage and could move up to 135 if the UFC were to call.

    Top-15 Results in April

    Aline Serio (13)def.Paula Baack

    Top-15 Fights in May

    Joanna Jedrzejczyk (6)vs.Karla Benitez
    Jennifer Maia (3)vs.Aline Serio (13)


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    1. Jessica Aguilar (USA) (1)
    2. Carla Esparza (USA) (2)
    3. Claudia Gadelha (BRA) (3)
    4. Joanne Calderwood (UK) (4)
    5. Tecia Torres (USA) (5)
    6. Ayaka Hamasaki (JPN) (6)
    7. Kalindra Faria (BRA) (12)
    8. Mizuki Inoue (JPN) (7)
    9. Katja Kankaanpaa (FIN) (8)
    10. Felice Herrig (USA) (9)
    11. Stephanie Eggink (USA) (10)
    12. Bec Rawlings (AUS) (11)
    13. Rose Namajunas (USA) (13)
    14. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (POL) (14)
    15. Herica Tiburcio (BRA) (15)
    • Dropped out of the rankings: N/A

    The strawweights are picking up steam. The tryouts for TUF 20 have had fans buzzing all week, as they speculate who will be part of the first all-female cast in the show's history. It has been exciting.

    Further than that, there are even more ladies who aren't on the show or weren't at the tryouts to be excited about.

    For instance, Brazilian Kalindra Faria is storming up the 115-pound rankings due to her winning ways and busy schedule. Since February of last year, she has competed eight times, going 8-0 in the process against the likes of Carina Damm, Aline Serio and Sanja Sucevic. That's the type of schedule that has Donald Cerrone jealous.

    Besides Faria, two women at the bottom of the rankings have the potential for bigger things in Herica Tiburcio and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Both are immensely talented but looking for the spotlight with further performances to gain notoriety outside their home countries of Brazil and Poland, respectively.

    Top-15 Results in April

    Kalindra Faria (7)def.Sanja Sucevic

    Top-15 Fights in May

    Katja Kankaanpaa (9)vs.Alyona Rassohyna
    Karolina Kowalkiewicz (14)vs.Jasminka Cive


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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images
    1. Michelle Waterson (USA) (1)
    2. Jessica Penne (USA) (2)
    3. Seo Hee Ham (KOR) (3)
    4. Naho Sugiyama (JPN) (4)
    5. Lacey Schuckman (USA) (5)
    6. Simona Soukupova (UK) (6)
    7. Alex Chambers (AUS) (7)
    8. Cassie Rodish (USA) (8)
    9. Jodie Esquibel (USA) (9)
    10. Stephanie Frausto (USA) (10)
    11. Amy Davis (USA) (12)
    12. Nicdali Rivera-Calanoc (USA) (11)
    13. Diana Rael (USA) (13)
    14. Amber Brown (USA) (14)
    15. Jinh Yu Frey (USA) (15)
    • Dropped out of the rankings: N/A

    The atomweight division could soon be sending some of their best to the TUF 20 house. That is because in addition to Alex Chambers already being on the cast, Jessica Penne, Diana Rael and a few other unranked women took their talents to Las Vegas in an attempt to make the show.

    Outside of that, the division has been "all quiet on the western front." Outside of Seo Hee Ham, a lot of these women have not been keeping superactive.

    That is the reason for Ham running roughshod up the rankings. She has taken fight after fight in the last year and passed her tests with flying colors.

    The biggest prospect in the division is the one who rounds out the top 15 in Jinh Yu Frey. She is a knockout machine with punching power that rivals that of a 185-pound male fighter. Don't believe me? Search her on YouTube and prepare to be awed.

    Top-15 Results in April

    Seo Hee Ham (3)def.Shino vanHoose

    Top-15 Fights in May: None