MMA fans are finally getting to notice women in the sport as they gain more exposure through more opportunities. Stars have been born, with women like Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg leading the charge.
However, for all the women we know, especially in the UFC where they actually get some exposure, a ton of them don't get the attention they deserve. These women fight for recognition every time they step in the cage to compete.
For all the famous and best fighters we know, there are underrated women who are waiting for a chance to put their name on the map. Here are the four most underrated women in the sport right now.
Before the UFC, not many fans knew what Leslie Smith was capable of. In fact, most judged Smith on her late-notice debut performance against Sarah Kaufman, where she looked very lackluster.
In reality, fans were completely wrong about Smith, as they found out in her most recent performance against Jessamyn Duke. She completely squashed Duke in the first round, using a 20-plus strike combination in what can only be called a thing of beauty.
People take a look at Smith's record and question her. Sure, her record isn't the sexiest in the sport, but look at her losses. She lost a flyweight title fight to Barb Honchak, a bout to top featherweight Ediane Gomes and two fights against Sarah Kaufman, the first of which was a controversial decision that people thought Smith deserved to win.
The Cesar Gracie product is exciting and underrated. In fact, she may be the most underrated bantamweight on the UFC roster right now.
When Julianna Pena was crowned the first female winner of The Ultimate Fighter, a star was born. She had an aggressive style and a well-rounded skill set, giving fans hope that she could be great.
Flashback to 2013, almost 18 months ago. Pena dropped a unanimous decision to DeAnna Bennett, a female competitor who, at this point, does not nearly have the recognition that Pena has.
Bennett, who is undefeated at 4-0, has floated between 125 and 135. In those fights, she has looked very good, finally earning herself a shot in Invicta against top 125er Michelle Ould.
Even though she likely earned a shot in the UFC by choking out TUF veteran Colleen Schneider in her most recent outing, Bennett will continue to fight on and gain momentum. It will turn her from her current status of underrated to a more comfortable status of famous in the fight community.
Featherweights are not generally well-recognized in the MMA community. They don't have spotlight fights anymore and outside of a couple of women, most are not well-known fighters.
For every Cyborg and Marloes Coenen, there are women like Pannie Kianzad who are not getting the due credit they deserve. In fact, Kianzad is among the most underrated women in the sport.
Hailing from Sweden, Kianzad has proved to be a ferocious grappler and top-game fighter with big punches on the ground and the ability to look for submissions easily. She is also undefeated at this point, beating some of the best women Europe has to offer.
Her lack of exposure in America is a big reason she is not fully recognized by fans. That is why, despite being a high-ranked featherweight, she is incredibly underrated by fans.
Kalindra Faria is another woman like Pannie Kianzad in that she isn't known by most fans despite her high ranking and status in her division. The reason for that, though, could be that most of the strawweight division is focused on TUF 20 and the crowning of a new UFC champion, and Faria is left in Brazil taking fight after fight to build herself up.
Faria is an aggressive, ferocious, well-rounded fighter who has a schedule that would make Donald Cerrone jealous. She competes in high volume, taking several fights in several months to great success.
For every Felice Herrig and Rose Namajunas, whom we easily recognize for their time in the spotlight, we have a woman like Faria with the skills to compete but a lack of fame nevertheless. She is definitely a woman with UFC-level skills who could deepen the 115-pound division.
For now, Faria will remain among the most underrated women in the sport. However, at 15-3, if she keeps bolstering her record and remains successful, fans will take notice sooner rather than later.