Two-division champion Amanda Nunes continued her reign of dominance at UFC 259 with a first-round submission of Megan Anderson to retain her women’s featherweight title with relative ease.
Nunes has not lost in more than five years, during which time she has captured titles at both 135 and 145 pounds. She’s also registered seven title defenses – five at bantamweight and two at featherweight.
With Nunes clearing house in both weight divisions, it begs the question: Who can possibly beat “The Lioness”?
That’s the question we posed to our Triple Take panel of Farah Hannoun, Simon Head and Nolan King, and they offered their takes on a question that seems to be getting tougher to answer with each Nunes appearance.
Check out their responses below.
Farah Hannoun: Kayla Harrison down the line
Kayla Harrison is rather inexperienced in the sport of MMA, but her future is undoubtedly bright.
The undefeated two-time judo Olympian has looked dominant ever since she transitioned to MMA and won PFL’s lightweight title. She even successfully made the 145-pound mark and notched a win over Courtney King in her most recent fight at Invicta FC 43 which has already sparked discussions of a potential superfight with Amanda Nunes.
Although both women train at American Top Team, Harrison has already said it wouldn’t be an issue for her. She’s concerned with garnering more experience, and the PFL format gives her that opportunity. If she continues to take everyone out in dominant fashion, a fight between her and Nunes would definitely start picking up steam.
Harrison has the name value and with her size and accolade-filled grappling background, she’d make an interesting challenge for Nunes if she’s able to sharpen up her standup. Only time will tell.
Simon Head: Valentina Shevchenko
Since Nunes captured championship gold in the UFC, she’s looked virtually unstoppable. But the one fighter who has pushed her to the brink of defeat remains a legitimate threat to “The Lioness” at 135 pounds.
Valentina Shevchenko may have dropped down to her natural weight class of 125 pounds, but despite being significantly smaller than the Brazilian, she has pushed Nunes to the limit not once, but twice.
In their first meeting – a non-title fight at UFC 196 – Nunes claimed a unanimous decision after a three-round fight that saw Shevchenko push her all the way. It meant that their rematch for the bantamweight title at UFC 215 was expected to deliver another super-competitive affair, and it didn’t disappoint.
Shevchenko kept pace with Nunes throughout a gripping five-round clash as they battled all the way to the scorecards once again. This time, however, the judges were split on the verdict – so much so, in fact, that the scorecards submitted by Sal D’Amato, David Therien and Tony Weeks showed they only agreed on the first round. The watching media was similarly split, too. I scored the fight 48-47 to Shevchenko (giving her Rounds 2, 3, and 4), but the official verdict saw Nunes get the nod as she retained her title with scores of 48-47, 48-47, 47-48.
Both Nunes and Shevchenko have improved their skillsets significantly since that fight, and both now rule their respective weight classes in dominant fashion. After going so close last time out, Shevchenko deserved another rematch, but it never materialized. Now, with the UFC struggling to find challengers to truly test “The Lioness,” now is the time to ask Shevchenko to start packing on the muscle for a move back up to 135. Based on the current UFC roster, there isn’t a bigger, better fight the UFC could book for Nunes right now.
Nolan King: Herself
OK, this seems a bit flip, but Amanda Nunes is the GOAT for a reason. She’s the most talented female athlete to ever compete in combat sports. Her scouting report is flawless because she’s so well-rounded. I don’t have to tell you guys this. It’s something that’s widely accepted at this point.
You can rattle off the potential path to victories for numerous opponents all day. You know, the whole “If Fighter X catches Amanda, she’ll win.” But a fighter capitalizing on a rare Nunes mistake requires just that – Nunes has to screw up.
So in reality, if she loses sometime in the future, like many fighters widely-considered to be unbeatable often do, it’ll be kickstarted by her own doing. Before an opponent makes her pay, Nunes will have to leave herself open.
I think it’ll be a long while before we see Nunes on the losing end of a decision being read. Sure, this is MMA, and anything can happen. But for any other result to leave Bruce Buffer’s vocal cords, the downfall will start with a lapse from Nunes.