On December 29, the queen of the bantamweight division, Amanda Nunes, will move ten pounds north and try to make history when she faces featherweight champion Cris Cyborg in a highly-anticipated SuperFight. Will Nunes become the first woman to hold UFC titles in two divisions? If she does, add another entry to the list of defining moments below.
Amanda Nunes didn’t fall out of the sky and into the Octagon at UFC 200, where she took the women’s bantamweight title from Miesha Tate. She’s long been on the MMA world’s radar, and when she was signed to the Strikeforce promotion in 2011, there was a buzz that the Brazilian bomber was about to put WMMA on the map in a big way. Well, Nunes didn’t disappoint in her United States debut, needing just 14 seconds to knock out respected striker Julia Budd. If we’re keeping score, that’s 25 less ticks of the clock than it took Ronda Rousey to submit Budd ten months later.
After defeating Budd, Nunes was the star on the rise in the 135-pound division, but eight months after that win, the Brazilian got sent back to the starting blocks by veteran Alexis Davis, who stopped her in two rounds. Starting fresh nearly a year later, Nunes was only able to muster a 1-1 record in Invicta FC, but by August 2013, she was ready to tackle the best of the best in the UFC, and in front of an appreciative crowd in Rio de Janeiro, she took apart Sheila Gaff in a little over two minutes. “The Lioness” had arrived.
Perhaps the most accomplished female kickboxer to step into the Octagon, Germaine de Randamie is deadly on the feet and her resume speaks for itself. But when facing Nunes in November 2013, the Netherlands native just wasn’t ready for the ground assault of her opponent, with Nunes stopping her in less than four minutes. It was a statement-making victory that propelled Nunes into a huge fight that had the world watching.
On Sept. 27, 2014, Nunes looked to be on the verge of earning a world title shot, as she put it on Cat Zingano and nearly stopped her at UFC 178. But instead, it was the resilient Zingano who got a crack at Ronda Rousey after a come from behind third-round TKO win. The loss, Nunes’ first in the UFC, was a crushing one, but after returning four months later with a stoppage of veteran Shayna Baszler, Nunes got another chance to make her case for a title shot, and she made the most of it, winning Performance of the Night honors for her first-round submission of Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann.
Following the win over McMann, Nunes decisioned Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 196 in March of 2016. That set up a showdown with new bantamweight champion Miesha Tate in what turned out to be the main event of the historic UFC 200 card in Las Vegas. Despite the pressure on her shoulders, Nunes was on from the second the Octagon gate closed, and while the end result was a submission, it was the Brazilian’s accurate and crushing strikes that set up the finish and put a championship belt around her waist.
The return of Ronda Rousey after her upset loss to Holly Holm in 2015 dominated the headlines in the lead up to the UFC 207 main event in Las Vegas, but Nunes kept her eye on the prize, refusing to stray from the task at hand, which was proving that there was only one champion at 135 pounds. And “The Lioness” did just that, blitzing Rousey and never letting her into the fight. The bout took just 48 seconds, and it was clear that Nunes was settling in for a long reign.
Nunes made it two successful title defenses when she won a close split decision over Valentina Shevchenko in their September 2017 rematch, but the judges didn’t need to get involved in her next bout, as she scored a punishing fifth-round TKO of Raquel Pennington. Clearly on top of her game, Nunes has now set her sights on history when she squares off with featherweight champion Cris Cyborg in the co-main event of UFC 232.