On September 27th 2014, Amanda Nunes stepped into the octagon at UFC 178 to face Cat Zingano. The story was already written, Zingano was supposed to walk through her game opponent and on to a title shot against women’s Bantamweight Queen Ronda Rousey.
Five minutes into the fight it was clear that Nunes had a very real chance of wrecking the best laid plans of the UFC. Zingano spent most of the first stanza on her back with Nunes towering over her, vicious punches connecting with Zingano’s face and threatening to finish the fight early.
Nunes would fade as Zingano improved, ultimately being stopped at 1:21 of the third round. Despite the defeat, Nunes’ performance proved that she could pose a threat to the best fighters in the division.
The Brazilian’s rebound win at the most recent UFC Fight Night in Rio could not have been more emphatic. Nunes dispatched seasoned veteran Shayna Baszler in less than two minutes this past weekend to reaffirm her spot in the top ten.
If the defeat to Zingano proved she could hang with the best, the dismantling of Baszler served as a reminder that Nunes does what elite level fighters are supposed to do to the division’s also rans. She isn’t just beating them, she is doing so with consummate ease.
Prior to the Zingano loss, neither Sheila Gaff nor Germaine de Randamie made it out of the first round against Nunes. The destruction of Shayna Baszler improved Nunes’ UFC record to 3-1, her career record now at 10-4.
With Ronda Rousey the dominant force at the top of the Women’s 135lb division, already beating off the challenges of 6 of the current top 10, a couple of wins can push anyone into title contention. There is no reason why that can’t be Amanda Nunes.
That point is emphasized by the career trajectory of Nunes’ compatriot, Bethe Correia. Correia holds not a single win over a top ten fighter yet 3 UFC victories have earned her a shot at the gold.
The third of those wins that moved her on to a title shot? A second round stoppage of Shayna Baszler in a performance that did not come close to matching Nunes’ demolition job in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday night.
As things stand Correia will get that title shot at UFC 190, also in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Meanwhile Miesha Tate and Jessica Eye will meet at some point in the Summer to determine the next challenger.
Rousey’s dominance is already forcing retreads of old ground – Miesha Tate – and fights against challengers given little chance to win – Bethe Correia – but the current Women’s Bantamweight title picture is clear and defined. In other words, the UFC have bought the rest of the division time to stake their claim to be next in line once the dust settles.
Nunes’ own path back to a title shot is just as sure. She came close to forcing her way in during that first round against Zingano in September of last year. Avenging that defeat would position Nunes’ to challenge whoever comes out of the four woman faux-tournament holding the belt.
Another win, possibly two including a rematch against Zingano, and Nunes will be next in line for a shot at the Bantamweight title. Bar the sort of upset that has not been seen in the UFC before, the champion at that time will be the current one, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey.
If that is the case, Amanda Nunes will find herself standing across the cage from a fighter who is doing to her opponents what Nunes’ has done to the division’s mid-level talents. The difference is Ronda Rousey is making it look even easier against the division’s elite.