Yana Kunitskaya has the opportunity to secure herself contender status in the razor-thin bantamweight division at UFC Wichita.
This weekend, UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. dos Santos (UFC Wichita, for the hash tag crowd) will see an important women’s bantamweight clash when Marion Reneau takes on former women ’s featherweight title challenger Yana Kunitskaya. The women’s bantamweight division has seen little to no growth in the past few years and currently is one of the shallowest divisions in all the UFC. Since Nunes’s takeover in 2016 and annihilation of Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey, the division has not produced many title contenders. With the women’s flyweight division being introduced in 2017, the 135lb class went on to lose important contenders like Valentina Shevchenko, Alexis Davis, Katlyn Chookagian, Liz Carmouche and many more. The only contenders in the bantamweight division right now are Germaine De Randamie, Holly Holm and Aspen Ladd. Two of whom have at times strayed up to featherweight.
The rest of the bantamweight elite are either are on a break or have not amassed significant win streaks. So when two veterans in Kunitskaya and Reneau clash this weekend, there is a very high probability of one of them entering the short list of contenders to the title.
Kunitskaya enters UFC Wichita with a record of 2-1 in her last three fights. She has wins over Raquel Pa’aluhi and Lina Lansberg to name a few. ‘Foxy’ has a very chiseled striking game and has sleek grappling, making her a dangerous combatant to deal with. She displayed her powerful takedown abilities back in her UFC debut, where she managed to take the feared Cris Cyborg down, a feat not many could pull off. Her precise striking game was on display in her Invicta FC title fight against Raquel Pa’aluhi when she dominated her for five straight rounds, picking her apart on the feet.
Yana Kunitskaya is one of the few complete fighters at bantamweight at the moment. Her opponent, Marion Reneau, has had her fair share of hype however. Reneau enters the fight with a record of 9-4-1. She lost her last fight but looks to get back on track with this one. A powerful wrestler, Reneau usually dominates opponents on the ground while actively seeking to finish fights before taking it to judges. In her career, she has managed to secure wins over the likes of Jessica Andrade, Sara McMann, and Bethe Correia. With time she has developed a strong striking game too. All in all, a solid package.
However, if Reneau wants to stay relevant in the bantamweight division this might be her last chance. The division may be slow but Reneau will turn 42 this year. That makes her the oldest female fighter on the roster and one of the oldest in the UFC, period. Continuing a sport as physical as MMA becomes increasingly difficult with age. The upside, Reneau is likely aware, and this should ensure the very best Reneau entering the cage in Wichita.
With a win, however, it’s Kunitskaya who would have a modest two-fight win streak, with her only loss coming to Cyborg. Which, in waters as shallow as bantamweight, positions her as a contender in the making.
UFC Wichita will be live on ESPN+ in the USA, TSN5 in Canada on March 9 and SONY SIX in India on March 10.