The women’s featherweight division has had a tumultuous journey in the UFC, but Megan Anderson and Felicia Spencer can spark new life into it at UFC Rochester.
For a long time, the women’s featherweight division was defined by one woman, Cris Cyborg. Since defeating Gina Carano back in 2009, Cyborg became not only the face, but also the body of the women’s featherweight division. She became the Strikeforce champion and became a known name in the MMA community. She destroyed competition so easily that it was impossible to pick against her. However, the featherweight division was simply too thin for her. This resulted in the bantamweight division taking the center stage and becoming the division that dominated women’s MMA. The featherweight division was sidelined and Cyborg became a beast which lived outside the UFC.
However, things changed for the division in 2016. In late 2015, Ronda Rousey lost her UFC bantamweight title. This created a lot of space for other fighters to grow. The first fighter who caught people’s attention was the then-Invicta FC Champion, Cris Cyborg. Her destructive highlight knockouts became a talking point. Her popularity rose meteorically and that forced the UFC to create the women’s featherweight division. However, soon people realized that neither the company nor the division had anything worth offering to Cyborg. That is when the bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes stepped up to face her at UFC 232.
This match marked the beginning of something new. Nunes stunned the world at the event when she knocked out Cyborg in the very first round. The win made her a two-weight champion and became a strong talking point for days. But when the dust settled, people realized that the division had nothing else to offer apart from Cyborg rematch. The rest of the top names were with Bellator and others who were with the company were cutting weight to make it to the bantamweight division.
What should have been a moment for the division to grow beyond the shadows of Cyborg turned out to be the very end of it. Cyborg was the only one keeping the division relevant. Without her name value, the division had little to no recognition among fans. This resulted in the UFC losing all interest in the division. But the brief stint of Cyborg’s domination in the company did attract a few challengers. Two of them will clash this weekend.
Megan Anderson and Felicia Spencer are two of the most decorated female featherweight fighters. At one point, Megan Anderson was even considered as the next biggest challenge for Cyborg. An unfortunate loss to Holm changed that narrative but she managed to change things for herself by racking up a win against Cat Zingano.
Felicia Spencer is a Jungle MMA product. She’s undefeated and captured the Invicta FC featherweight title in her last fight. Her strong streak in Invicta FC has resulted in her getting recognition amongst hardcores. At UFC Rochester, when the two clash they have a chance to bring people’s attention to the division. Anderson herself has been very vocal about the way UFC is treating the division but if the two manage to deliver an amazing fight, it could save the dying division.
UFC Rochester will be live on ESPN+ in the USA, TSN 5 in Canada on May 18, and Sony Ten 2 and Sony Ten 2 HD in India on May 19.