Over the past few years Women’s MMA has started to gain momentum and increased in popularity. It’s become successful enough to garner main card placement and has even headlined a few events. That being said it’s still in that awkward place that Men’s MMA was about 10-15 years ago, a few really good fighters at the top and a bunch of half decent fighters filling up the rest of the ranks. In order to get any attention you have to a.) be attractive (see Carano, Gina) or b.) be the human incarnation of Kali, Goddess of Death (see Santos, Cristiane "Cyborg"). To compound this problem, many male MMA fans "don’t like seeing girls get hit". I' don't subscribe to that train of thought, but to each their own. Don’t get me wrong, the pool of talent is still very shallow but it’s looking like that may change soon. Olympic Level Wrestlers, High Level Judoka, and seasoned Kickboxers are finally transitioning over to MMA. Some of you may be familiar with them and some of you may not. Here's a list of WMMA’s up and coming stars (starlettes?).
Photo credit goes to Esther Lin, AllElbows.com
Background: Muay Thai
Accomplishments: Won Oxygen's Fight Girls Competition, whooped Kim Couture's ass
My 2¢: She had an impressive debut at Bellator 7 where she took a decision over Leslie Smith. Then she made her Strikeforce debut and pummeled Kim Couture. Her wins have been impressive but I fear that Strikeforce will rush her development. Hopefully they don't do that, because it would suck to see her go down the same path that her husband has.
Background: Amateur Muay Thai (5-0), Tae Kwon Do Black Belt, Kung Fu Black Belt, BJJ Blue Belt
Accomplishments: Also whooped Kim Couture's ass
My 2¢: She took her fight against Kim Couture with zero MMA experience. That would be a dangerous thing to do against any other "big name fighter", but it was Kim. She rolled through her rather easily and outworked her next opponent in a Unanimous Decision. She took the Couture fight at 135lbs but has stated that she's going to compete at 125. This is a good thing because she's a tiny at 135. She currently trains with American Top Team.
Accomplishments: Won Valkyrie Open Weight title
My 2¢: Standing at just 5'1 and competing anywhere from 125-145lbs, Rin Nakai is built like a damn Tank. She made her debut in 2006 but 2010 was her breakout year. She's trucked her way through JMMA's heavier female fighters and I wouldn't be surprised if we see her in the U.S. soon. I just hope she decides to fight at 135 and not 145, because they would feed her to Cyborg with the quickness. Her Judo, raw strength, and post fight gymnastics are a thing to behold. I'm going to pull a Daniel Herbertson and mention her blog, just because I can.
Background: Does S&M count?
Accomplishments: Won Super Gals Mix Cup Open Weight Tournament and Smackgirl Open Weight Championship
My 2¢: Standing at 5'11, Yamanaka entered the MMA with no athletic experience. She actually started training MMA to better service her clients as a Dominatrix. While you marinate on that, she's done quite well for someone that didn't start training until they were 27. She's gigantic in stature compared to the 145 lb women that she's been facing. Her only lose came at the hands of Hitomi Akano, which she avenged 2 years later. As of right now, there aren't many challengers for her in Japan. She was scheduled to be Randi Miller's 1st opponent but the fight was cancelled when Miller pulled out with an injury. She needs a step up in competition ASAP and I doubt she'll find it in Japan. Time to take a trip to Brazil, Europe or the U.S.
Background: 4th Degree Judo Black Belt
Accomplishments: Bronzed Medalist at Beijing Olympics and numerous others
My 2¢: Rousey is part of the wave of Olympic Level athletes coming into MMA. All of her fights have ended with the 1st round by way of Armbar. I have no idea what her striking looks like because she hasn't needed to use it. Her ability to keep her opponents off balance and spatial awareness are preternaturally good. I just hope she's working on her striking, because I'd hate to see her trying to fight like Cindy Dandois. She currently trains with Gokor Chivichyan and Team Hayastan.
Accomplishments: Silver Medal at '04 Olympic Games and way too many others to list.
Record: 3-0 (Amateur)
My 2¢: McMann is the 1st truly high level female wrestler to transition into MMA. Sure, Miesha Tate has good MMA wrestling, but Sara is a monster. I haven't been able to to find any footage of her fight that went the distance but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that she probably grappled them to death. Her last opponent (seen below) got MONSON'd. She's signed a 3 fight contract with Strikeforce and will be competing at 135 lbs.
Background: Muay Thai
Accomplishments: WIKBA World Muay Thai Champion and a bunch of other titles
My 2¢: Going 48-0 in any combat sport, let alone Muay Thai, is outlandish. Her MMA debut didn't go as successfully as she would have liked, getting submitted by MMA veteran Vanessa Porto, but she's stated that it was the best thing that has happened to her. Unlike many pure strikers, she's actually trying to improve her ground game. She even locked on a Triangle, albeit a sloppy one, in her fight against Stephanie Webber. She's only 26, so she's got plenty of time to improve and I think she will.
Background: Muay Thai, Sanshou
Accomplishments: IKF Muay Thai World Champion
My 2¢: I'll admit that I couldn't find anything on her Muay Thai or Sanshou records. So, I'm only going on what I saw in her fight against Charlene Gellner. She knee'd the hell out of her. The Thai Clinch that she used was beautiful too. She definitely needs to develop her ground game but her striking is leaps and bounds above what we're used to seeing in MMA.
Cheap plug for my personal blog, Monsta Island (Art, Music, MMA, Nonsense)