UFC 297: Amanda Nunes Still Owns Bantamweight

ufc 289
Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in over six years, the UFC women’s bantamweight title was contested without Amanda Nunes standing in the Octagon. While she sat cage side to watch her crown be placed on someone else’s head in the UFC 297 co-main event, it became increasingly clear that the division has a tremendous uphill battle ahead.

The Shadow of Amanda Nunes

As exciting as dominant champions can be during their reign, their absence has the potential to leave a major void. Without a passing of the torch moment and a field of exciting contenders waiting for their chance, things have the potential of feeling stale and aimless. 

Georges St. Pierre left welterweight with Johny Hendricks, Robbie Lawler, and Carlos Condit on deck. Anderson Silva left the middleweight title with Chris Weidman, who had Lyoto Machida, Luke Rockhold, and Yoel Romero standing in line behind him. Jon Jones narrowly defeated Dominick Reyes which set the train in motion for Jan Blachowicz.

Amanda Nunes’ departure from competition and subsequent relinquishing of the belt without an heir apparent has left bantamweight in a dark place. 

Under other circumstances Raquel Pennington’s win against Mayra Buena Silva would be more celebrated. Pennington, a durable brawler who consistently leaves it all in the Octagon, fought through tremendous adversity in the early stages of the fight. Silva looked unstoppable in every area until Rocky’s willpower forced her to wilt as the clock ticked. It had the makings of a memorable and career defining moment. 

Raquel Pennington
Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

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But with Nunes, who thoroughly dominated Pennington several years ago, sitting just a few feet away, the feeling fell far short of the accomplishment. Now the single fight that is immediately apparent is with Julianna Pena, another recent Nunes victim. Of course, Pena did get the best of Nunes at UFC 269, but their rematch months later retconned that initial result into a fluke.

While we can expect the two to provide a good scrap, it’s highly unlikely to move the conversation around 135 forward. 

The UFC made an easy decision about featherweight when Nunes retired. Considering that the roster was noticeably light on natural 145ers, closing shop on the weight class and parting with the handful of women there made sense. 

Bantamweight isn’t so simple. There’s a full roster and a huge need to fill bodies into the busy schedule. That alone probably keeps 135 in business. But it could take years for Amanda Nunes’ ghost to stop haunting the division.

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Ant Walker is a native of the Washington DC area that now lives in Los Angeles. He has been... More about Anthony Walker

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