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Double champ and consensus UFC women’s G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) Amanda Nunes lost her title in shocking fashion to Juliann Pena in 2021 but was quick to gain it back in 2022 with a unanimous decision win over Pena at UFC 277 last July.
Despite the division’s rankings, there is no official next challenger for Nunes at the time of this writing. Frankly, only two options seem to stand out: a third fight against Valentina Shevchenko (who is the current women’s flyweight champion) or retirement.
Nunes already holds two wins over Shevchenko in the bantamweight division.
Women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko has held her title since 2018.
Prior to the creation of the women’s flyweight division, Shevchenko fought one weight class up, so she is no stranger to the bantamweight division.
She has lost twice to Amanda Nunes at 135-pounds but their last fight at UFC 215 (Shevchenko’s last professional loss) was a controversial split-decision that many, including Shevchenko herself, think she won.
A third fight between these two champions seems to be the most interesting option for both women as neither currently have a legitimate contender lined up in their respective divisions.
Yes - Julianna Pena has a win over Amanda Nunes, but her overall inactivity has worked against her in the past.
Pena has fought only seven times since 2016 and is just 4-3 during that span.
After defeating Nunes in 2021 by second-round submission, she was dominated by the champion in their 2022 rematch.
The idea of a trilogy bout between the two seems to have been shelved by the UFC brass who seem more keen on having Nunes defend her title against someone else. Pena currently has no future opponent lined up.
The only fighter on this list to have already fought in 2023, former title challenger Raquel Pennington is coming off of a three-round split-decision win over Ketlen Vieira that took place just last month.
Pennington has now won five fights in a row and seems like the most logical next title challenger on paper - but rankings don’t always lead to title fights.
Pennington has been vocal about wanting a fight against Nunes but her next opponent is set to be Irene Aldana, whom she will fight on March 25.
Rounding out this list is Mexican-born Irene Aldana - the only fighter on this list to have not fought for a championship at this point in her career.
Aldana has won her last two fights in a row: a 2021 win over Yana Kunitskaya and a 2022 knockout win over Macy Chiasson at UFC 279 last September.
Despite her strong performances, Aldana has a history of weight-cutting issues. She came in heavy for her fight against Kunitskaya and her fight with Chiasson last year was fought at a catchweight of 140-pounds.
She is set to face Raquel Pennington on March 25. Should she secure a win with no weight issues, there is potential to see Aldana as a title challenger in 2023. If she secures a win but misses weight, there is still the possibility that she could move up for a featherweight title shot at 145-pounds.
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