UFC women's bantamweight contender Cat Zingano announces she's medically cleared for Octagon return

USA TODAY Sports

But where does she fit into the current title picture?

She's back!

Less than a month after getting her final knee injection, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women's 135-pound contender Cat Zingano has been medically cleared to return to mixed martial arts (MMA) competition, and has already been fitted for a new mouth guard.

Take note, fellow bantamweights.

Zingano (8-0) blew out her knee nearly one year ago while preparing for a coaching spot on season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). "Alpha" had to sit on the sidelines and watch Miesha Tate -- the fighter she beat for a shot at reigning champion Ronda Rousey -- take her spot on the combat sports reality show.

As well as her title fight at UFC 168.

But now that "Cupcake" has been removed from the title chase for the foreseeable future, Zingano should have a straight and narrow path to the gold, despite the long layoff (and this personal setback), because UFC President Dana White was willing to keep her spot in line.

But until she can secure a date, the show must go on.

That's why Rousey has been slotted to face Alexis Davis in the UFC 175 co-main event on July 5 in Las Vegas. "The Ally-Gator" is the only female fighter -- aside from "Rowdy" -- to rack up a 3-0 record inside the Octagon. The winner of that bout will likely be paired off against "Alpha."

Unless Zingano opts for a tune-up fight.

Either way, the division is starting to heat up. Not only are some familiar faces returning, some new ones are emerging, as well. It sure beats the old days, when everyone was running around playing Miss America.

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