This Saturday’s UFC 250 pay-per-view (PPV) event in Las Vegas, Nevada brings to mind the Goombas from 1993’s Super Mario Bros. movie. There’s some impressive beef to be found as you look at it from the bottom up; the undercard boasts a number of strong matchups, including Jussier Formiga vs. Alex Perez and Gerald Meerschaert vs. Ian Heinisch.
On the main card, Aljamain Sterling vs. Cory Sandhagen is mixed martial arts (MMA) at its finest, Cody Garbrandt vs. Raphael Assuncao is a delightfully intriguing clash between a self-destructive brawler and a nasty counter-striker, and Sean O’Malley vs. Eddie Wineland figures to be violent fun while it lasts.
Then you reach the top and well...
I don’t mean to cast aspersions on Felicia Spencer. She’s a legitimately strong grappler, tends to get the finish, and has shown such toughness that I can’t imagine her just rolling over. Being horribly outclassed against Amanda Nunes is something that happens to, well, everyone the “Lioness” fights.
The problem lies with the division itself.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Women’s Featherweight division has completed the task that prompted its creation: giving Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino a title to win. Rather than let it die with the Brazilian’s exit or attempt to cobble together a legitimate roster to sustain it despite her absence, the organization is content to let it aimlessly shamble on in an emaciated, half-dead state.
Not only should the division not exist at this point, it functionally doesn’t. If you were to take its roster and excise all the natural Bantamweights, you’d be left with Megan Anderson, Zarah Fairn dos Santos, and possibly this weekend’s victim-to-be in Spencer. I say “possibly” because Spencer weighed in at 143.7 pounds for her Invicta Featherweight title fight against Pam Sorenson. Even Fairn has successfully competed at 135 pounds.
I’m not certain the UFC could make Featherweight a proper division even if it wanted to; Invicta’s 145-pound roster is a paltry 14 fighters and Bellator already snapped up most of the other notable contenders. Hell, PFL had to make due with blown-up Bantamweights like Larissa Pacheco and Sarah Kaufman when desperately searching for people to feed to Kayla Harrison at 155 pounds.
Barring a historic upset from Spencer and subsequent immediate do-over, there are only two paths that could justify keeping the division around after Saturday’s fight and neither are feasible. One is to bring back Cyborg for a rematch, but between the lingering animosity and her assuredly cushy Bellator contract, that’s not happening. The other is to chase Harrison, whose sheer size and Olympic pedigree make her one of the only women on Earth whom Nunes wouldn’t be a prohibitive favorite against, but that would require the UFC to offer something more enticing than getting paid a literal million dollars to demolish women two weight classes below her.
Unless they want to sacrifice Megan Anderson to Nunes or suffer through unwanted rematch after unwanted rematch, the only solution is to dissolve it. All three of the organizations mentioned above could use fresh contenders like Anderson and Spencer, both of whom will have shiny “UFC veteran” labels to bump up their asking price. With Irene Aldana, Aspen Ladd, and possibly Macy Chiasson on the rise, Nunes won’t be short on contenders at 135 for a while, at least if the UFC doesn’t risk them against Germaine de Randamie beforehand.
If the UFC insists on having a fourth women’s division, well, there’s always Atomweight.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 250 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+/Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
For the rest of the UFC 250 fight card and line up click here.