Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight finishers Amanda Nunes and Megan Anderson will collide this weekend (Sat., March 6, 2021) at UFC 259 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nunes has largely completed the absurd task of clearing out two separate divisions. They are not UFC’s deepest pools of talent, sure, but dominating two weight classes to that degree is still one hell of a feat. Anderson is perhaps her final chance at 145 pounds, and I mean that literally — who else is there? Anderson is one of the rare Featherweights who cannot also make Bantamweight, so this puts her in a very difficult position. If she’s unable to upset “The Lioness” — and the oddsmakers do not like her chances — what is the path forward for the Australian striker? Her division barely exists.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Cris Cyborg (UFC 232), Ronda Rousey (UFC 207), Holly Holm (UFC 239), Miesha Tate (UFC 200), Valentina Shevchenko (UFC 215, UFC 196), Germaine de Randamie (UFC 245), Sara McMann (UFC Fight Night 73), Raquel Pennington (UFC 224)
Key Losses: Cat Zingano (UFC 178), Sarah D’Alelio (Invicta FC 4), Alexis Davis (Strikeforce: Barnett vs Kharitonov)
Keys to Victory: Nunes is a destroyer, simply on a different level of speed and power from the vast majority of her peers. Her athleticism is aided by the fact that she can really do it all: Nunes’ right hand hits like a truck, she kicks plenty hard, and the Brazilian is accomplished in both jiu-jitsu and Judo.
Could Nunes tune up Anderson on the feet? My answer is a less-than-definitive “probably,” but the more important note here is that she has no reason to find out. Her advantage on the mat is simply astronomical, and as Nunes showed opposite Germaine de Randamie, she has no qualms in out-wrestling strikers.
That’s simply the smart play here. There is no sensible reason to trade strikes with one of the few women with genuine knockout power, not when Nunes can still pick up a quality stoppage — or at least dominant win — from top position.
If Holly Holm can double leg Anderson along the fence, “Lioness” should have no issues implementing her will.
Key Wins: Norma Dumont Viana (UFC Fight Night 169), Zarah Fairn dos Santos (UFC 243), Cat Zingano (UFC 232)
Key Losses: Holly Holm (UFC 225), Felicia Spencer (UFC Fight Night 152)
Keys to Victory: Anderson began her martial arts training with Muay Thai, and it’s still definitely her biggest strength. When able to stalk her opponent, Anderson throws at a good clip with real power, and that alone gives her a more reasonable chance than a lot of failed “Lioness” challengers.
In this match up, Anderson has to put a pace on her opponent. On the feet, Anderson should be sticking long kicks and jabs in her face constantly. Nunes is used to being the bully, so if Anderson can flip that script, it may throw her opponent off a bit.
Otherwise, the takedown is going to happen. What’s important is that Anderson remembers that she has five rounds to work, which means that she can lose a round or two to top control provided she’s constantly working to scramble up to her feet. It is far more exhausting to wrestle a larger opponent, and Anderson can use that size to her advantage if she’s forcing Nunes to constantly drag her back down.
Aggressive punches-in-bunches, determined scrambling, and opportunistic clinch work — this represents Anderson’s best chance at the upset.
The situation here reminds me somewhat of T.J. Dillashaw’s failed bid to kill the Flyweight division.
For Nunes, the situation is the same as ever. She’s unlikely to lose, and if she does, an immediate rematch will happen. Worst case, she still has another belt to defend — that’s one serious failsafe! Until such a thing happens, Nunes is simply expanding upon her current legacy as the best fighter in the history of women’s MMA.
The stakes are substantially higher for Anderson, who may well be fighting for her division. Nunes is not committed to Featherweight, as her initial rise to greatness and most of her other possible challengers lie at 135 pounds. Nor is UFC committed to the division, as evidenced by the fact that there are literally no Featherweights besides Nunes listed in the rankings. Anderson is the last (relative) name challenge for Nunes at that weight, so what happens if she comes up short?
It’s very possible the division is out, and Bellator is the next best option. However, if Anderson does capture the belt, the division suddenly has a champion fully focused on the 145-pound class. Perhaps that’s something to build from?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 259 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 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+ PPV.
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At UFC 259, Amanda Nunes and Megan Anderson will battle for the Featherweight belt. Which woman will walk away with the title?