Women's MMA Division, Part TwoPicking up where we left off last year, MMARising.com once again looks at the top fighters in the women’s division of mixed martial arts. From the dominant females to the wildcards, the competitors are finally getting their due respect.

Women’s MMA has come a long way in the past two years and that was evident with the historic bout between Gina “Conviction” Carano and Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos.

 

Here, we look at 60 of the best female fighters in mixed martial arts today.

Please note that this is a repost of the original article from July 26, 2009. Fights and records have since changed accordingly.

Click here for MMARising.com’s Women’s Pound-For-Pound Top 15 Rankings.

 

Best Of The Best:

Megumi “Mega Megu” Fujii (18-0-0): Once rivalled by Tara LaRosa for the title of the #1 female fighter in mixed martial arts, Fujii has seemingly taken sole possession of that distinction. Long regarded as the best female fighter in Japan, Fujii has continued her dominance throughout the past year. With wins over tough South Korean challenger Seo Hee Ham and surging Japanese contender Saori Ishioka, Fujii has kept her perfect record intact.

Now sporting an amazing 15 victories by way of submission, Fujii’s only problem comes in finding suitable opponents. Or, for that matter, opponents at all. Having cleaned out most of the 115-pound division, there are few challengers left for the Judo and Jiu-Jitsu ace. Following the demise of the long-time all-female SmackGIRL promotion, Fujii has moved on to the newly-formed Jewels promotion in Japan.

Should Jewels establish championship titles in the future, Fujii will undoubtedly be the first to compete for gold. After her victory over Ishioka at Jewels: “Fourth Ring,” the question remains as to whether anyone can ever defeat Fujii before her career comes to an end.

 

Tara LaRosa (17-1-0): The first and only BodogFIGHT Women’s Bantamweight Champion was left without a promotion to compete for when BodogFIGHT dissolved soon after her title win. However, all signs pointed to big things for LaRosa when it was announced that she had signed a whopping $500,000 deal to compete in the American Fight League. Things did not pan out with the AFL, though, and LaRosa sat out for all of 2008.

LaRosa’s résumé reads as a who’s who of top female fighters, and she holds victories over nearly every top contender at the 135-pound level. Having recently made the move to the Extreme Challenge promotion, LaRosa picked up back-to-back third-round stoppage wins in 2009, including a victory over solid prospect Alexis Davis. The biggest question surrounding LaRosa right now is where she will end up next.

With the women’s division in Strikeforce flourishing, there are a number of challengers for LaRosa, not the least of whom is Gina “Conviction” Carano. Both fighters have made mention of competing against one another someday. In the meantime, LaRosa has continued her quiet dominance as the top female fighter in North America, though newer fans to the sport likely still haven’t had the chance to see her compete.

 

Yuka “Vale Tudo Queen” Tsuji (22-1-0): Easily one of the most decorated female fighters in history, the 1997 Asian Championship Bronze Medallist in Freestyle Wrestling (51 kg.) has held three major titles in her mixed martial arts career. First becoming the 2002 SmackGIRL Japan Cup Middleweight Grand Prix Champion, Tsuji later captured the coveted SmackGIRL Lightweight Championship with a 2005 victory over future DEEP Lightweight Champion Hisae Watanabe. Tsuji defended her crown an incredible five times before the promotion folded in 2008.

Ironically, it wasn’t until after the demise of SmackGIRL that Tsuji really began to make an impact. Returning to competition at the inaugural Valkyrie event in November of 2008, Tsuji picked up a dominant decision victory. Five months later, Tsuji claimed gold once again, as she submitted Kate Martinez in the first round of their fight at Valkyrie 2 to become the first Valkyrie Featherweight Champion.

Having already avenged her lone career loss by knocking out Ana Michelle Tavares in 2007, Tsuji, much like her compatriot Megumi Fujii, has few tough challengers left. With no shortage of rising stars and prospects in Japan at the moment, fans can be certain that Valkyrie will continue to showcase Tsuji in exciting bouts.

 

“Princess” Satoko Shinashi (29-2-2): The reigning DEEP Women’s Flyweight Champion has had an interesting 15 months. Rebounding from her brutal 2006 knockout loss to Hisae Watanabe, Shinashi made a wise decision to drop down in weight, then racked up seven straight wins and captured her title in the process.

However, the unthinkable happened when Shinashi lost a Majority Decision to complete unknown Mai Ichii at DEEP: 35th Impact in a non-title bout in May of 2008. She managed to pick up a win over Yukiko Seki (who was 5-14-0 coming into the fight) at DEEP: 38th Impact last October, but then announced that she would be taking time away from competition to have her first child.

Shinashi gave birth to a son on July 5th, 2009, and it is not currently known when she will return to active duty. However, as a reigning titleholder, it is all but assured that Shinashi will be back as quickly as possible. When she is, the submission wizard will look to immediately erase the memory of the loss to Ichii, while establishing once again exactly why she has long been regarded as one of the best female fighters in mixed martial arts history.

 

Miku “Supernova” Matsumoto (21-4-0): Perhaps no other female in Japan has made as much of an impact in female mixed martial arts over the past two years as Matsumoto. Though she may not yet have achieved the notoriety of Megumi Fujii, Matsumoto continues to improve in leaps and bounds with each passing fight.

She first claimed the DEEP Women’s Lightweight Championship from now-retired knockout artist Hisae Watanabe at DEEP: 31st Impact in August of 2007 and has held the title ever since. In fact, Matsumoto has won 11 fights in a row, which is a feat that very few female fighters have matched. Most recently, Matsumoto scored a third-round submission victory over the extremely talented Lisa Ward, who was the last woman to defeat Matsumoto.

With that victory, Matsumoto has now avenged all four of her career losses and truly seems to be bordering on unstoppable. In three of her last four fights, Matsumoto has adopted a strategy of targeting her opponents’ midsections with knees and kicks, which netted her a pair of stoppage victories and set up her submission of Ward. There is arguably no female fighter in Japan on a bigger rise than Matsumoto and fans know that her fast-paced fights will always be among the best of the night.

 

Sarah Kaufman (10-0-0): Canada’s top female fighter finally found a fight after a one-year layoff following the demise of Hardcore Championship Fighting. After winning championship gold in HCF, Kaufman was left without a fight for a full 13 months until she returned at a Palace Fighting Championship event on April 23rd, 2009. Dispatching of Sara Schneider in the first half of round two, Kaufman picked up her eighth straight victory by a form of knockout.

Wasting absolutely no time, Kaufman stepped right back inside the cage as a late replacement for Kim “Sugar Free” Couture when she battled wrestling standout Miesha “Takedown” Tate at Strikeforce Challengers 1 on May 15th. It marked the first time that Kaufman went the distance, albeit with three-minute rounds, but she pulled out a dominant win over Tate.

Just five weeks later, Kaufman competed in her third bout in less than two months against “The Queen of Spades” Shayna Baszler, who was easily Kaufman’s toughest test to date. The fight once again went to a decision, but Kaufman survived an early submission from Baszler and overwhelmed her with strikes.

Now a perfect 10-0-0, Kaufman is no longer just the best female fighter in Canada. She is now one of the best female fighters in the sport, period. A title fight for a future Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Championship is all but guaranteed at this point.