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A Look At Women's MMA

Women's MMA Division

by Robert Sargent

In the first of many articles looking at the current state of mixed martial arts, examines the world of women's MMA, which has quickly risen to become one of the most entertaining divisions in the sport.

In this article, we will take a look at each of the top females in mixed martial arts, with lists of the champions, contenders and wildcards.

The Dominant Females:

Tara LaRosa (15-1-0): Arguably the best female fighter in the sport today, LaRosa brings a very well-rounded game to the cage. She is adept on the feet, has good takedowns and takedown defence, possesses reasonable ground and pound and has the ability to submit just about anyone by armbar. She is the current BodogFIGHT Women's Bantamweight (135 pounds) Champion, having defeated Kelly Kobald last July.

LaRosa holds victories over Ginele Marquez, Megumi Yabushita, Julie Kedzie, Amanda Buckner and Shayna Baszler, among others. Her most recent fight was a submission victory in a non-title match with reigning HOOKnSHOOT Flyweight (125 pounds) Champion Cody Welchin. Although not quite as well known as some other female fighters, having largely shunned the spotlight, LaRosa is widely regarded as the greatest female mixed martial artist today. She has been defeated just once, by Jennifer Howe in 2003. Many fans are anxiously looking forward to a potential battle with Gina Carano in the future.

Megumi "Mega Megu" Fujii (14-0-0): Quite possibly the best Japanese female fighter in MMA, Fujii is a highly-decorated submission wizard, with superb takedowns and incredible submission prowess. She has competed all over the world, in a variety of promotions, and has yet to taste defeat. In fact, she has really never come close to losing. Her specialty, though not generally her method of fight finish, is the Inazuma Toe Hold submission, which she frequently uses to transition to heel hooks.

Fujii is a black belt in Judo and Jiu-Jitsu, and has many accolades outside of MMA. She has trained top fighters like Hitomi Akano and SmackGIRL Lightweight Champion Satoko Shinashi. She competes at 115 pounds, and has totalled victories over Cody Welchin, Lisa Ward and Kyoko Takabayashi. Her most recent fight was a submission victory over Cindy Hales at SmackGIRL's World ReMix Tournament in February. Fujii has competed in North America multiple times, but there are few competitors at 115 pounds who pose any threat to her. She may very well go undefeated throughout her career.

Satoko Shinashi (28-1-2): Unquestionably the top 105-pound female fighter today, Shinashi has torn through the competition in Japan since the end of 2001. She is a tactician, with an incredible 22 of her victories coming by way of submission. She is very versatile on the ground, having particularly nasty armbar and heel hook submissions, and is highly adept at taking her opponents to the ground.

Shinashi has truly defeated nearly everyone possible, with three victories over Misaki Takimoto, two victories over Naoko Ohmuro, two victories over Sachi Sachi and one win over former DEEP 105-pound Champion Hisae Watanabe. She has been defeated just one time, by Watanabe in 2006, and will likely look to settle the score in a rubber match with Watanabe in the near future. In the meantime, Shinashi won two fights in one night at DEEP - 34th Impact, and seems well on her way to solidifying her spot as the best 105-pound female fighter of all time.

Sarah Kaufman (6-0-0): Though she has competed in mixed martial arts for less than two years, Kaufman has already made a significant impact in Canada, scoring all six of her victories by way of KO or TKO. She has excellent striking, both on the feet and on the ground, and is also very skilled in takedowns and submission defence. Working her way through promotions in British Columbia and Alberta, Kaufman went 4-0.

She was called by TKO Major League MMA in Quebec in 2007, and defeated Valerie Letourneau at TKO 29. Returning to Alberta, Kaufman battled Ginele Marquez at Hardcore Championship Fighting's "Title Wave" event last October. In one of the most entertaining female fights in recent memory, Kaufman managed to survive a number of scrambles on the ground and eventually secured a third-round TKO victory to become HCF Women's Bantamweight (135 pounds) Champion. Her first title defence is on March 29th, at HCF "Crow's Nest" in Montreal, where she faces Molly Helsel.

The Contenders:

Gina "Conviction" Carano (5-0-0): Carano is, by far, the most recognisable face in female MMA, both from her fights in EliteXC and her time spent as "Crush" on American Gladiators. She is undefeated in her career, and has worked diligently to improve her ground game. Her background is in Muay Thai kickboxing, and her striking is equal to any challenger. Carano won her first two fights by knockout, then moved to the Strikeforce promotion in December of 2006, where she defeated Elaina Maxwell.

EliteXC, immediately noticing Carano for both her skill as a fighter and easy marketability with her camera-friendly looks, signed her right away. Carano debuted in EliteXC at EliteXC: Destiny in February of 2007, defeating Julie Kedzie by Unanimous Decision in what was ruled as the Fight of the Night. The fight remains as one of the best in EliteXC's history. Her next test came against Tonya Evinger at EliteXC: Uprising in September, and Carano survived some scares on the ground to win by rear naked choke. She trains with the Xtreme Couture camp in Las Vegas, but recent questions have arised as to whether she is still as dedicated to fighting as she once was. If she sticks with it, a fight with Tara LaRosa would be a great one.

Hisae Watanabe (19-6-0): Watanabe is the former DEEP 105-pound Women's Champion, but was unable to follow up on her incredible KO victory over previously-undefeated Sakoto Shinashi. Since the win over Shinashi, she has gone 2-2 in DEEP, and questions remain whether she can regain her status at the top of the division. Unlike most of the other Japanese female mixed martial artists, Watanabe is not a grappler and does not often go for submissions. She is very heavy-handed and prefers to end the fight on the feet.

With her superb striking, and strong ability to avoid takedowns and submissions, Watanabe has all of the potential in the world, but her victory over Shinashi remains as her only big win to date. Another victory over Shinashi, or a title victory in DEEP, would return Watanabe to the top of the 105-pound division, but she must get her career back on track.

Laura D'Auguste (8-0-1): While almost entirely unknown in MMA, D'Auguste has yet to be defeated, and holds victories over Amanda Buckner and Roxanne Modafferi. She is very well-rounded, with four knockout victories and two by submission. In her two most recent fights, both against Megumi Yabushita, D'Auguste emerged victorious in each. However, she has not fought since August of 2006. She clearly has the potential to challenge the best in the world, but must continue fighting in order to do so.

Amanda Buckner (11-4-1): Like Tara LaRosa, Buckner suffered an early KO loss to Jennifer Howe, then went 1-2-1 in her next four fights, but she has lost just one time in her last nine bouts. She specialises in guillotine and rear naked chokes, and has also scored wins by armbar submission. She holds two victories over Shayna Baszler, one over Megumi Yabushita and one each over Julie Kedzie and Hitomi Akano. Buckner was defeated by Tara LaRosa by rear naked choke with 29 seconds remaining in round three in their BodogFIGHT battle in 2006. It was a very close fight that Buckner may well have won had she survived the round. A rematch with LaRosa, or a battle with Gina Carano, would surely prove to be entertaining.

Lisa Ward (11-3-0): Ward has battled foes in many promotions, but has yet to find success in higher-profile fights. Seven of her victories have come by way of submission, and she is skilled in chokes, armbars and Kimuras. She remains undefeated in SmackGIRL, including a victory over Ayumi Saito in February, but has been defeated twice in HOOKnSHOOT and was submitted by Megumi Fujii at BodogFIGHT in Vancouver last August. She is a good fighter, but needs a victory over a top competitor to further her career.

Hitomi Akano (12-5-0): Like many of her Japanese compatriots, Akano is a master of the armbar, having used it to secure nearly all of her victories. She has been defeated just one time in SmackGIRL, but has had less success in other promotions. Akano has dropped decisions to Tara LaRosa and Amanda Buckner, but often seems to be just a step away from attaining greatness. She was victorious in her most recent fight against Megumi Yabushita, avenging a past loss. A key victory will put Akano among the elite at 135.

Kelly Kobald (16-2-1): Kobald seemed utterly unstoppable until 2007, having gone undefeated throughout her career, with one Draw with Ginele Marquez. She is an extremely well-rounded fighter, with numerous victories by KO and submission. Kobald defeated Shayna Baszler in 2004, giving Baszler her first loss. However, after engaging in a thrilling title bout with Tara LaRosa in BodogFIGHT, Kobald was submitted by armbar in the fourth round. She lost again to Julie Kedzie one month later in October of 2007, and has not fought since. The two recent losses aside, Kobald remains as an imposing force, but needs a win to get back on track.

Roxanne Modafferi (11-4-0): Modafferi remains as the only fighter to ever defeat Jennifer Howe, and she did it twice. Until that time, Howe was thought to be unbeatable, with nearly a dozen fighters dodging fights with her. However, Modafferi has had mixed success since, with losses to Tara LaRosa and Shayna Baszler. She avenged a loss to Megumi Yabushita, then defeated Yabushita a second time in a one-night tournament at K-GRACE in May of 2007. Modafferi won all three of her fights that night, and also holds the IFC Women's Bantamweight (135 pounds) Championship. She has not fought since last May.

The Wildcards:

Ginele Marquez (5-7-1): While her record may imply otherwise, Marquez is a very talented - and extremely entertaining - fighter, with very good ground skills. She was defeated in each of her first four fights, but two of those losses came against Tara LaRosa and Amanda Buckner. Marquez has won five of her last eight fights, including wins over Molly Helsel and Megumi Yabushita. She was defeated in her most recent fight, for the vacant HCF Women's Bantamweight (135 pounds) Championship, by Sarah Kaufman, but she made certain that no one in the audience would forget her, as she danced her way to the ring (in highly impressive fashion) and put on a great showing in defeat. Marquez is easily one of the most exciting female fighters in the sport today.

Julie Kedzie (8-7-0): Kedzie has had a rollercoaster career, with two wins each over Molly Helsel and Jan Finney and two losses to Jen Case. Her most impressive victory to date was over Kelly Kobald last August. Since the end of 2005, Kedzie has gone 4-5, but all five losses have come against top competition, in Shayna Baszler, Tara LaRosa, Amanda Buckner, Gina Carano and Tonya Evinger. It is because of her struggles in higher-profile fights that Kedzie's career spirals. Her spirited battle with Gina Carano made certain that she will not be forgotten anytime soon, though.

Tonya Evinger (6-3-0): After losing her first professional fight, Evinger won four in a row, including a win over Ginele Marquez. However, she lost to Vanessa Porto and Gina Carano, which seemingly ended her fast-track to a title shot in one promotion or another. Evinger rebounded, though, and defeated Julie Kedzie earlier this year at a ShoXC event, which means that she will likely be kept around in EliteXC in the future. While an immediate rematch with Carano is unlikely, it may happen down the road.

Molly Helsel (5-6-1): Helsel has also had ups and downs in her career, having lost her first two professional fights, including one to Ginele Marquez. She entered a one-night tournament in HOOKnSHOOT in November of 2005, winning both of her first two fights before dropping a close decision to Julie Kedzie in the finals. She was defeated again by Kedzie one year later, and has experienced wins and losses since. However, all of that could change on March 29th, as Helsel will square off against undefeated powerhouse Sarah Kaufman for the Hardcore Championship Fighting Women's Bantamweight (135 pounds) Championship. A win over Kaufman would do wonders for Helsel's career.

"The Queen of Spades" Shayna Baszler (8-4-0): Baszler has fought the best of the best in her 12-fight career, with all four of her losses coming against extremely tough competition. She has lost to Kelly Kobald and Tara LaRosa, and lost twice to Amanda Buckner, but Baszler has defeated Julie Kedzie, Roxanne Modafferi and Jan Finney. She is currently on a three-fight winning streak since the loss to LaRosa, and could easily challenge for a title in any promotion willing to give her the chance.

Megumi Yabushita (13-14-0): Yabushita is one of the few true veterans of female mixed martial arts, having competed against nearly all of the best female fighters at 135 pounds. However, though she has scored many significant wins, she has also been defeated by many opponents she should have beaten, and her career defines the word inconsistent. Her most notable victories came against Erin Toughill (by DQ), Hitomi Akano and Roxanne Modafferi, but she has also been defeated by all three. Further losses to Tara LaRosa, Amanda Buckner, Ginele Marquez, Lisa Ward and twice to Laura D'Auguste have set Yabushita's career on a downward tilt.

Jennifer Howe (13-2-0): For years, Howe was the most feared female fighter alive, with nearly a dozen fighters officially refusing to fight her at all. She racked up 12 straight wins, including a KO victory over Amanda Buckner. She remains as the only woman to ever defeat Tara LaRosa, which she did by TKO in May of 2003. However, back-to-back losses to Roxanne Modafferi in 2004 and 2005 signalled the beginning of the end for Howe, who, after one more victory over Jennifer Fields, seemingly gave up mixed martial arts in 2005, in favour of family life with Jeremy Horn. She has not competed since then, but has the ability to defeat any female in the world - perhaps excluding Modafferi - at the 135-pound weight class, should she return.


Females are often passed off as secondary competitors in mixed martial arts events, and some feel that they do not belong in major promotions like EliteXC, fighting alongside the men. However, the undeniable fact is that women's bouts frequently take Fight of the Night honours, and many of the world's best female fighters are far superior to their male counterparts.

While they may not be competing in the UFC anytime soon, fans can be thankful that promotions like TKO, HCF and EliteXC are willing to give the women equal time to display their skills. - The Warcraft III Community - The Warcraft III Community
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