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5 best rivalries between female fighters in UFC history

UFC 223: Namajunas v Jedrzejczyk
UFC 223: Namajunas v Jedrzejczyk

Rivalries are commonplace in the UFC. They're explosive, generate fan interest in bouts, and often lead to promotional goldmines for the UFC. In any sport, elite competitors are bound to have heated exchanges, least of all when the sport in question involves physical combat.

Defending champions feel slighted by the bold proclamations of challengers they believe are trying to take food off their table. Meanwhile, ambitious challengers are eager to fulfill their lifelong dream of capturing UFC gold, and see the reigning champion as an obstacle.

At times, however, fighters that are matched up simply do not like each other. Their personalities are incompatible and clash, leading to rivalries that seem to arise for no discernible reason. This is the case in both the men's and women's divisions. This list breaks down the greatest rivalries between female fighters in UFC history.


#5 Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko

Twice Valentina Shevchenko lost to Amanda Nunes. While the first fight was a more convincing win for Nunes, the second bout was a closer split-decision win for the Brazilian.

Their second bout was greater in magnitude than their first as it was contested for the UFC bantamweight title. The UFC's initial attempt at booking it for UFC 213 failed as Nunes pulled out of the fight due to illness.

Valentina Shevchenko’s octagon interview after second fight with Amanda Nunes Follow Us on Instagram : ift.tt/3fQpgVh #UFCvegas35 #UFC265 #UFC266 #UFCFightnight #MMA #UFC https://t.co/o6MW9gsVrG

Shevchenko, however, believed Nunes' withdrawal was due to a poor weight cut. In the aftermath of their bout, which she lost, Shevchenko, who is typically composed and soft-spoken, could not contain herself in the post-fight interview after the judges declared Nunes the winner.

With her voice raised in fury, she pointed out the damage visible on Nunes' face, asserting that her foe had not won the fight and that she couldn't make sense of the judges' decision-making.

The rivalry has only heightened since Shevchenko's dominant run as the flyweight champion, with Shevchenko aiming to challenge the winner of the upcoming Julianna Pena-Amanda Nunes bantamweight title fight at UFC 277.


#4. Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha

When Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha first crossed paths, both were undefeated prospects in the UFC's strawweight division. The hype surrounding their initial clash revolved around the stylistic matchup.

It was a brief return to the style versus style bouts of the UFC's early days. Jędrzejczyk was a highly-skilled kickboxer with unyielding defensive wrestling, while Gadelha was a powerful wrestler with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.

July 8, 20162 years ago today, Joanna Jędrzejczyk defeated Claudia Gadelha via unanimous decision to defend her Strawweight title at the Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale. The win was @JoannaMMA third title defense, moving her to 6-0 in the UFC & 12-0 overall. https://t.co/SCCL2JFNAR

The bout was a title eliminator, ending in a split-decision win for Jędrzejczyk, which Gadelha contested, claiming to have been robbed by the judges. While Jędrzejczyk went on to capture the strawweight title from Carla Esparza in dominant fashion, Gadelha built herself back up.

Recovering from the first loss of her MMA career, she rebounded with a convincing win over Jessica Aguilar. By the time she was ready for a title shot, Jędrzejczyk had already recorded two title defenses.

The two women were then booked as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter. The animosity between the two worsened during filming, with Gadelha going so far as claiming Jędrzejczyk's intensity was due to frustrations with her partner in the bedroom.

When the two faced each other in their hotly-anticipated rematch, Jędrzejczyk won more convincingly than she had the first time, closing the door on her chapter with Claudia Gadelha.


#3 Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas

Before Jędrzejczyk's first fight with Rose Namajunas, she was the undefeated strawweight queen fresh off a dominant win over one of the division’s scariest fighters, Jessica Andrade.

Namajunas, by contrast, had just managed her first win since losing to Karolina Kowalkiewicz, another Polish kickboxer plying her trade in MMA, who herself had lost to Jędrzejczyk.

A 6-3 fighter at that point in her career, with only decision wins and submissions on her record, hardly anyone gave Namajunas a chance against Jędrzejczyk.

"THUG ROSE! THUG ROSE! THUG ROSE!"On this day in 2017...Rose Namajunas stopped Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the first round at UFC 217 to become the strawweight champ!@dc_mma with the legendary commentary 👊🌹 https://t.co/c8GUPinE03

How, many wondered, would Namajunas drag Jędrzejczyk to the ground to implement her submission game? Better wrestlers had tried but failed. Those who did manage to secure takedowns could never keep her grounded.

Thus, when the fight came to be and Namajunas showed improved striking and jaw-dropping distance management en route to a shocking 1st round TKO win, everyone in attendance was shocked.

Jędrzejczyk tapped to strikes and Namajunas was the new strawweight champion. Jędrzejczyk dealt with the first loss of her career badly, first claiming she never tapped to strikes despite video evidence showing otherwise.

She chalked up the loss to merely being caught and claimed that Namajunas had no power, all while swearing that she was still the strawweight queen. Ready to avenge her first career loss, Jędrzejczyk was given an immediate rematch.

Their second outing was a much closer affair. Still, Jędrzejczyk lost, again struggling to swallow the bitter pill of another failure. This time, it was a split-decision and the former champion was adamant she had won. She declared herself the division's queen, but she would never again hold UFC gold.


#2 Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg

The rivalry between Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg is as intense as it is curious. Years ago, when Rousey made her MMA debut, Cyborg suffered her infamous drug test failure.

The Brazilian was stripped of her Strikeforce title and suspended for a year. While Cyborg honored her suspension, Rousey captured her own Strikeforce title, garnering attention for beating all of her foes with 1st round armbars.

As the end of Cyborg's suspension neared, interest in a potential matchup between the two increased. Cyborg, however, fought at featherweight while Rousey was a bantamweight despite having fought at featherweight prior.

Cyborg calls Rousey, McGregor most overrated fighters in UFC. thesco.re/2riuwfk https://t.co/9rvVBytBC1

The fight never materialized. Cyborg accused Rousey of fearfully avoiding the matchup while Rousey accused Cyborg of abusing banned substances to gain a competitive advantage.

The insults grew nastier as Rousey questioned Cyborg's physiology, going so far as to call her an 'it' while UFC president Dana White joined in, claiming Cyborg resembled Wanderlei Silva in a dress.

The rivalry reached truly ugly heights, but the fight was never booked, even after Cyborg signed with the UFC in 2015, a year before Rousey retired from MMA.


#1 Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate

Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate fought each other for two different titles across two different promotions. Their first bout was for the Strikeforce bantamweight championship, which Tate held at the time.

After the 4th win of her career, Rousey openly challenged Tate, manufacturing a rivalry for what she claimed was for promotional reasons. Things, however, quickly became personal once the fight was booked.

Both fighters took aim at each other. Tate questioned the merits of Rousey's title shot, claiming the fanfare she garnered was due to her good looks, and that Rousey had been the recipient of favorable matchups.

#OnThisDay in 2013, Ronda Rousey submitted Miesha Tate in a BW battle for the ages 📺[ via @UFCOnThisDay @UFCFightPass ] https://t.co/motjy3s0pm

In response, Rousey disparaged Tate's skills, even citing boredom at having to study her foe's past fights in preparation for their bout. The rivalry reached new heights when the weigh-ins of their Strikeforce bout led to Rousey shoving her head against Tate after Tate touched her forehead against Rousey's.

In response, Tate's then partner, Bryan Caraway, vowed to knock Rousey's teeth in. Rousey won their first fight, setting up a highly anticipated rematch when both fighters signed with the UFC.

Both were selected as coaches in The Ultimate Fighter, with Tate replacing an injured Cat Zingano. Incidents involving middle fingers, personal insults, and more defined that season.

When the two finally locked horns, the rematch was more competitive but Rousey still claimed victory. As Tate sought to shake Rousey's hand in defeat, her gesture was rejected, with Rousey humiliating her beaten rival.

Though they never fought again, Tate still took the time to celebrate Rousey's losses to Holm and Nunes years later.

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Edited by Akshay Saraswat
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