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The State of the UFC Strawweight Division

A post shared by Weili Zhang 张伟丽 (@zhangweilimma) on Aug 31, 2019 at 6:49am PDT

The previously scheduled matchup between Claudia Gadelha and Alexa Grasso at this week’s UFC 246 has been canceled. Alexa Grasso was not cleared by the Nevada State Athletic Commission due to medical issues and Grasso missing weight. In a post on her own Instagram, Alexa Grasso bid farewell to the Strawweight division and enters the next chapter of her career as a Flyweight. Unfortunately, the chaos has left the #6 ranked previous title contender Claudia Gadelha without an opponent. Gadelha previously told MMA Junkie she would like to be in title contention again and is on the same level as the current champion, Zhang Weili. Let’s have a look at what obstacles await any of the fights who want the chance to fight the champion.

A post shared by Tatiana Suarez (@tatianasuarezufc) on Jan 7, 2020 at 4:31pm PST

Fighters currently sidelined include the undefeated #3 ranked Tatiana Suarez (8-0) who according to The Score is still recovering from a nagging neck injury. Also, the #5 ranked perennial contender Nina Ansaroff told MMA Fighting she plans a future move to the Flyweight division. Ansaroff also looks to take a year off from competition to start a family with her partner, the double division champion Amanda Nunes. With the loss of Alexa Grasso to the Flyweight division, these three are effectively removed from the title picture.

A post shared by Carla (@carlaesparza1) on Oct 3, 2019 at 8:52am PDT

Ranking 7-10 respectively, Carla Esparza, Michelle Waterson, Marina Rodriguez, and Cynthia Calvillo all have ambiguous futures in the division. Esparza is on a 2-fight win streak but has remained silent since her controversial victory over Alexa Grasso. Waterson lost her last contest to current title contender and #4 ranked fighter Joanna Jedrzejczk pushing Waterson further down the line. Rodriguez and Calvillo fought to a majority draw in December at UFC on ESPN 7 so a rematch between those two wouldn’t be out of the question. Calvillo also mentioned in a post-fight interview that she may move up to Flyweight considering her age, body, and issues making weight. Unfortunately, there have been no official announcements for any of these fighters, so it remains to be seen what will happen.

A post shared by Rose Namajunas (@rosenamajunas) on Jan 10, 2020 at 8:00pm PST

That leaves the two former title holders, the #1 ranked Jessica Andrade and #2 ranked “Thug” Rose Namajunas. The two are scheduled for a rematch at UFC 249 and a victory could place the winning fighter next in line for a title shot. Namajunas put up masterful striking exchanges in their previous bout before Andrade landed a knockout slam of the year finish. If the two fail to put on an impressive show in their rematch or sustain heavy injuries, it’s possible Claudia Gadelha could make her case as the next title contender. Gadelha certainly deserves to be in the conversation with a history of beating top contenders such as the always dangerous Randa Markos and former champion Carla Esparza.

A post shared by Joanna Jedrzejczyk (@joannajedrzejczyk) on Jan 15, 2020 at 9:19am PST

And atop the division sits the new Strawweight Champion, “Magnum” Zhang Weili. Her pinpoint barrage of knees and strikes devastated the previous champion, Jessica Andrade, in a beautiful display of precision over aggression. Following her lone loss in her debut match, Zhang’s near-perfect run since has made her the first Chinese born champion in UFC history and the new face of the UFC’s rapid expansion in China. With a mixture of 10 KO/TKOs and 7 submission victories to her name, Zhang looks to keep momentum going against the world class striker Joanna Jedrzejczk. Jedrzejczk remains the only champion to defend the title multiple times in the division with an astonishing 5 title defenses.

A post shared by Art By Danilo de Almeida 🇧🇷🇧🇷 ( on Aug 31, 2019 at 6:23am PDT

So many of these fighters are either sidelined, no longer in the weight class, or on hiatus. The continuous title changes haven’t led to much stability either, but several strong contenders emerged amidst the chaos. Rose Namajunas, Jessica Andrade, or Claudia Gadelha look most likely to earn the next title shot assuming nothing out of the ordinary happens. Whatever the future holds, we get our first glimpse this March at UFC 248 when Joanna Jedrzejczk squares up against the Champion Zhang Weili to determine who truly runs the Strawweight division.▪︎

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