Amanda Nunes reigns in a league of her own as UFC's only dual champion

LAS VEGAS — A decade ago, Strikeforce was still a thing, women’s fights had yet to come to the UFC and Ronda Rousey had just turned professional.

Scott Coker, who was running Strikeforce at the time, was promoting the company’s heavyweight grand prix that Daniel Cormier would go on to win.

But he couldn’t stop talking about a young woman on the undercard who spoke little English and didn’t have a high-profile.

“The women are getting better and better and you’re seeing the quality of the competition get much stronger all the time,” Coker told Yahoo Sports in 2011. “Amanda is one of those. She’s young, but she has the talent to be as good as any of them.”

Amanda is, of course, Amanda Nunes, who is now 32 and unquestionably the greatest women’s fighter in the history of mixed martial arts.

And in this case, one doesn’t need someone else’s opinion to assess that. Simply look at the record. No one has come close to beating the quality of opposition that Nunes has.

She has six wins over five women who held or currently hold UFC championships. She’s 6-0 in those fights with three KOs and a submission. She needed less than a minute to defeat both Cris “Cyborg” Justino and Rousey, who are the two women most considered the greatest female fighters before Nunes blossomed.

On Saturday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+ PPV), Nunes defends her UFC featherweight championship against Megan Anderson in the co-main event of UFC 259 at Apex. Nunes is one of four fighters in UFC history to hold two weight class titles concurrently.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 06: Amanda Nunes of Brazil celebrates after her unanimous-decision victory over Felicia Spencer of Canada in their UFC featherweight championship bout during the UFC 250 event at UFC APEX on June 06, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Amanda Nunes celebrates after her victory over Felicia Spencer in their UFC featherweight championship bout during UFC 250 at APEX on June 6, 2020 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

After winning her featherweight championship by knocking out Justino in 51 seconds at UFC 232 on Dec. 29, 2018, Nunes has defended the bantamweight belt twice and the featherweight belt once. Saturday will be her second featherweight defense.

None of the three men to hold dual titles — Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier and Henry Cejudo — made more than one defense after earning a second belt. Cormier defeated Derrick Lewis at UFC 230 for his only defense after knocking out Stipe Miocic to win the heavyweight belt at UFC 226 to become champ-champ.

Cejudo made one defense of his bantamweight title after knocking out Marlon Moraes to win it. He defeated Dominick Cruz at UFC 249 and then retired. McGregor never successfully defended his belts.

Nunes enters the fight with Anderson on an 11-fight winning streak that covers six years. She has four knockouts and two wins by submission during that period, which undoubtedly would be called the glory days of women’s MMA.

Who are the greatest women’s fighters who ever competed in mixed martial arts: Well, how about these five: Rousey, Justino, Miesha Tate, Holly Holm and Valentina Shevchenko.

Nunes knocked out Rousey in 48 seconds. She knocked out Justino in 51 seconds. She submitted Tate in 3:16. She knocked out Holm with a kick to the head in 4:10. And she won two decisions over Shevchenko, who would easily be the UFC’s greatest female fighter and most dominant champion were it not for, well, Nunes.

At BetMGM, Nunes is now up to -1200 to defeat Anderson, who is +700.

Perhaps the only women actively fighting who could be a legitimate threat to her at this point are Shevchenko and Kayla Harrison, Nunes’ teammate at American Top Team who is the PFL lightweight champion.

No one else is remotely in her league now. And while Nunes’ partner Nina Ansaroff gave birth to their daughter, Raegan Ann, last year, Nunes said being a parent will only make her more dangerous.

Doubting Nunes at this point is as foolhardy as doubting Tom Brady in the Super Bowl or Stephen Curry at the free-throw line.

“You know, she has helped me to focus more,” Nunes said, holding her child on her lap as she spoke to Yahoo Sports.

Nunes said she’s happier because her child goes with her to the gym whenever she trains, and she feels a sense of fulfillment to have her there.

Obviously, there are certain physical skills that are required to be successful at the highest level of MMA, and even a decade ago, when she was still struggling to find herself, Nunes impressed talent evaluators with her raw skill set.

But she’s put things together now and mixes all of her varied skills together perfectly. Few fighters other than ex-welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre were able to put things together as well as Nunes does.

She’s also learned to handle the pressure of being in the spotlight and perform when the pressure is at its greatest. She was treated almost as a necessary evil in the Rousey fight even though she, and not Rousey, held the belt.

Rousey got almost all of the attention before the fight, but it was all on Nunes afterward, when she authoritatively proved her dominance. And that’s how it figures to go on Saturday.

At another time against a different champion, Anderson would be a threat. She’s big, strong and athletic, and she’s got a strong pedigree of her own, including as Invicta featherweight champion.

Nunes, though, is one of those rare athletes who comes along once in a generation. As the great Tina Turner sang, “You’re simply the best, better than all the rest. Better than anyone.”

Of that, the record speaks for itself. And bet on Nunes proving that again on Saturday.

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