A second-to-none resume places Amanda Nunes in a class by herself.
The Pojuca, Brazil, native broke into mixed martial arts 12 years ago, cut her teeth on the regional scene, then made her way to Strikeforce and Invicta Fighting Championships before migrating to the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2013. After a surprising technical knockout loss to Cat Zingano in her third Octagon appearance, Nunes hit her stride and never looked back. No one since has managed to interrupt the Brazilian’s ascent, as she captured titles in multiple divisions and established herself as arguably the greatest female mixed martial artist of all-time. Nunes, 32, has now rattled off 11 consecutive victories, seven of them against former UFC champions.
As the “Lioness” prepares for her featherweight title defense against Megan Anderson at UFC 256 in December, a look at some of the rivalries that powered her rise to the top of the sport:
Nunes strengthened an already ironclad grip on the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight division, as the American Top Team star retained her 135-pound title with a split decision over Shevchenko in the UFC 215 headliner on Sept. 9, 2017 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta. All three judges scored it 48-47: Sal D’Amato and David Therien for Nunes, Tony Weeks for Shevchenko. All five rounds were closely contested. Nunes paced herself in an attempt to curb the cardio issues that have plagued her in the past. Leg and body kicks were her most effective weapons. Meanwhile, Shevchenko frustrated the “Lioness” with crafty footwork and sublime head movement, countering effectively off her misses. With the outcome still up in the air entering the fifth round, Nunes changed course. She freed herself from an ill-conceived head-and-arm throw by Shevchenko, assumed a dominant position and fished for weaknesses. Later, Nunes powered her way to a takedown and spent the final 50 seconds on top sending a message to the judges. She holds a 2-0 edge in the head-to-head series between the two women, having defeated Shevchenko by unanimous decision in their first encounter at UFC 196 in 2016.
One performance above all others forced observers to consider Nunes in an entirely new light, as shattered Justino’s aura of invincibility in the UFC 232 co-main event on Dec. 29, 2018 at The Forum in Inglewood, California; and she did so in utterly spectacular fashion. The Edson Carvalho protégé blitzed Justino with punches and leveled her with one final overhand right behind the ear to capture the undisputed featherweight championship and become the first woman to hold UFC titles in two weight classes simultaneously. Nunes brought it to a close just 51 seconds into the first round, the result sending shockwaves through the MMA world. A left hook-right hook combination sent “Cyborg” into a tailspin from which she could not recover, as she suffered her first defeat in more than 12 years.
Nunes successfully defended her women’s bantamweight crown for a fifth time with a five-round unanimous decision over de Randamie under the UFC 245 banner on Dec. 14, 2019 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The “Lioness” carried all three scorecards: 49-44, 49-46 and 49-45. De Randamie had her moments, most notably in the second round, where she buzzed the champion with a head kick and had her reeling with multiple knee strikes from the clinch. It was not nearly enough. Nunes struck for takedowns in all five rounds and applied her ground-and-pound with varying degrees of intensity. Outside of a few upkicks—one of them appeared to stun Nunes in the third round—and a Hail Mary attempt at a triangle choke, de Randamie had no answer for the Brazilian’s ground offensive. Nunes executed her final takedown 15 seconds into the fifth round, fought through fatigue and spent more than four minutes piling up points from top position. It was her second win in as many meetings with de Randamie, as she had put away the Dutch kickboxer with a volley of first-round elbows at UFC Fight Night 31 in 2013.