“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 18 coaching lineup underwent a significant change this past week with the announcement that unbeaten rising star Cat Zingano (8-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) had withdrawn from the competition due to a torn ACL. Zingano had been scheduled to coach a team of male and female fighters against UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey (7-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), but the knee injury will sideline Zingano until 2014.
Zingano earned her “TUF 18? coaching position by stopping former Strikeforce champion Miesha Tate (13-4 MMA, 0-1 UFC) in April. With Zingano injured, Tate stepped in to take her place and surprised Rousey when she showed up for the first day of filming this past Tuesday. Rousey, who had not been informed about the coaching change, was reportedly shocked and upset because she initially believed that it was she who had been replaced.
After confirming that her spot on “TUF 18? was safe, Rousey began to warm up to the idea of coaching against Tate. The arch rivals will face off for a second time later this year, and Rousey’s UFC title will be on the line. Rousey became the final Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion in the pair’s first meeting in March 2012 when she submitted Tate with a gruesome first-round armbar.
The appointment of Tate as Rousey’s opposing coach and future title challenger left some fans and media questioning the move. Tate is now the fourth UFC fighter this year to receive a title shot after losing his or her most recent fight. At the TUF 17 Finale, Tate started strong in her fight against Zingano and appeared to be up two rounds to none after 10 minutes, but Zingano rallied in Round 3 and finished Tate with a series of knees and a standing elbow.
For the first time in “TUF” history, the 18th installment of the show features both male and female contestants who all are looking to secure a spot on the UFC roster. The elimination fights took place this past week and the winners moved on to the “TUF” house, where they will live for the next six weeks while fighting their way to the finals. At the conclusion of the competition, one man and one woman will remain and each will receive a six-figure UFC contract.
Rousey and Tate are expected to face each other again in December.
Liz Carmouche vs. Jessica Andrade booked for UFC on FOX 8
With the news that Tate will coach on “TUF 18,” former Strikeforce and UFC title challenger Liz Carmouche (8-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) was left without an opponent for her bout at UFC on FOX 8. Carmouche had been set to battle Tate on the card, which takes place July 27 in Seattle. The UFC acted quickly in securing a new opponent for Carmouche, however, and it was revealed on Friday that the former U.S. Marine will now face Brazilian prospect Jessica Andrade (9-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) next month.
Carmouche made history at UFC 157 in February when she competed against Rousey in the UFC’s first women’s fight. Carmouche had Rousey in some serious trouble early in the fight and she nearly pulled off an upset victory with a standing neck crank, but Rousey escaped and ultimately finished Carmouche with her signature armbar late in Round 1. The loss halted Carmouche’s two-fight winning streak, but her performance was good enough to earn a FOX-televised bout against Tate. Despite the opponent change for July, Carmouche is still expected to remain on the UFC on FOX 8 main card.
Andrade is one of MMA’s most active female fighters – the 21-year-old fought seven times in 2012. All nine of her career victories have come inside the distance and she already has earned a pair of submission wins this year. Most recently, Andrade upset Russian standout Milana Dudieva in April. She had planned to fight at least four times between June and September, but the opportunity to face Carmouche was too good to pass up and Andrade now will make her U.S. debut in the high-profile FOX fight.
UFC on FOX 8 also features a second women’s bout pitting veteran contender Julie Kedzie (16-11 MMA, 0-0 UFC) against Muay Thai sensation Germaine de Randamie (3-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC). That fight will air on the FX portion of the preliminary card.
Alexis Davis vs. Rosi Sexton highlights UFC 161 main card
On June 15, the UFC holds its first event in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and a featured women’s bout highlights the injury-plagued UFC 161 main card. BJJ black belt Alexis Davis (13-5 MMA, 0-0 UFC) returns to the city where she began her MMA career in 2007 and faces 11-year veteran Rosi Sexton (13-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC). Both women make their UFC debuts in the fight, which airs live on pay-per-view.
Davis is widely regarded as one of the premier submission specialists in the women’s bantamweight division and is coming off impressive triumphs over Hitomi Akano and Shayna Baszler under the Invicta FC banner. Some regard the Canadian standout as one of the biggest threats to UFC champion Ronda Rousey. Before Davis can entertain thoughts of challenging for UFC title gold, however, she must first get past Sexton.
Sexton appeared to be on the verge of retirement this past October when her Cage Warriors title fight against Sheila Gaff was scrapped on short notice due to a Gaff illness. Feeling that she had nothing left to prove in her career, and with opportunities limited at 125 pounds, Sexton was ready to step away from the sport. Things changed for Sexton in April when she was offered a chance to make her UFC debut against fellow grappler Davis. Sexton began putting on muscle in preparation for the bantamweight fight and now looks to extend her current win streak to four with her biggest victory to date.
Seo Hee Ham captures title at final Jewels event in Tokyo
Japan’s all-female Jewels promotion held its final event, “24th Ring,” on May 25 in Tokyo. In the main event, South Korean striker Seo Hee Ham (11-5) earned a three-round unanimous decision victory over Naho Sugiyama (8-3) to claim the Jewels featherweight queen championship at 106 pounds.
Ham landed jabs and kicks in the opening round and Sugiyama responded with a hard left hook. She took Ham down and a stalemate followed. The fighters were stood up and Ham mixed up her strikes with straight punches, body kicks and knees. Ham continued to get the better of the striking exchanges in Round 2, but Sugiyama took her down again. Ham was active from her back with triangle choke attempts, but Sugiyama escaped and landed punches before the bell.
The close fight continued into Round 3 and Ham pulled guard with a triangle choke. Sugiyama fought out of it and moved to mount. Ham got back to half-guard, but Sugiyama scored with some nice ground and pound. Ham eventually swept into top position and took Sugiyama’s back. Sugiyama shrugged her off and the fight ended with Ham in Sugiyama’s guard.
All three ringside judges scored the fight for Ham, who earned the unanimous decision win and her first major MMA title. She also holds a lesser belt, the CMA/KPW women’s lightweight championship, which she defends in the Gladiator promotion. Ham has won eight of her past 10 fights, while Sugiyama has dropped three straight.
In other MMA action on the “24th Ring” card, former Valkyrie champ Mei Yamaguchi (11-5-1) made quick work of an overmatched Seo Ye Jung (0-2). Yamaguchi took Jung down and transitioned to back control. From there, she locked on a belly-down armbar that forced Jung to submit at the 1:55 mark of Round 1.
Top Jewels star Mika Nagano (13-8) earned her third straight win by defeating Takumi Umehara (1-1). Nagano backed Umehara into a corner and landed big knees to the body. She scored a takedown and took Umehara’s back, then secured a rear-naked choke. Umehara tapped out at the 1:42 mark of Round 1.
Yurika Nakakura (2-1) picked up the biggest win of her young MMA career by defeating Jade Marie Anderson (2-1) in a featherweight bout. Despite giving up a size and strength advantage to Anderson, Nakakura was able to outstrike and outgrapple the wrestler for ten minutes. Anderson took Nakakura’s back late in Round 1, but that was the extent of her offense and Nakakura cruised to a well-deserved unanimous decision win.
Following the event, it was announced that Jewels will cease operations and its sister promotion, DEEP, will be restoring its women’s divisions this year. DEEP currently has one active female weight class, open-weight, and Amanda Lucas (5-1) reigns atop the division as the first and only DEEP women’s open-weight champion.
The remaining female weight classes have been largely dormant since 2010. DEEP’s first lightweight (106-pound) champion, Hisae Watanabe (19-6), retired from MMA in 2007. Her successor, Miku Matsumoto (23-4), abruptly left the sport at the height of her career in 2010. The first and only DEEP women’s flyweight (100-pound) champion, Satoko Shinashi (29-2-2), has not fought since 2008.
Top title contenders will transition from Jewels to the main DEEP cards. Jewels prospects and lower-tier fighters will compete for a new sub-promotion, “DEEP Jewels,” which will hold all-female events that develop the next generation of female fighters in Japan. Competitors will progress from “DEEP Jewels” to the main DEEP roster and the premier talent will then advance on to fight for Invicta FC in North America.
DEEP will crown new female champions and a world title tournament is planned for November. The first “DEEP Jewels” event is targeted for August 31 at a venue to be announced.
Jessica Eye victorious in hometown return at “Fight Night in the Flats 9?
Fighting in a rain-soaked cage, Jessica Eye (10-1) made a successful return to action on Saturday night in the main event of “NAAFS: Fight Night in the Flats 9? in Cleveland. Eye outpointed Brazilian veteran Carina Damm (17-9) in a closely-contested bout.
Eye established her jab early in Round 1 and kept Damm at bay with leg kicks. She backed Damm up with a combination and the fighters clinched against the cage. Damm scored with a slashing elbow over the top, but Eye responded with a one-two and backed away. She countered kicks from Damm with straight right hands in the final minute of the round.
After an early clinch in Round 2, Damm landed two left hooks and Eye fired back with more straight rights. Damm wobbled Eye with a head kick and she staggered backwards on the canvas, which had become wet from the rain that poured down on the outdoor venue. Eye fell, but she recovered quickly and got back to her feet. Damm caught a kick and took Eye down and she struck from Eye’s guard until the bell.
Damm was aggressive with kicks in the final round and Eye jabbed from a distance. She landed one-twos and an overhand right, but the strikes did not slow down Damm’s kicking attacks. Damm tried to throw Eye to the ground, but it backfired and Damm wound up on the bottom. Eye struck from Damm’s guard and eventually stood up. Damm followed and she landed two leg kicks, but Eye’s top control late in the round was enough to sway the judges. All three scored the bout 29-28 in Eye’s favor and she has now won seven straight fights.
Saturday’s bout was Eye’s first since she sustained a serious back injury in March. She stated after the fight that she was not yet back to 100 percent, but added that she had not wanted to let her hometown fans down by not competing.
Eye and Damm were originally scheduled to compete at 125 pounds, but the bout was moved up to a 130-pound catchweight when bad weather left Damm stranded in an Atlanta airport en route to Ohio. Eye successfully made weight, but Damm came in heavy at 132 pounds. The Brazilian has tasted defeat in six of her past eight fights and she has not won a fight outside of her home country in more than five years.
Fallon Fox, Ashlee Evans-Smith advance to CFA tournament final
Transgender fighter Fallon Fox (3-0) advanced to the finals of the inaugural Championship Fighting Alliance women’s featherweight tournament with a hard-fought victory on May 24. Fox earned a third-round submission win over Allanna Jones (2-2) at “CFA 11: Kyle vs. Wiuff” in Coral Gables, Fla.
Fox landed hard leg kicks in the opening round, but she was unable to get the fight to the ground and Jones began to score with counter hooks. Fox landed more leg kicks and she dropped Jones with a step-in hook. Jones recovered and got back to her feet, but Fox threw her down and threatened with a scarf hold armlock. Jones escaped and flurried before the bell.
As Round 2 began, Fox appeared to be fatigued and she was noticeably slower with her offensive attacks. Jones landed more counter hooks and sprawled out of a takedown, but Fox dragged her down on her second try. Fox landed short elbows from the top and postured up to land right hands in the final minute.
Fox landed more leg kicks in Round 3 and scored a takedown after catching a body kick from Jones. Fox threw elbows from the top and escaped a Jones armbar. She moved to north-south position and secured a north-south choke. Jones refused to submit, so Fox placed her shin on her throat and Jones tapped out to the shin choke at the 3:36 mark of Round 3.
On the other side of the tournament bracket, prospect Ashlee Evans-Smith (1-0) earned a bye to the finals when late replacement opponent Anna Barone (2-3) came in 11 pounds overweight. Barone, who has missed weight on multiple occasions, entered the tournament in place of semifinalist Peggy Morgan, who took part in the “TUF 18? tryouts. Evans-Smith will face Fox for the inaugural CFA women’s featherweight championship and a check for $20,000 later this year.
Alexandra Buch wins No Compromises FC title tournament
German prospect Alexandra Buch (8-2) became the inaugural NCFC women’s featherweight champion with two wins in one night at No Compromises Fighting Championship 2 on May 25 in Hamburg, Germany. Buch outlasted Jessy Schwarz (1-4) and Anne Merkt (1-1) in succession to capture the title.
In the first tournament semifinal, Merkt and Schwarz went toe-to-toe throughout Round 1. Both fighters scored with punching combinations, but Merkt appeared to get the better of the exchanges and she landed a hard flurry in the final 30 seconds. Merkt scored a takedown in Round 2, but Schwarz reversed into mount. Merkt trapped her in a triangle choke and rolled back to mount. Schwarz was in trouble, but she did not tap out and defended by using her legs to scissor Merkt’s head. The fight concluded with an exchange of punches on the feet and all three judges scored the two-round bout for Merkt, who took the unanimous-decision win.
The second semifinal was initially set to feature Buch against Jannie Schmits. However, Schmits suffered a panic attack backstage and Buch waited more than an hour as the promotion decided what to do. Despite losing earlier in the night, Schwarz agreed to compete a second time and she stepped in to face Buch on mere minutes’ notice.
Buch threatened with a guillotine choke and a triangle choke in Round 1, but Schwarz battled back to her feet and landed a kick that buckled Buch’s leg. Buch recovered and landed a combination, and she took Schwarz down before the bell. Schwarz attempted a flying scissor heel hook in Round 2, but she wound up on the bottom with Buch raining down punches. Buch spent the rest of the round battering Schwarz with more punches. She could not finish Schwarz, but cruised to a unanimous decision win to advance to the final.
The tournament championship fight began with an exchange of punches and Buch floored Merkt with a right hook. She dropped down into Merkt’s guard and remained there throughout the round. Buch landed punches and avoided Merkt’s submission attempts. Late in Round 1, Merkt went for a triangle choke and switched to an armbar. Buch acted quickly and escaped. The fighters went for dueling leg locks and Buch secured an inverted heel hook that forced Merkt to tap out at the 4:54 mark of Round 1.
Buch has won six of her past seven fights and is one of the top female prospects in Europe.
Irene Cabello (1-1) def. Ritika Singh (1-2) via submission (armbar) at the 2:06 mark of Round 1 at Super Fight League 18 on May 24 in Mumbai, India. The fight began with an exchange of punches and knees and Cabello scored a takedown. She worked for an arm-triangle choke, but Singh swept into top position. Cabello tried for a triangle choke and switched to a belly-down armbar that earned her the first win of her pro career.
Ana Maria (4-4) def. late replacement Aline Serio (4-4) via unanimous decision at Team Nogueira MMA Circuit 3 on May 24 in Rio de Janeiro. Serio stepped into the fight on short notice in place of Luana Teixeira, but she was unable to defeat the returning Maria, who was competing for the first time in more than three years.
Jessica Halverson (4-2) def. Kate Bloomfield (1-3) via TKO (punches) at the 2:18 mark of Round 1 at “Disorderly Conduct 19: The Tribute” on May 24 in Omaha, Neb. Halverson dominated the brief fight en route to an impressive stoppage win. All of her career victories have come via knockout and she has yet to see Round 2 as a pro.
Arlene Blencowe (1-1) def. Kerry Barrett (1-1) via split decision at Brace For War 20 on May 25 in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Blencowe earned her first pro win in the close fight after dropping her MMA debut in April.
Helen Harper (1-0) def. Zhen Wei (0-1) via submission (guillotine choke) at the 18-second mark of Round 3 at Malaysia Fighting Championship 6 on May 25 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Wei clinched in search of a takedown early in the third round of the action-packed bout, but Harper countered with a guillotine choke and pulled her down to the mat for the tapout victory.
Viviane Pereira Sucuri (2-0) def. Rosy Duarte (2-2) via split decision at Sobral Extreme Fight 6 on May 25 in Sobral, Ceara, Brazil. Sucuri has posted back-to-back decision victories since making her debut in November.
Jocelyn Lybarger (2-0) def. Jessica Armstrong-Kennett (0-2) via submission (guillotine choke) at the 27-second mark of Round 1 at “KOTC: World Championships” on May 25 in Scottsdale, Ariz. Lybarger kept her perfect professional record intact with the quick victory and she is set to compete again on June 15.
Paulina Granados (2-0) def. Maria Lopez (0-1) via submission (armbar) at the 46-second mark of Round 1 at Legacy Fighting Championship 20 on May 31 in Corpus Christi, Texas. The slick submission win was Granados’ first stoppage to date and she remains one of the atomweight division’s brightest prospects.
Linn Wennergren (1-1) def. Vuokko Kaitainen (0-1) via unanimous decision at Cage Challenge 10 on June 1 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Wennergren got back on track with the victory after dropping a close majority decision in her April pro debut.
Vanessa Guimaraes (2-1) def. Laura Balin (2-1) via unanimous decision at 360 Pro Fight 2 on June 1 in Corrientes, Argentina. Guimaraes followed up on her highlight-reel knockout win in April by handing local favorite Balin her first defeat.
Bethe Correia (5-0) def. Juliete de Souza Silva (3-1) via unanimous decision at “Win Combat Championship: W-Combat 17? on June 1 in Macapa, Amapa, Brazil. With the win, Correia remains unbeaten and she is expected to face Julia Berezikova later this month.
Alida Gray (1-0) def. Patricia Vidonic (8-6) via submission (armbar) at the 2:19 mark of Round 2 at “Sugar Creek Showdown 17: Mayhem” on June 1 in Hinton, Okla. Gray made a successful pro debut with the big victory following a 4-1 run as an amateur. Vidonic took the fight on short notice and suffered the first submission loss of her career. She has now dropped five of her past seven fights.
Charmaine Tweet (4-3) def. Amanda Bell (0-2) via submission (rear-naked choke) at the 4:18 mark of Round 1 at “Battle For The Border 2: Redemption” on June 1 in Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada. Tweet countered an early takedown with a guillotine choke and she attempted more submissions from her back as Bell struck from her guard. Bell remained on top until the late stages of the round when Tweet swept into mount. Bell gave up her back and Tweet locked on the choke for her fourth submission win.
Rachael Cummins (0-1) faces Maia Kahaunaele (0-1) at Fight Club OC on June 6 in Mesa, Calif. Cummins is coming off of a close decision loss in her March pro debut. Kahaunaele also looks for her first pro win after dropping a decision in early 2012.
Kathina Catron (2-2) faces Sumie Sakai (2-4) at “C3 Fights: Fighting For ‘Moore’ Than Money” on June 7 in Newkirk, Okla. Partial proceeds from this event will go to victims of the recent tornadoes in Moore, Okla. Catron looks to get her career back on track after suffering submission losses to prospects Jordan Nicole Gaza and Rose Namajunas. Pro wrestling veteran Sakai returned to MMA in February following a three-year layoff.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz (2-0) faces Marta Chojnoska (1-0) at “KSW 23: Khalidov vs. Manhoef” on June 8 in Gdansk, Poland. This bout will be contested for the KSW 55-kilogram (121-pound) women’s championship. Kowalkiewicz is coming off of a unanimous decision victory at KSW 21 in December. Chojnoska made a successful pro debut with a 42-second submission win at KSW 19.
Lacey Schuckman (8-6) faces Jody Lynn Reicher (0-0) at “Sparta Combat League: Thunderdome 2? on June 8 in Denver, Colo. Invicta FC veteran Schuckman enters as a massive favorite against the 50-year-old Reicher, who went 2-7 as an amateur and now makes her pro debut in this fight.
Cortney Casey (0-0) faces Kelly Warren (3-4) at “XFC 24: Collision Course” on June 14 in Tampa, Fla. Casey put together a stellar 6-2 record as an amateur that included a reign as Tuff-N-Uff women’s flyweight champion. She capped off her amateur career with a flying armbar victory over Rachael Cummins in a November rematch. Warren kicked off her pro career with three straight wins and now looks to rebound from a four-fight losing skid.
Christina Tatnell (1-1) faces Nicole Maxwell (0-0) at Valor Fight 5 on June 15 in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia. Tatnell rebounded from a loss to Bec Hyatt in her pro debut by upsetting Hyatt’s teammate, Shauna Carew, in February. Maxwell makes her professional debut on the card.
Roberta Paim Rovel (1-0) faces Suzy Melo (0-0) at Full Fight Combat 2 on June 15 in Lajeado, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Paim Rovel debuted with a first-round TKO victory this past month. She looks to make it two in a row when she faces Melo, who competes as a pro for the first time.
Nina Ansaroff (4-3) faces Iasmine Fernandes (2-0) at Premier Fight League 10 on June 15 in Serrinha, Bahia, Brazil. Ansaroff has finished three straight opponents and she most recently scored a second-round TKO victory in March. Fernandes earned a 47-second knockout win on April 27 and she remains unbeaten in her young MMA career.
Tamikka Brents (2-0) faces Mekya Lynn Lackey (0-0) at “Shamrock FC: Uprising” on June 15 in St. Louis, Mo. Following an 11-0-1 amateur run, Brents has earned back-to-back victories as a professional. She looks to remain unbeaten when she takes on newcomer Lackey, who makes her pro debut.
Jocelyn Lybarger (2-0) faces Heather Bassett (0-0) at Sharkbite Fighting Championships 2 on June 15 in Sheboygan, Wis. Lybarger makes a quick return to action after scoring a 27-second win one week ago. Bassett turns pro after going 3-2 as an amateur.
MMAjunkie.com publishes the Women’s MMA Report every other Monday. Its author, Robert Sargent, is a veteran MMA journalist who also runs MMARising.com. Feel free to email us at news [AT] mmajunkie.com with any questions, news tips or suggestions.