LAS VEGAS — The UFC has an Amanda Nunes problem.
No, she’s not one of the growing list of fighters threatening to walk away from the sport or asking for their release in a bid for more money.
Budding star Sugar Sean O’Malley blew out Eddie Wineland with a one-punch KO in the first round to open the main card of UFC 250, then promptly went public with demands for more money. That followed the lead of light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and BMF champion Jorge Masvidal.
The problem Dana White and Co. face with Nunes is more basic: Whom do we match her against, particularly at featherweight? There clearly is no one remotely near her class at 145, as Nunes showed in dispatching top-ranked Felicia Spencer at Apex in a bout that looked like little more than a sparring session.
Nunes was better in every area and won all five rounds in making the first defense of her featherweight championship. She opened several cuts on Spencer’s face but didn’t come close to a finish. Judges had it 50-44 twice and 50-45 for Nunes, who has now defended both the bantamweight and featherweight belts successfully. Yahoo Sports had it 50-44 for Nunes.
But if Spencer was the top-ranked contender, where does the UFC find a challenger who could make a competitive fight? The only woman in the UFC who can fight with Nunes on even terms is flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko, who lost two close fights to the dual champion.
Shevchenko could move back up to 135 to give it another crack, but Nunes has lapped the field by a wide margin. Spencer didn’t look as if she belonged in the cage with Nunes and she’d been handling all the other fighters.
This is an elite athlete at the top of her game who made it look easy, but the lack of a quality opponent is distressing. Spencer never was able to get into position to bring her black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu into play and at the end of the second round, Nunes had her back and was working for a rear naked choke when the bell rang.
Otherwise, Spencer spent the fight trying to ward off Nunes’ right hands, as the Brazilian fought like she was going downhill. Spencer ate a number of right hands as Nunes bloodied her face.
The only woman at featherweight who appears to be able to give Nunes a run is Cris “Cyborg” Justino, the Bellator champion. Nunes knocked Justino out in 51 seconds at UFC 232 in 2018 to win the featherweight belt.
Someone is going to have to develop or there are going to be plenty of one-sided women’s title fights for a while.
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