1 best WMMA fighter from every major MMA promotion

Here's who we think stand out in the women's divisions for all the five major MMA promotions, right now.
Weili Zhang
Weili Zhang / Yong Teck Lim/GettyImages

Remember when Dana White claimed that women would never fight in the UFC? So much has changed since then. Ronda Rousey, for as much criticism as she has received for how she handled her downfall, cannot be rejected as a modern pioneer of the sport. She inspired a good number of women to take up mixed martial arts and aim high, whether it be in the UFC or elsewhere.

More than 11 years since she first stepped into the Octagon, the number of female mixed martial artists has exponentially grown. But as the saying goes, not everyone is cut from the same cloth. Few become legends; some get a sliver of fame; and the rest become lost in a sea of would-bes who just could not reach the next level. These women are at the peak of dominance and have the potential to attain legendary status.

UFC: Weili Zhang

The UFC has had its fair share of dominant women. Rousey, Amanda Nunes, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Valentina Shevchenko, even Cris "Cyborg" Justino for a while. But Weili Zhang has them best in terms of completeness.

Before she signed with the promotion in 2018, she had already been making a name for herself as the rare finisher in a division known for a lack of stopping power, which very often resulted in many decisions - some thrilling, others not as much. After just three fights, she was already in the rankings; but almost no one could have foreseen her getting a title shot just over a year after her Octagon debut.

It was a product of convenience - then-champion Jessica Andrade wanted to be active, and the UFC just so happened to need a main event for its Shenzhen card. But then Zhang won, and suddenly China had a new sporting star. She has gone 5-2 since, including an ongoing second strawweight reign. And that time has seen her showcase her very well-rounded skill set. Zhang is a voluminous hard-hitter on the feet and a lethal wrestler and grappler on the ground, able to get submission from multiple angles.

Bellator: Cris "Cyborg" Justino

With the PFL electing to do flyweight for its women's division in 2024, that leaves Bellator with the only functioning women's featherweight division. And its ruler, Cris "Cyborg" Justino, is one of the promotion's few fighters who has yet to make an appearance for the PFL.

She needs no introduction. She is one of the most dominant and most dreaded women in the history of mixed martial arts. Only two women have been able to defeat her in her professional career, and one of them is Nunes - a dominant and dreaded legend in her own right.

Ever since Justino won the Bellator women's featherweight title, only one woman has been able to go the full five rounds with her: Arlene Blencowe, in their second meeting, which was one of the rare times the champion was truly challenged. Everyone else was destroyed by her fists.

With former rumored opponent Kayle Harrison having left for the UFC, only two potential obstacles remain: reigning PFL champion Larissa Pacheco and promotional veteran Leah McCourt. Defeating these two will cement her as the best woman in Bellator history.

PFL: Liz Carmouche

Many will claim that Dakota Ditcheva should receive this honor, but she is still developing as a fighter. The current PFL season is the first time she will be tested against top-tier competition, and one of her potential opponents gets the nod here.

Reigning Bellator women's champion Liz Carmouche is an ageless wonder. At 40, she is still competing at the highest level. And that can be attributed to her grinding style. Instead of hunting for the finish right away, she prefers to physically and mentally wear down her opponent with takedowns and ground control.

Ditcheva has so far been dominant in her career, barely needing to exert much effort to win her fights. Each of her past opponents was already defeated before the bell rang, getting overwhelmed and destroyed the moment she started stalking them like a predator. That has led some to claim that she has been fed cans to pad her record.

Carmouche, however, is not that person. She has never been knocked out in her career, and she will definitely not let herself wilt against one of MMA's most promising prospects.

ONE Championship: Jingnan Xiong

Jingnan Xiong, China's first-ever major MMA champion has largely fallen under the radar thanks to inactivity in her sport. She did have a custom rules bout in 2023, but her last true dose of MMA was way back in 2022, when she defeated former promotional darling Angela Lee in what would be the atomweight champion's last-ever fight.

But when she fights, Xiong is a whirlwind on the feet. She loves to hit hard, and it shows in her resume: 11 knockouts from 18 wins, albeit most of them occurring in Kunlun Fight before ONE Championship signed her. Her current decision streak has proven that she can manage her stamina very well, too.

Right not, the only other woman who can seriously challenger her is three-sport queen Stamp Fairtex. But fans will have to wait for a long time to see if she can cause a massive shake-up, as she suffered a very serious knee injury recently, ruling her out of what would have been a titanic clast at ONE 167 in Denver, Colorado.

RIZIN: Seika Izawa

RIZIN does not really put on many women's fights, but it does have a super atomweight division that is capped at 108 pounds. And of the regulars, the undefeated Seika Izawa stands head and shoulders above the rest.

First making her promotional debut in 2021 as an unassuming opponent for then-champion Ayaka Hamasaki, she shocked fans by finishing the fight in just two rounds. In a rematch, she won the belt and has been on a tear since.

Winning the Super Atomweight Grand Prix as the reigning champion? Check. Notching a retention against Claire Lopez? Check. Ending Miyuu Yamamoto's career? Also check. At this point, either she will have to go elsewhere for better competition or potential opponents will have to reach out to her.