Just yesterday it was announced that we will be getting the long-awaited UFC strawweight title clash between the champion, “Thug” Rose Namajunas and the challenger, Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade.
The fight is scheduled for UFC 237 and will take place in Brazil on May 11. Meaning, the champion will have to defend on enemy soil against her Brazilian counterpart. As if the matchup isn’t tough enough as is.
Perhaps the second most interesting part of that announcement behind the fact that it will be in Brazil is that the fight is the co-main event. Every single UFC event that has taken place in Brazil (32) has been headlined by a Brazilian (excluding UFC Brazil: Ultimate Brazil). That should be no different in this case. But options are limited.
Let’s see what the possibilities are.
Amanda Nunes vs. Cris Cyborg 2
Starting things off with the perfect choice, and that’s the rematch of the first and only female super fight and the biggest female fight in MMA history.
Except… A rematch in Brazil is even bigger.
Truly, this is where the first fight should have been but the magnitude of a rematch, and doing it in Brazil only amplifies it up several notches after what transpired at UFC 232.
Cris Cyborg battling back to try and regain her title from the only woman to defeat her in the last 13 years, and do so in emphatic fashion. That same woman in Amanda Nunes that became the first and only female double champ. Oh, and this would take place in both fighters’ home country? It writes itself.
Unfortunately, the likelihood of this fight headlining UFC 237 is not all that great.
Cyborg’s contract is set to expire in March and she definitely will not be fighting the last fight of her deal before then. Especially considering she just wants to rematch Nunes.
Regardless, Nunes and UFC President Dana White have expressed no interest in the rematch. And with Cyborg’s feelings of wanting to explore other options evident for the majority of 2018, that’s surely what she’ll be doing in the coming weeks and months.
Amanda Nunes vs. Germaine de Randamie 2 or Ketlen Vieira
Nunes is currently the only UFC champion that is Brazilian. Therefore she seems like a lock to be the headliner.
Now as the double champ, she has plenty of options too. And if it’s not Cyborg in a featherweight title fight, it will most likely be a defense of her bantamweight title.
Next in line for “The Lioness” at 135-pounds should be the unbeaten fellow Brazilian, Ketlen Vieira. Boasting an impressive 10-0 record accompanied by a tough stylistic matchup for the champion, the 27-year old should get her title shot sooner rather than later.
However, due to a knee injury that required surgery in September, Vieira has been sidelined and hasn’t fought since March 2018. The inactivity could hurt her chance at being granted the opportunity despite the fact that she is another elite-level Brazilian fighter. Either way, it won’t be crazy if she ends up fighting on the card whether it’s for the title or not. Never hurts to have backups.
Behind Vieira in the 135-pound pecking order would be the former and first-ever UFC featherweight champion, Germaine “The Iron Lady” de Randamie.
Since winning the title against Holly Holm in February 2017, de Randamie has returned to bantamweight and picked up a sound victory over the most recent title challenger Raquel Pennington.
Already one of the very best female strikers in the world today, de Randamie continues to show vastly improved grappling defense which was her Achilles heel in her career early on. Which also happens to be when she and Nunes met for the first time.
Having not lost since their first encounter in 2013, this could very well be de Randamie’s shot at redemption.
Max Holloway vs. Renato Moicano
Now here’s where we get into serious “if” territory for these last three.
Renato Moicano has somewhat burst onto the scene since his split decision win over Jeremy Stephens in early 2017. Now a top contender at featherweight, the 29-year old Brazilian is set to take on his toughest challenge to date in the legendary former champion, Jose Aldo. That fight also happens to be taking place in Brazil at UFC Fortaleza.
A win is a guaranteed title shot for Moicano. Especially with this UFC 237 card on the horizon. Of course, that’s a whole lot easier said than done.
With Max Holloway, we get a guy who would literally be willing to fight on a glacier in Antarctica if he had to so Brazil is no problem for “Blessed”. That is in fact where he defeated Aldo to become champion in the first place after all.
Funny enough, it will rely on Moicano having to do the same if he wants to secure his first title shot opportunity and the main event.
TJ Dillashaw vs. Raphael Assuncao 3 or Marlon Moraes
Speaking of double champs, TJ Dillashaw is fighting to earn that same status next week when he challenges Henry Cejudo for his flyweight title. Win or lose, Dillashaw will remain the bantamweight champion.
In February at UFC Fortaleza, Raphael Assuncao and Marlon Moraes will run it back but with five rounds this time as the winner surely becomes the next title challenger.
Both are Brazilian, both are headlining in Brazil for their rematch, both have strong cases to be fighting for the title next rather than each other… The timing of everything here is perfect.
Dillashaw, like Holloway, is never lacking confidence and would surely go into enemy territory to defend his crown.
Interestingly enough, the only thing that might throw this option off is if Dillashaw loses next weekend. That being because of the likelihood of flyweight dissolving, Cejudo will move up and then he and Dillashaw would rematch but for the bantamweight crown. You were warned about the “ifs”.
Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos
Yes, Jon Jones did just get his next fight with Anthony Smith made for UFC 235. Yes, Thiago Santos did just get his next fight with Jan Blachowicz made for UFC Prague. Yes, both of these fights are around the same time with a two-month window prior to UFC 237…
Two-month gap or not, both fighters like to stay active when given the opportunity. Santos in particular who fought a whopping five times as a middleweight/light heavyweight.
Since moving to light heavyweight, “Marreta” has continued his path of devastation as he just recently knocked out the perennial top 10 contender Jimi Manuwa at UFC 231. If he can do that to the streaking Blachowicz in the UFC Prague main event, what’s to stop him from getting offered a title shot in his home country? That’s assuming that Jones gets past Smith. Because if he doesn’t, an instant rematch is inevitable.
By the time that both fight, assuming Daniel Cormier sticks to his word, then he will be retired by then thus eliminating the big option for Jones in the future. Therefore allowing him to take on all comers at 205-pounds.
In the end, there are some very fun possibilities for UFC 237 and Namajunas vs. Andrade is a great start for the UFC’s next big Brazil pay-per-view.
Drake Riggs is an MMA writer who specializes in feature pieces, the women's fight scene, lists, and rankings. He has been a passionate fan of MMA ever since 2009. Drake also currently writes for BJPenn.com, Fansided MMA, Cageside Press, and is a former contributor to Sherdog and MMA Today. He is also a die-hard fan of the NFL's Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.