When it comes to writing about women’s MMA, it’s best to keep it short and sweet—mostly to minimize the chances of saying something to upset one of these ladies. After all, hell hath no fury like a woman in a sports bra. Or more correctly, like a world-class athlete with mad skills and vicious alter ego in a sports bra. With that, here’s a quick look at three women who could soon make their way into the UFC’s 135-pound division and provide future competition for the winner of tomorrow night’s showdown between Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche.

Fans of the Diaz brothers are going to love Leslie Smith’s high-pressure brawling fight style, not to mention her brazen cage attitude, complete with obscene finger gestures. In fact, Smith may even be the one to convert some of those who remain staunchly opposed to women’s MMA. Although she does have a technical game and a well-rounded skill set, it’s old-school aggression and prey-stalking that make Smith so entertaining to watch.

Superb clinch work, dirty boxing and a strong dose of attitude work their magic as Smith embraces the battle cry, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” The Cesar Gracie fighter prefers a stand-up affair, but won’t hesitate to follow the fight wherever it goes. Smith has a notable victory over Kaitlin Young and has yet to suffer a loss under the Invicta FC banner. “The Peacemaker” has talked of moving to 125 pounds in the future, and that could be where she makes a title run. In the meantime, look for more headhunting, foot-stomping, unrestrained aggression in Smith’s upcoming—and long-awaited—fight with Sarah Kaufman.

It would be a struggle to find another female martial artist with a list of achievements as long as Miriam Nakamoto’s. This list, which spans almost 12 years, is readily available online for those interested. However, Nakamoto’s marketability goes beyond award tallies. Exotic looks and an intriguing personality helped her land a spot beside Michelle Waterson and Felice Herrig on the Oxygen reality TV series Fight Girls. The show spotlighted not only Nakamoto’s fighting skills, but an inspiring story behind the talented athlete.

Although a showy striker with nice clinch work of her own, Nakamoto’s fight style strongly contrasts that of Smith’s. Nakamoto is noted for her graceful footwork, employing a rhythmic style that keeps her one step ahead of her opponents. Though her hands are quick and her boxing crisp, it’s all about the lower half for Nakamoto. Lightning-fast leg kicks wear down her adversary and crippling knees facilitate the stoppage. Message to the rest of the field: you do not want to stand with this lady.

Though her Muay Thai-based striking may prove second to none in the women’s cage, the question is whether Nakamoto’s ground game is coming along at an adequate level. Her MMA debut with Elizabeth Phillips last year never made it to the canvas thanks to some sharp, well-placed knees by Nakamoto in the second round. However, her next opponent, Jessamyn Duke, has several submission victories across amateur and professional careers and could prove an ideal test for Nakamoto’s progress on the mat. In fact, Duke herself is a quickly rising prospect and it may well be the winner of this classic striker versus submission-artist-in-the-making who gets fast-tracked to the UFC.

Shayna Baszler has dropped two of her last three fights. She doesn’t have exotic looks, a brazen cage persona or a long list of martial arts achievements. What, then, is it that makes Baszler of the caliber deserving of a bigger stage? Gutsy, gritty, girl-power.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a dull moment in a Baszler fight. In fact, both of her Invicta FC appearances have ended with “Fight of the Night” honors. As a sizable underdog, Baszler took Sara McMann to the brink of defeat last July and later in the year gave Alexis Davis an action-packed run for her money before tapping to a guillotine choke in the third round. Note that Baszler holds a victory over Davis in a prior meeting.

Of “The Queen of Spades’” 15 victories in the cage, 14 were by tapout. The key for this well-rounded submission artist is to not let her opponents dictate the fight. A little more of a brawling spirit, or perhaps some feints and stance changes, might serve Baszler well. Other than that, some minor work on wrestling defense could be in order. But as it stands, she’s a force in the 135-pound division, and the UFC would be foolish to overlook a fighter so fiercely entertaining as Baszler.

Of course, there are several other elite 135ers from which to choose, such as Sarah D’Alelio, who’s fought at every Invicta FC event so far, losing only once to Baszler; Julie Kedzie, whose fight with Miesha Tate was one of the most exciting battles of 2012; and the ever-gamey and ferocious Amanda Nunes. Also, there’s the possibility of prominent featherweights dropping down a weight class or returning to 135, as in the case of Ediane Gomes. Gomes is currently preparing for her third Invicta appearance which pits her against Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino at 145 pounds. However, she has previously fought at 135 pounds and has stated an interest in a rematch with Ronda Rousey at that weight.

Going forward, the most sensible move for the UFC would be to lighten up a little. The 135-pound division is the equivalent of middleweight for women’s MMA, and there’s a shortage of talent in the upper weight classes right now. Obviously, Rousey is staying at bantamweight, but if the UFC is serious about women’s MMA, it needs to add a couple more weight classes. Flyweight and strawweight are a couple divisions stacked with talent, and atomweight is coming on strong as well.

But for now, 135 is the focus for the UFC when it comes to the ladies, and Leslie Smith, Miriam Nakamoto and Shayna Baszler could be the next wave of talent to hit the Octagon.

Photo: Shayna Baszler (Esther Lin/Invicta FC)

About The Author

Robby Collins

Robby Collins considers himself a johnny-come-lately to the sport of MMA. He was introduced to it less than three years ago but has since delved into the sport at all levels. As an aspiring fiction writer, Robby adapted his skills to promote his latest passion and landed with The MMA Corner by way of personal initiative and auspicious timing. Robby has dabbled in karate and wrestling, and is currently learning to kickbox.