Women’s MMA has taken great strides in the past few years. The 135-pound division has captured the attention of fans and the UFC’s introduction of the 115-pound division for the next season of The Ultimate Fighter has brought attention to the strawweight class as well. However, while those divisions continue to rise, there is one women’s division that has been on the decline—the featherweights.

The problem for the 145-pound class is that the stars and attention seem to be trending downward for the once big division. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino is making a test cut to 135 pounds and seems bound for the bantamweight division and an eventual clash with UFC champ Ronda Rousey. Ediane Gomes, the other big name left at featherweight, is also heading to bantamweight for her next Invicta FC contest. The division is starting to lack the name power it once had at its height, when Cyborg and Gina Carano were active in the division.

Yet, despite the migration of fighters to a more UFC-friendly division, the 145-pound weight class is far from doomed. There are still good fighters to look out for in the division, even if they haven’t garnered the same interest that Carano and Cyborg enjoyed at the height of their popularity. The featherweight division isn’t done. It is merely undergoing a changing of the guard.

The problem for the division doesn’t lie in its talent. All the heaviest divisions, men’s or women’s, lack depth at the top. But the talent is there, and it is growing. The problem instead lies in star power. The division doesn’t have what it once did in terms of star power. The recognizable names have been willing to drop the extra 10 pounds to reach their dream of being in the top organization, the UFC.

So, as Cyborg and Gomes leave, who will step up to fill the void?

Well, there’s Marina Shafir, who came up from the amateur ranks and is less than a week away from her second professional fight. Her judo and overall grappling skills make her a potential force at 145 pounds. Training with UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey doesn’t hurt either.

A member of Rousey’s “Four Horsewomen” crew, Shafir cannot be overlooked as the future at the top of the division. She went 5-0 on the amateur circuit. All of her amateur fights ended in the first round, a trend familiar to anyone who has followed Rousey’s own career. And like Rousey, Shafir has finished a majority of her opponents via armbar. Her first bout as a pro went great. She put on a dominant performance as she beat Chandra Engel with an armbar in just under two minutes.

But Shafir isn’t the only hope for the future of the women’s featherweight division.

There is even talent outside of the United States, such as New Zealand’s Faith Van Duin. Van Duin has a fight coming up at the end of the month, and she recently signed with Invicta FC. She is unbeaten, with three finishes on her record, and at only age 28, the sky’s the limit for her in a division that will be bare at the top, just waiting for someone to take over.

Those are just two names. There are more out there and there will be more to come once the division opens up more. It’s just a matter of how hard you look. But to sit here and say that losing two fighters is the final nail in the coffin for the division, well, you’d be burying a division that is still alive.

About The Author

Sal DeRose
Staff Writer

Sal hails from New Jersey and is currently training for his first MMA fight. He hopes to use his knowledge and insight to generate articles that interest and entertain you. Outside of MMA, Sal is a big fan of every other sport. He's a diehard New York sports fan, with the exception of cheering for the Packers.