The growth in popularity of women’s MMA has really been interesting to watch. Ronda Rosuey has become a star. Women int he UFC have become a must watch. In fact, it has been such a hit that the UFC has created a second women’s MMA division. This time, it is the 115 pound women. This division may be the most talent filled of the women’s MMA divisons. That is kind of ironic since it has not been long ago that UFC president, Dana White said that one reason he was not for women’s MMA was he did not feel there was enough women to have a whole division. He was wrong. He would tell you that. With the debut of the Ultimate Fighter 20, this division is in full swing. We could expect the UFC to start targeting and signing more fighters for this weight class. There are several women that are worth a look already. I believe these three stand out and could be well on their way to UFC offers.
1. Mizuki Inoue
There have been a lot of superlatives thrown towards Inoue. Prodigy. The best prospect in Japan. All of them are appropriate. I think that all things considered, Inoue is the brightest prospect in Japan and presents the best chance of being the first Japanese fighter to hold a UFC title. Here is the crazy thing. Inoue is 20-years old. She has a 8-2 career record. I do feel we need to give a disclaimer on her record. In one of the losses on her record she failed to make weight. So according to the rules in Japan she had to fight, but could not win. She defeated Emi Tomimatsu by armbar, but her record shows it as a disqualification loss. So for our purposes she is 9-1. She has wins over current TUF 20 competitors Bec Rawlings and Alex Chambers as well as Emi Fujino.
She is a very technical sound fighter. Her stand up game is really solid. I am really impressed with her footwork and head movement. Inoue also is willing to grab a thai clinch and throw knees in the clinch and elbows. Inoue is creative as well. She will throw up elbows and kicks from the clinch. She is very proficient on her feet. She also has good grappling. Her takedowns and trips are solid. She also has submission abilities. She is just an all around good fighter.
I heard from a pretty reliable source that the UFC has already tried to sign Inoue. Apparently, her DEEP contract would not allow her to leave and sign with UFC. I would imagine that whenever she is willing and contractually free to sign with UFC that they would be more than happy to have her. Right now it looks as though we will next see Inou fighting in Invicta.
2. Katja Kankaanpaa
Katja is a 33 Finnish fighter, who boasts a 8-1career mark. Her sole loss came at the hands of Joanna Calderwood. Katja has wins over the likes of Karla Benitez, Mei Yamaguchi, Aisling Daly, Juliana Lima and Stephanie Eggink. The current Invicta strawweight champion is primed for the big show
Katja is a catch wrestler of sorts. The two-time InvictaFC fighter can grind people out from the top position. She did have some solid moments against elite striker Calderwood. Katja does have a karate background in her youth, but she really is known as a submission wrestler. While she has submission skills, she is really more a grinder than a finisher. Known as “the Killer Bunny” Katja really has shown great toughness. Her takedowns are really good. She is a threat to take most fighters down. She is also very strong and technical in the clinch position. She likes to go for ankle picks and has a nice lateral drop. She is not a fighter who is going to stay on the outside or in the pocket and trade strikes. She uses her strikes to set up the clinch or takedowns. I like Katja’s overall grappling game. She has good transitions and will pepper opponents with strikes from side control or the mount position. At this stage in her career she is not going to be a elite striker. However, she can improve enough to be a dual threat. She has shown that she can catch people coming in. Katja is who she is and she is very good at what she does.
3. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
The Polish fighter has a 5-0 career record, mostly under the KSW banner. However, Karolina just recently signed with Invicta and will be a real threat to capture the vacant title. At 28-years old she is just entering the prime of his career.
Karolina is pretty well rounded. She seems willing to engage on her feet. She also has a good ground game. Her takedowns have shown to be solid. She has a nice body lock takedown and a lateral drop that she likes to use. On the ground her positioning and base are solid. She has a very tough side control, where she prefers kesa gatame. She transitions well from side control to mount. When she is in dominant position she knows what to do. She has good ground and pound. I was actually impressed with her clinch work. Her overall grappling seems to be very technical and calculates. So far, she has been able to shut opponents down. I think that she has loads of potential. She need to be more aggressive with looking for finishes, but she has done what she needs to do. She also tends to fade slightly late in her fights, which she will need to fix. It will be interesting to see how she does against tougher competition in Invicta.
Karolina is a girl that the UFC would like to get their hands on. She is tough and pretty. She is someone they could market in Poland. While it seems unlikely she will get to the UFC in 2014, we could see her in the first part of 2015. However, she needs a few wins this year first.
Also watch out for: Kalina Faria, Livia Souza, Ericka Almeida, Stephanie Eggink and Alexa Grasso