But after Dana White and company opened up UFC's first ever women’s division, fans around the world flocked to their dynamic roster of female stars. Fighters like Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, and Miesha Tate have shown that they can go round-for-round with all the ferocity—and maybe even more star power—of their male counterparts, leading to some of the most dynamic, exciting fights in the sport's history.
Led by Rousey, this group of physically gifted and totally badass women have proven that mixed martial arts isn't just for the boys.
“Evil” Eye is as tough as they come for female fighters in the UFC—she uses a range of boxing attacks, defensive jab moves, and agile strikes to take down opponents. The Ohio native started her mixed martial arts career with a 10-1 record and she’s known for her strong body kicks, devastating elbow strikes, and takedowns. She’s even earned praise from UFC President Dana White.
“She's got that special something about her," White told Yahoo Sports. "She's a fighter, man. She's one of those fighters like I talk about, who is pure fighter. When it's go time, she's as tough as there is, and she loves it."
The “Lil Bulldog” has quite the bite in the Octagon—the accomplished kickboxer uses Muay Thai and strong leg moves to take down her opposition. A native of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, she's won 23 of the 28 matches in her kickboxing career. After winning her UFC debut against Lisa Ellis with an armbar submission, she won 10 of her next 16 matches.
“Quiet Storm” doesn’t have any fear when she steps into the Octagon—she’s gone through enough in her life to feel like she can overcome anything. After being born in Baghdad, Iraq, her family was imprisoned for a time during the Gulf War for trying to leave the country, eventually finding a way to escape to Canada. Markos uses her past as motivation—and with her 63.5-inch reach and powerful legs, she uses a combination of wrestling and jiu jitsu moves to defeat her opposition, winning six of her first 10 career mixed martial arts fights.
“Pitbull” is as fierce as her namesake, using a combination of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, wrestling, Kung Fu, and jujitsu moves in the Octagon to take down her opponents. The Brazilian fighter is as powerful as anyone in UFC and opened her mixed martial arts career by winning 10 of her first 12 fights, including a win over Jessica Eye at UFC 203.
Contrary to her polished appearance, the American fighter goes by the nickname “Thug," and she uses an arsenal of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and taekwondo moves to battle through her matches. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin native is a striking specialist with an impressive 65-inch reach. She has black belts in both karate and taekwondo, making her as skilled as anyone in UFC when it comes to leg kicks and takedowns. Namajunas opened her career with five wins over her first eight matches, including a win over Angela Hill at UFC 192.
“The Whispering Assassin” started training in Muay Thai as a teenager and she uses that discipline along with Brazilian jiu-jitsu, powerful leg strikes, and devastating jabs to fight her opponents. The Scottish fighter—who also is known by nicknames like “JoJo,” “Badmofo JoJo,” and “Dr. Kneevil”—was an accomplished kickboxer, losing just two of her 21 matches, and starting her mixed martial arts career by winning her first nine fights, four of them by knockouts.
“Cookie Monster” is one of the best grapplers in the UFC. She uses a wide range of kicks and punches, combining wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu moves when she’s in the ring. The Redondo Beach, California native was the first UFC Strawweight Champion, and she started her career by winning 11 of her first 14 mixed martial arts matches.
“Alpha” is one of the most badass female fighters in the UFC, with Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and Muay Thai moves that can take down any opponent. A native of Winona, Minnesota, she has a near-70-inch reach, which she used to devastating effect in 2013 when she became the first woman to win a UFC fight by technical knockout, taking down another top fighter in Miesha Tate. Zingano started her mixed martial arts career with nine straight wins, taking five of those by knockout, losing for the first time to an ascendant Ronda Rousey at UFC 184.
“The Preacher's Daughter” is best known for her defeat of Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 in Australia, but she’s much more than that. Using a combination of kickboxing and boxing skills, Holm opened her mixed martial arts career with 10 straight wins, culminating in the vicious knockout victory of Rousey, effectively sending the superstar into a yearlong exile from the sport. Holm earned her bones as a professional boxer, winning multiple championships and defending her titles a staggering 18 times while posting a 32-2-3 record in the ring.
“12 Gauge” is one of the best female fighters in the sport, using top-notch defensive skills and punishing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu moves to win her matches. Hailing from Dundee, Oregon, she has a 65-inch reach and is an aggressive grappler in the ring, utilizing elbows, ground strikes, clinches, and speedy punches to gain the upper hand. Even though she’s young—she started her pro MMA career at just 18—VanZant has been very impressive, starting off seven wins in her first nine mixed martial arts fights.
“Cupcake” is anything but. Tate uses wrestling, boxing, Muay Thai, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu moves to punish her opponents. With a 65-inch reach and 130 pounds of pure muscle, Tate isn’t afraid to step into the ring with anyone. Even though she lost to Ronda Rousey at UFC 168, Tate has put together an impressive career with wins over fighters like Holly Holm—to take the bantamweight title—Jessica Eye, and Liz Carmouche.
“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey catapulted to the top of her sport with lighting-fast knockouts, powerful punches, and an arsenal of moves that includes judo, boxing, and takedown techniques. Known for her notoriously tough arm-bar, “The Arm Collector” suffered a tough defeat to Holly Holm with a knockout at UFC 193, but the former Olympic bronze medalist remains one of the most feared fighters in the world. Rousey has made the jump into movies with appearances in the Expendables franchise and Furious 7, but she continues to be a dominant name in UFC. After starting her career with 12 straight wins, Rousey is now looking to take back the title she lost with a matchup against Amanda Nunes in UFC 207 in Las Vegas on December 30, 2016.