Las Vegas, NV, USA; Ronda Rousey (red gloves) celebrates after the referee stopped the fight against Sara McMann (blue gloves) during their UFC bantamweight championship bout at Mandalay Bay. Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The exponential growth of the UFC Women's Bantamweight Division

Hindsight is a pretty crazy thing. Looking back to the days where provisional talks were in place for the UFC to create a women’s bantamweight division and import some of Strikeforce’s finest talent, I was one of the doubters. Boy was I wrong.

Many, myself include, felt that the women’s division would not be successful inside the Octagon and wouldn’t pull in the same viewership as the male divisions. Not through my own ignorance, as I’m a fan of both MMA and WMMA, but through the ignorance of the common MMA fan, or the casual fan. Hardcore fans have grown to love the female characters of the sport and recognise the wars they put on, but the less educated of fans may be put off by the idea of women fighting inside the cage.

The truth is, some of the best fights of 2013 were contested in the women’s 135lbs division and the introduction has been a breath of fresh air for the promotion. Not only do the UFC have some of the finest in the division, but there are also a plethora of tough contenders in other promotions that are exciting fans around the world. The likes of semi-retired film actress Gina Carano, to the brutal former Strikeforce champion Cris Cyborg, to the former boxing champion Holly Holm, and the slightly less known but equally dangerous Lauren Murphy.

Whether you like it or not, the women’s bantamweight division isn’t going anywhere. Many felt that Ronda Rousey losing her belt would spell the end of the division inside the UFC and, although that is yet to happen, now the division could become even more exciting should that occur.

Rousey has gone 3-0 inside the Octagon, pulled some solid PPV numbers and beat three very noteworthy contenders in Liz Carmouche, Miesha Tate and Sara McMann. She went past the first round against Tate, and pulled off her first non-armbar victory against McMann. At 27, the world is Ronda’s oyster.

But that doesn’t mean Rousey is going to clean house and the division won’t be exciting. Waiting in the wings are some of the most dangerous female fighters in the sport; the aforementioned foursome outside of the UFC in Carano, Cyborg, Holm and Murphy, to those currently signed by the promotion such as Cat Zingano, Alexis Davis, Amanda Nunes - should she get past Sarah Kaufman and vice-versa.

The female bantamweights in the UFC have proved doubters wrong, and some of the most thought-provoking potential match-ups are in that very division. Answer the poll below, comment in the section below, or hit us up on Twitter @cagepagesfs.

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Tags: Cat Zingano Cris Cyborg Gina Carano Holly Holm Liz Carmouche Miesha Tate Ronda Rousey Sara Mcmann

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