Women's mixed martial arts used to be a polarizing topic in the sport. Early on, while many within the martial arts community were in favor of letting women participate, despite the sport being a nasty and particularly tough one. Others thought that MMA should remain for the boys only, but thankfully, the voices of the former won out and the female divisions of major promotions continue to grow. Obviously there are some who continue to loathe ladies' MMA, but that is their loss.
What women may lack (compared to their male counterparts) in upper body strength and knockout power, they make up for in flexibility, leading to some impressive ground battles we see more seldom in men's divisions. Of course, this is not to say there aren't ladies capable of putting each other to sleep, whether it be knees, kicks, or punches. If you ask most fans where the best competition in women's MMA is, they'll say UFC, and that pretty much goes without saying. Some may also say that the best eye candy works for Dana White and company, citing names like Paige Van Zant, Michelle Waterson, Ronda Rousey and Rose Namajunas (still looks cute even with the shaved head).
But those who love the sport and check out other promotions know, the talent is everywhere, in terms of both fighting skills and looks. While there are some real jaw-droppers in the UFC, other promotions including Bellator, Invicta and of course smaller, lesser known promotions have some gorgeous ladies out to prove that "perfect tens" can scrap as well as the boys. Here are fifteen stunning, lesser known female martial artists we have never seen in the UFC octagon. Some are on their way up, some are older and may not be around much longer, and some might as well be retired, but what they all have in common is stunning beauty.
15 Rachel Wray
The first entry on our list of stunning martial artists outside UFC is Rachel Wray. She has yet to make her professional debut but fought four amateur fights between 2012 and 2014, going 2-2 with both her wins coming via knockout. Before she started training full time in mixed martial arts, she was a cheerleader for the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL. While it has been a while since she's fought, we still have hope she'll return to competition. She holds a blue belt in BJJ (completed in 2015) and announced after she had earned that belt that she wanted to start fighting again, but nothing has materialized. There has been no official retirement yet, so that gives us some optimism, but overall inactivity within the sport and little social media presence makes us think she may have moved on to other things.
14 Jenae Noonan
Jenae Noonan is one of the most beautiful redheads we have ever seen, and we have to say the fact that her first name sounds like how Forrest Gump said "Jenny" makes us chuckle. She has trained in boxing, Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu, and has competed in these disciplines, despite only having fought once in amateur MMA. She won that fight by the way, submitting Angela Danzig, who now fights in King of the Cage.
From the looks of her online activity, it seems that Noonan has moved on to other things and that martial arts has taken a passenger seat to other passions. She has written a motivational book, linking her experience in martial arts to life in general. Along with that, she is a motivational speaker and has a self defense program aimed at women and children. If we ever see her in the cage again, it will be a surprise, but stranger things have happened.
13 Jordan McDonald
Okay, we'll admit it, the first two ladies we featured along with Jordan McDonald here will likely never fight again, and we'll move on to some more active fighters for the rest of the list. But McDonald, Noonan and Wray are too hot for us to have ignored and left off the list.
Between 2009 and late 2012, McDonald compiled an amateur fight record of 5-3, with a couple of knockouts and submissions among her wins. When she was training to fight, she used modeling to pay the bills and we imagine she eventually just realized she could make more money in that line of work and kept martial arts as a side passion for fitness and self defense. We don't blame her and can't argue with the results.
12 Michelle Nicolini
At about 5'5 and rocking a tiny but stong 115 lb frame, Brazilian Michelle Nicolini is one of the most polished Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners on the planet, with a black belt under Robert Drysdale and several world championship medals in Jiu Jitsu. Now 35, and with four professional MMA fights worth of experience, we're unsure whether she'll ever bother with UFC, and whether her striking is up to the task. In those four fights she has gone 3-1, with her loss coming in Legacy Fighting Championship and her most recent win coming over Mona Samir in One Championship. Her three wins have come via submission in the first round. She has a fight coming up later in April, against Russian Irina Mazepa.
11 Tiffany Van Soest
Californian Muay Thai champion Tiffany Van Soest has a significant background in karate, having won championships at the state, national and world levels (that is pretty damn impressive for sure). She practiced karate throughout her youth, earning a second degree black belt, and later started competing in Muay Thai and kickboxing. She's won championships in Lion Fight and more recently Glory in December 2016. Her Invicta debut was in September 2016 and she lost via second round submission. Just 28 years old, we're optimistic we'll see her again in the cage and there is a serious possibility of one day seeing her in the octagon. She has more than enough chops in terms of striking, but grappling may need some fine tuning.
10 Lena Ovchynnikova
Ukranian hottie Lena Ovchynnikova has won a ton of championships in Muay Thai and kickboxing all over Europe and has been fighting in professional MMA for over ten years. She made her debut at age 19 in Kiev. Her first eight MMA bouts ended in victories, including a string of five straight armbar submissions that we can only refer to as "Rousey-esque". Since March, 2012 however, she's gone 3-4 in more significant promotions, and most recently started fighting in Bellator, where she is 1-1, most recently defeating Karla Benitez at Bellator 164 back in November. As dudes who love gorgeous Eastern European women, we wish she had sought employment as a lingerie model, but as fighting fans, we're happy with the choice she made.
9 Yana Kunitskaya
She grew up with a pair of athlete parents and trained in multiple martial arts from a younger age, before going pro. Between 2009 and 2012, Yana "Foxy" Kunitskaya compiled a professional record of 8-1 in mostly Russian promotions and some throughout Europe before taking an early retirement to become a coach. A couple of years later she reentered MMA and by mid 2016 she found herself in Invicta, and fought for the Bantamweight title. Her first match for said belt was a win over Tonya Evinger which got overturned. In late March, 2017, she lost the rematch via rear naked choke. It'll probably be at least a few months before we see her in the cage again but we are certainly looking forward to that day.
8 Kyra Gracie
Now in her early 30s we cannot believe that Kyra Gracie hasn't made her MMA debut, given that she is a multiple time world champion in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and a member of the Gracie family that was part of starting the UFC and of course produced the first dominant force in the promotion's early days; Royce Gracie. Kyra is the granddaughter of Robson Gracie; her mother is Robson's only daughter, Flavia. The third degree black belt is married and has a kid and still works as a BJJ instructor. There is some evidence to suggest Kyra is currently working to improve her striking skills in preparation for her MMA debut, but we'll believe it when we see a fight get scheduled.
7 Rachel Wiley
Topeka, Kansas native Rachel "Rach" Wiley, has only one professional fight, which ended in a first round knockout loss, and it happened back in late 2015. While it remains unclear when (or if) she'll return to professional fighting, she still trains at Midwest Combat Academy. She's done well in amateur fights, with a record of 6-2, with two submission finishes, and two knockouts. While it has been a while since she's fought and her first foray into pro fights did end in a loss, she's only 22 years old, and seems like we'll be seeing her in the cage again at some point. With plenty of years ahead of her, Wiley could eventually enter and (who knows) POSSIBLY dominate the UFC.
6 Jessica Branco
Self-described Jiu Jitsu Barbie, Jessica Branco is still an amateur fighter at this point, and hasn't made her professional debut yet. Given that she's 2-4 (Tapology) in her amateur scraps, we're not too optimistic, but wish her the best of course. She was born in Montreal, Canada, but fights out of Florida, where she started training with American Top Team in Coconut Creek. She's won medals at a few significant BJJ tournaments and holds a blue belt, but that hasn't translated into a stellar MMA record. She's not letting up though, and continues to train. With enough hard work and dedication to the craft, Branco could eventually scratch her way up the ranks and into the UFC cage.
5 Megan Anderson
Invicta's Megan Anderson is one of those women we feel can be accurately described as threateningly sexy. She stands about six feet tall and fights at Featheweight; currently holding the Invicta Featherweight title that Cyborg Justino vacated in anticipation of her eventual start with UFC. Anderson has an unbelievable body and much of it is covered with tattoos, a look that we know isn't for everyone but totally works for this magnificent fighter. If/when Dana White and company decide to start filling the UFC Women's Featherweight Division with talent, we'd expect this tall, statuesque Aussie (great accent of course) to be among the first to be recruited. And once there, look out! Anderson just may rule the division inside that UFC cage.
4 Andrea Lee
Looks can be deceiving, and Andrea Lee is a great example of that. Upon seeing her, she's tiny, very pretty and has a huge, endearing smile. In spite of her girl-next-door looks, she's a warrior of the highest caliber with extensive training in kickboxing, Muay Thai and a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, studying under Relson Gracie. She's 6-2 in professional MMA, and won the Legacy FC Flyweight championship back in late 2015. More recently, with the Legacy/Resurrection merger, she beat Heather Bassett, making herself the first winner of the Legacy Fighting Alliance Flyweight belt. She's currently 3-2 in fights for Invicta. She may look sweet but Lee can throw down. We're hoping to someday way Lee take the fight to the UFC.
3 Helena Kolesnyk
Born in Odessa, Ukraine, this gorgeous young lady is a product of Global Fight Gym in Moscow, and now fights in the promotion WBK in China. Primarily a boxer, she won three fights in this promotion in 2016; with two wins coming by strikes and one via neck crank submission. While this may look like an incredibly beautiful young woman, stunning blue eyed, blonde haired women like her are pretty much the norm in Ukraine. Her nickname is "Pretty" so clearly she has no confusion about her assets outside of the realm of beating people up. Like we said, she's a great boxer, but watching her nasty and quick victory over Jing Sun last March, she was throwing accurate and devastating knees with great effect and spent most of the first round in top control. The girl looks like she can do it all, now let's see her in a bigger promotion.
2 Mackenzie Dern
If there is a woman we'd rather have snap our arms via armbar instead of Ronda Rousey, it'd have to be Mackenzie Dern. She's been training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for over twenty years (since age three according to legend) with her black belt parents. Her father is Megaton Dias, one of the sport's all-time greats and a fifth degree black belt under Royler Gracie. She has more medals in Jiu Jitsu competition than we care to count and is currently 3-0 in professional mixed martial arts. She's considered one of the best female BJJ practitioners and she's also pretty easy on the eyes. There have been rumors that she wants to make her UFC debut at some point this year and we can't imagine there will be any complaints about that.
1 Anastasia Yankova
Now, we know what you're thinking: who are these guys trying to sneak an underwear model into an article about martial artists? Well, she's actually Anastasia Yankova, a Russian martial artist with a background primarily in Muay Thai. She signed with Bellator in early 2016 and is currently 2-0 (at the time of writing, she has an upcoming fight on April 8th, at Bellator 176) in that promotion and 4-0 in MMA. Unfortunately she's been training with American Kickboxing Academy, so expect a knee injury any day now. She's been told that she's too pretty for MMA and things like that, but none of it gets to her. She works as a model when she isn't training. Hopefully this beauty will grace a UFC cage and some point.