Bellator did a great thing for women's mixed martial arts this season, putting together an eight-woman tournament that featured six very good American fighters, the undefeated Irishwoman Aisling Daly, and the undisputed best fighter in Japan, Megumi Fujii
As it turned out, it was Zoila Frausto
, who initially wasn't even supposed to be a part of the tournament, who won the whole thing, first knocking out Rosi Sexton to earn her spot in the tournament in June, then beating Jessica Pene by unanimous decision in August, Jessica Aguilar by split decision in September, and Megumi Fujii by split decision in October. It was a very impressive run over the last five months, and it moves her to No. 2 in our latest women's pound-for-pound rankings.
You won't be surprised to learn that No. 1 remains Cris Cyborg
, whose powerful striking and killer instinct take women's MMA to another level. Find out the other eight in our Top 10 below. (Editor's note: The previous individual fighter's ranking for women are in parentheses)
1. Cris Cyborg
(1): The biggest question for Strikeforce remains whether it can find worthy challengers for her. Fans don't want to see her fighting undersized, overmatched opponents anymore.
2. Zoila Frausto
(NR): Frausto's only loss came to Miesha Tate in a bout fought at 135 pounds, far above Frausto's natural weight. At 115 pounds Frausto's striking, reach and takedown defense make her a huge challenge to everyone, as she's shown since signing on with Bellator.
3. Megumi Fujii
(2): She lost to Frausto, but Fujii winning the first 22 fights of her MMA career before meeting Frausto remains one of the most impressive accomplishments in MMA history. I'm not sure why Fujii didn't try harder to work for a takedown, which is a decision that cost her the fight, but I am sure that I'd love to see a rematch.
4. Marloes Coenen
(8): Coenen showed off a great all-around game in beating Sarah Kaufman for Strikeforce's 135-pound championship, but what impresses me most about Coenen is how good she is at fighting off her back. She'll get Miesha Tate next in a match-up that should be fascinating because Coenen's ability to submit opponents off her back could neutralize Tate's greatest strength, getting takedowns and controlling from the top.
5. Sarah Kaufman
(3): Coenen gave Kaufman the first loss of her career on the October 9 San Jose card. That loss was disappointing for Kaufman but a good sign for Strikeforce that its 135-pound division (unlike the Cyborg-dominated 145-pound division) is competitive enough to put together a number of interesting fights with sometimes surprising results.
6. Roxanne Modafferi
(4): Modafferi is a likable fan favorite who's now had two straight fights in the United States after spending most of her career in Japan. Here's hoping she keeps fighting stateside.
7. Tara LaRosa
(5): LaRosa, who was once widely regarded as America's best female fighter, will try to bounce back from losing to Modafferi when she steps into the cage with Takayo Hashi on November 24.
8. Miesha Tate
(NR): Tate is on a roll this year, with a 5-0 record over the last 13 months. She'll provide a good challenge for Coenen, and that's a fight Strikeforce should put together as soon as possible -- preferably on the planned January 2011 card.
9. Jessica Aguilar (NR): She looked great in beating Lynn Alvarez in the first round of the Bellator tournament before suffering a controversial split decision loss to Frausto in the semifinals.
10. Erin Toughill
(6): It's been more than a year since Toughill fought and there's not another fight for her scheduled, but I'll keep her in the Top 10 for now, mostly because I'm still holding out hope that she's the one woman Strikeforce could put in the cage with Cyborg who would actually have a legitimate chance of winning. But if Strikeforce can't book that fight soon, Toughill will drop out of the Top 10, and fans will be deprived of seeing someone actually challenge Cyborg.