In order to become UFC featherweight champion, she has to go through arguably the greatest women’s fighter in the history of the sport in Amanda Nunes.
To put that into perspective, Nunes comes into the fight off 11 consecutive wins with seven finishes, eight of those victories in title fights and she has defeated every single woman to ever hold a title at both 135 and 145 pounds in the UFC. Nunes is the first and only woman to hold two titles simultaneously in UFC history and she’s run roughshod over her opponents at featherweight, including a 51-second demolition against Cris Cyborg to claim the title in 2018.
Meanwhile, Anderson is currently 3-2 in her UFC campaign with her two losses coming to fighters — Holly Holm and Felicia Spencer — who Nunes dominated. None of that changes Anderson’s attitude towards the fight because at the end of the day Nunes is still just another human being standing across the cage from her.
“It’s been a long road to get here,” Anderson said at the UFC 259 pre-fight press conference. “Glad that I finally got here. I grew a lot as a person, as a martial artist, getting to this point. But I’m just ready to put on a show. Everyone’s invincible until they’re not.”
Despite the majority of Nunes’ career being fought at bantamweight, she seems to have settled into competing in the bigger division based on the way she dispatched both Cyborg and Spencer.
While Anderson obviously isn’t discounting either of those victories, she believes there are some physical advantages that she’ll hold over Nunes — one of which was on display when the fighters faced off for the first time at the UFC 259 pre-fight press conference where the Aussie was towering over the featherweight champion.
“I feel like I’m the true, first featherweight that she’s fought that brings a lot of power,” Anderson said. “I know Felicia [Spencer] is a featherweight but styles make fights. I have a lot of power that I bring to the table that I don’t think that she’s seen in a very long time.”
Make no mistake, Anderson grasps the enormity of the task ahead of her when Nunes has barely been touched much less put into any serious peril over the past six years while she’s been building her win streak.
The last time Nunes tasted defeat came all the way back at UFC 178 in 2014 when she bloodied and battered Cat Zingano at the start of their fight but then ran out of gas going for the finish before she ultimately fell in the third round.
In other words even in a loss, Nunes’ opponents rarely escape unscathed but Anderson feels like she’s done enough homework alongside her coaches to find a few cracks in the champion’s armor ahead of UFC 259.
“I think everyone has holes in their game,” Anderson said. “I think you just have to find them. We’ve looked at the tape and we’ve got a game plan so we’re ready to capitalize on those moments when we see them.”
If Anderson gets the job done, she will pull off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport while walking into the octagon as a 14-to-1 underdog.
Becoming UFC champion would certainly be the crowning achievement of Anderson’s career but even that would come with questions about the future because the UFC has largely built the featherweight division around Nunes and her title defenses.
Would Anderson be afforded that same luxury if she captures the belt?
For now, she can’t concern herself any further than the fight on Saturday night where Anderson’s biggest problem is the most accomplished fighter in the history of women’s mixed martial arts.
“It’s kind of hard to not think about that obviously but at the end of the day, I can’t control what’s done with the division,” Anderson said. “All I can control is me and putting on great performances. Dana [White] and the UFC are going to do what they’re going to do.
“My job is to turn up, show up, knockout, win. That’s all I can focus on and if I focus on anything else, then I take away from my sole priority and that’s winning.”