The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup draws to a close on Sunday in Frankfurt, Germany, as the United States meets Japan in the finals. (Kickoff is at 2:45 p.m. ET on ESPN, by the way.) This marks the first time since 1999 that Americans have been psyched about women’s soccer — but we admit, we’re getting caught up in the hype as well.
In honor of our ladies getting ready to run shop on the Japanese, we decided to hold our own international competition, choosing the best female MMA fighter from 10 different countries and ranking them against each other. The first few names will be very familiar — but who’s carrying the flag for Russia, South Korea, and Germany? Read on and find out…
#1. Cristiane “Cris Cyborg” Santos (Brazil)
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Last fight: Third-round TKO of Jan Finney, 6/26/10
Santos’s inability to find a fight over the last year says a lot about the still-developing state of women’s MMA in this country, as well as her own undisputed position in the 145-pound division. She’s so far ahead of her peers, that no logical challengers even exist.
#2. Marloes Coenen (Netherlands)
Last fight: Fourth-round triangle choke submission of Liz Carmouche, 3/5/11
Strikeforce’s 135-pound champ arm-barred the belt off of Sarah Kaufman in 2010, and is slated to defend it for the second time against Miesha Tate at “Fedor vs. Henderson” on July 30th.
#3. Tara LaRosa (USA)
Last fight: Second-round heel-hook submission of Carina Damm, 3/11/11
The most decorated American veteran in women’s MMA, LaRosa has whooped the majority of the country’s female 125/135-pound MMA talent. LaRosa has won belts from BodogFight, UCW, and most recently DaMMAge Fight League, which she earned by outpointing Takayo Hashi last November.
#4. Megumi Fujii (Japan)
Last fight: Unanimous decision over Mika Nagano, 7/9/11
Her close loss to Zoila Gurgel notwithstanding, Fujii has built a legacy in the sport that’s unmatched by any other female fighter. 75% of her wins have come by submission, and she picked up her first-ever TKO win against Sarah Schneider last year at Bellator 21.
#5. Sarah Kaufman (Canada)
Last fight: Third-round TKO of Megumi Yabushita, 4/2/11
The former 135-pound women’s champ of Strikeforce, Kaufman bounced back from her loss to Marloes Coenen with a beat-down of experienced Japanese veteran Megumi Yabushita, which went down at an AFC event in her native Victoria, British Columbia. Sarah’s Strikeforce return is slated for July 22nd against Liz Carmouche.
#6. Rosi Sexton (England)
Last fight: Unanimous decision over Roxanne Modafferi, 2/26/11
A perennial entry on women’s MMA top-ten lists, Sexton’s win over Modafferi earned her a Super Flyweight title shot in the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship promotion. She was slated to meet Germany’s Sheila Gaff for the belt last weekend, but unfortunately had to withdraw due to injury.
#7. Milana Dudieva (Russia)
Last fight: Unanimous decision over Sheila Gaff, 12/17/10
After losing her pro debut to the more-experienced Julia Berezikova, Dudieva has gone on a tear in Russia’s ProFC league, winning five straight fights by first-round stoppage before her decision win against Gaff. The future face of women’s MMA?
#8. Cindy Dandois (Belgium)
Last fight: Second-round TKO of Jorina Baars, 3/19/11
Dandois made her pro debut in January 2009 with an upset decision win over Marloes Coenen, and knocked out her last opponent while two months pregnant. That kid is going to grow up to be a bad-ass, especially if the father is who we think it is.
#9. Seo Hee Ham (South Korea)
Last fight: Unanimous decision over Mei Yamamguchi, 7/9/11
Okay, so she’s never finished a fight in her life. Still, she’s a perfect 3-0 in 2011, and is gaining popularity as a rising star in Asia thanks to her gritty performances in the Jewels and Gladiator promotions.
#10. Sheila Gaff (Germany)
Last fight: First-round TKO of Aisling Daly, 4/24/11
After a rough 2010 that saw her go 1-3, the German Tank has rebounded in ferocious fashion, scoring an 8-second knockout of Swedish fighter Hanna Sillen before breezing through Irish veteran Aisling Daly. All of her wins have come by first-round stoppage. Keep an eye on this woman.