Ariel & The Bad Guy: Can anyone challenge Amanda Nunes?

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Nunes knocks out Holm to defend bantamweight belt (1:03)

Amanda Nunes retains her 135-pound title by knocking out Holly Holm at UFC 239. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc. (1:03)

When it comes to women's MMA, there is no debate. Amanda Nunes is the best fighter ever.

Nunes owns both the UFC women's bantamweight and featherweight titles, and with her knockout of Holly Holm at UFC 239, she has defeated everyone who had held the 135-pound crown.

But what really makes Nunes stand out is her dominance over the past three years. She has been in six title fights during that span and has stoppages in five of them, with four coming in the first round.

So, is there anyone in either division that can possibly challenge "The Lioness"?

This was one topic discussed in this week's Ariel & The Bad Guy episode, streamed exclusively on ESPN+.


Ariel Helwani: Yes, there are some people out there. First, let's give her her props. She is the greatest female fighter of all time. There's no argument there. She now has stoppage wins over the likes of Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Cris Cyborg, Holly Holm -- I mean, this is nothing short of amazing, what she's done. There's no one out there. And again, to all the hipsters who are going to throw out Megumi Fujii or someone who fought in HOOKnSHOOT 15 years ago, stop it. What Amanda Nunes is doing is incredible, and she is beating some of the best fighters ever -- and not only beating them, but stopping them. Also, by the way, two wins over Valentina Shevchenko, who is starting to become a legend in her own right, so this is incredible stuff.

But the good news about Amanda Nunes is she has two titles, which means you have two sets of options. And yes, I know 145 isn't dripping with options right now, but she still has them. Lest we forget, Chael, in a matter of days in Sacramento, the headliner is Aspen Ladd, who is undefeated and has looked very good in the UFC thus far, against Germaine de Randamie, who is a former champion at 145. And guess who Germaine de Randamie's last loss is against? Amanda Nunes, back in 2013. I was there, Fight for the Troops, so there's a great story there. You have the youngster in Aspen Ladd. You have the vet in GDR, who's trying to get one back if she gets by Ladd, which obviously isn't an easy task. And then at 145 in just a couple of weeks, you have Felicia Spencer against Cris Cyborg. Now, I know this is the last fight on Cyborg's contract. If she wins, re-signs, you obviously have that matchup -- or Spencer, if she beats Cyborg.

So, I don't subscribe to the theory, Chael, that there's no options for Amanda at this point. I actually think there are a couple of good ones coming up by the end of the month.

Chael Sonnen: Ariel, if I could go back to the very first thing you said, which is Amanda is the greatest female fighter of all time, and there is no argument there. What is so fascinating about that is the discussion of greatest of all time is nothing but an argument. There's really no way to quantify or prove it except in this situation when you take all of the likely suspects, from the Ronda Rouseys to the Cris Cyborgs to the Holly Holms -- not only did she beat them all, she stopped them all. Not only did she stop them all, she did it all in the very first round. For the first time ever there really is no discussion that she's the greatest, so I love that you pointed that out.

Now, one thing if we were to go back through history -- let's use Ronda Rousey, a name people will recognize, when she was the best in the world. When she was on all of the front pages, when there was even a phenomenon out there that she could beat Floyd Mayweather no matter how silly and ridiculous that was, that narrative existed. What we found out over a short period of time, is no. The division just wasn't formed yet. The other names and finding out who the true top contenders were was something that just wasn't formed yet. I only want to remind you of that because while I think we have formed the division, I still think we are plagued with that lesson, that there is still a pipeline. There's still a lot of young talent and a lot of young ladies and Amanda in her case with her success being a champ-champ situation, she's got two different classes that are coming after her where everybody is thinking about her.

So, are there people out there? Absolutely. Many people deserve their opportunity. In the right now, in the today, I would love it to simply be next up: Cris Cyborg.

Helwani: And you know what I love so much about this situation, Chael, and we'll see if Cyborg wins, because if she loses it might be tough for her to get that rematch. But I love the fact that she won this fight on an International Fight Week card because do you remember two years ago, Chael, just hours before UFC 213 she was scheduled to fight Valentina Shevchenko and she had to pull out because she was suffering from sinusitis and she was just killed by everyone? I mean, her character was assassinated. It seemed like she was thrown under the bus, they ran over her a couple times and she would never be able to return. I mean a champion pulling out because of a sinus issue just hours before the event? The main event? Remember, that was the main event. The co-main was (Robert) Whittaker-(Yoel) Romero for the interim title. And so this was horrible for her and now, two years later, look at how we speak of her. Look at how we talk about her as the greatest ever. She's on The Body issue. I mean, she could not be hotter right now. And it seems like she's finally starting to get that respect, and I love it. I loved to see her rebound from that because I was wondering at the time if she would.

Remember Dana White saying she would never headline an event ever again? Remember that? Now she's one of the stars of the sport and she has that superstar aura, so this is great. And I actually think that she could go back from 135 to 145. She can actually be that champion who is able to defend both titles simultaneously if there are enough options for her at 145.

So it's great to be Amanda Nunes. I'm very happy for her and it's cool to see her this dominant a little later in her career because it did seem at one point like she wouldn't be able to live up to that hype. Now, not only is she living up to it, I think she has exceeded all the hype.

Sonnen: Ariel, to your point, I was able to speak to her on ESPN right after her fight. What's next? You always have to ask that question as annoying as it is, but it's kind of relevant. She gave a very interesting answer, Ariel. She's not looking for money fights, she's not looking for stardom fights. Here's what she said: She said what's important to me is that I get to defend at 145 pounds. Relevance being, now that you got this champ -- multiple champs at the same time going on -- now they have to compete amongst themselves. Yes, there has been other champ-champs, very few, but nobody has gotten to successfully defend both titles simultaneously. She didn't care how big of a fight it was, she wanted that achievement. And from a competitor's standpoint -- and you and I both love competitors -- that was an awesome answer.

Helwani: Totally agree.