After UFC 289, who should fight for the vacant women’s bantamweight title?

Dec 11, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Julianna Pena is declared the winner by submission against Amanda Nunes during UFC 269 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

This past Saturday night in the main event of UFC 289, the women’s bantamweight title was on the line. Two-division champion and consensus greatest of all time Amanda Nunes (23-5) was looking to defend her title against surging contender Irene Aldana (14-7).

Nunes completely dominated the fight from the opening bell to the final one. After the bout was over, she was interviewed by Daniel Cormier and she asked for scissors to take off her gloves. Nunes laid down her gloves and her two world titles and announced her retirement in the cage.

It’s extremely rare to see a champion retire on top. The only two that really jump out as champions who retired on top were Georges St. Pierre and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Nunes joins those two as one of the greatest fighters of all time who retired on top of the world as a UFC champion.

Who fights for the UFC championships?

Now, we turn our attention to the two divisions that she leaves behind. Dana White said in the post-fight press conference that it’s basically safe to say that the women’s featherweight division is gone with Nunes’ retirement. That division has been pretty much non-existent but they kept it open to keep Nunes the champion.

With that division folding up, all eyes will be on the UFC’s women’s bantamweight division. So, who should fight for the title? As of now, I think there’s only one name that we can pencil in for sure and Dana White essentially said the same thing.

That’s former champion Julianna Pena (11-5). Pena was originally supposed to fight Nunes on Saturday to conclude their trilogy but broke her ribs and had to pull out. With Nunes’ retirement, they’ll never officially settle their series with one fighter each holding a win over the other.

Pena will be in the next title fight, but who will she be facing? Realistically, it comes down to how quickly the promotion wants to turn this thing around. If they want to book the fighter sooner than later, I think Pena will face off against Raquel Pennington (15-8).

Pennington has won five fights in a row and was the backup for Saturday night. It wouldn’t be the biggest fight in the world, but it’s the one that makes a ton of sense. If they want to go for more name recognition, I think we have to wait for July 15th.

Holly Holm (15-6) is currently scheduled to face Mayra Bueno Silva (10-2-1). Silva has won three fights in a row and Holm looked dominant in defeating Yana Santos earlier this year to move to 3-1 in her last four. The two other wins in those three were against Irene Aldana and Raquel Pennington.

I could see the UFC scrapping the July 15th main event and just moving Holm to a title shot with Pena. That’s the biggest fight they can make to keep some hype behind the division. Would they want to risk Holm losing to Silva? Tuesday should be an interesting day in the UFC Match Maker’s meeting.