When Amanda Nunes announced her retirement from the MMA world, the landscape of Women's MMA became much more competitive. Rose Namajunas has been away from the sport for a year after losing the title in unappealing fashion. Zhang Weili is a great champion, but her two blemishes against Rose mean she has a long way to go to solidify her legacy. Even the indomitable Valentina Shevchenko saw her longtime rein come to an end. With Alexa Grasso sitting atop the pound-for-pound Women's MMA rankings, we're entering a new generation of fighters in the women's game. Before we move on, we must remember Tatiana Suarez, who still has a chance to fulfill her destiny as one of the all-time greats.
Growing up in Covina, California, Tatiana Suarez is a lifelong wrestler who was once the country's top freestyle wrestler at 121lb. With two bronze medals on the world stage of freestyle wrestling, Suarez was a shoe-in to represent the United States in the 2012 Summer Olympics before an injury took her out of the running. While the injury certainly left her in an unfortunate position, she was also surprised to find out that she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. With two pieces of devastating news at once, Suarez underwent radiation therapy that successfully treated her cancer. Displaying the heart of a champion, Tatiana Suarez could return to training after successfully recovering from her cancer and her injury.
Three years later, Tatiana Suarez returned to combat sports competition, beginning her MMA training while picking up world jiu-jitsu gold medals. Suarez would make her professional MMA debut in 2014, starting as a flyweight. After starting a career in a new sport with a 3-0 record, she was invited onto TUF 23, coached by Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Cláudia Gadelha. Suarez would be selected to team Cláudia and would proceed to run through her competition. Suarez went 3-0 in the TUF house with two finishes, including a submission win over UFC stalwart JJ Aldrich. She would make quick work of Amanda Cooper in the finals, scoring a POTN first-round submission to become the queen of TUF 23. While every TUF winner had to go through the same gauntlet, we'd rarely seen a level of dominance that Suarez showed on the show, experiencing zero adversity inside the cage on her way to the crown.
After TUF, Tatiana Suarez finally set her sights on attaining UFC gold and immortalizing herself among her peers. Between 2017-2019, Suarez accumulated a decisive 4-0 UFC record, including a submission win over current flyweight champion Alexa Grasso and a TKO over former strawweight champion Carla Esparza. With a win over the current top pound-for-pound women's fighter on the planet and a performance where she out-wrestled the other best women's wrestler in the sport, the path to the title was clear for Tatiana Suarez. After her 2019 win against Nina Ansaroff (now Nina Nunes), Suarez announced that she had to leave the sport for an extended period to deal with a neck injury. While this repeating tragedy certainly left fans wondering if Tatiana Suarez could catch a break, she took it into her own hands to ensure she returned even better than before. After four years away, she returned against Montana De La Rosa and scored a POTN-winning submission finish against the veteran. Suarez is now returning to 115, where she will face another former champion, Jessica Andrade. Scoring a win against her could put her into immediate title contention and, at the very least, a title eliminator away from a shot at gold.
Tatiana Suarez's wrestling pedigree has drawn comparisons to that of Khabib Nurmagomedov regarding the level of dominance. It's rare for Suarez to lose a round, let alone a fight. At 32 years old, Tatiana Suarez is finally healthy and primed to make a title run at 115. It starts tonight.