The UFC returned to Brazil this past Saturday night in what was a victorious homecoming for Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino.
It’s now time to discuss what is next for her and why Holly Holm is the fight to make.
Although Lina Lansberg became one of a select few fighters to survive a full round with Cris Cyborg, it was glaringly obvious that she was in survival mode for the duration of the bout as the juggernaut that is Justino overwhelmed the Swede in typically violent fashion, picking up the TKO victory at 2:29 of the second round, which sent the adoring Brazilian fans into raptures.
The build up to this fight brought with it an abundance of questions about Cyborg and her weight. Would she make the agreed weight? And why exactly were the UFC forcing her to make an arbitrary catch-weight of 140 pounds anyway? What followed was a surprising show of sympathy for the Brazilian with many questioning the UFC and its reasoning. Cyborg eventually made the weight but the debate raised a lot of important questions about her future in the UFC.
Cyborg will never make 135 pounds, it’s just not happening. With the return of Ronda Rousey still up in the air and Dana White seemingly against the idea of creating a featherweight division, it leaves the Brazilian stuck in limbo.
The perfect fight to make here is Cris Cyborg vs Holly Holm at 145 pounds. Although Holm is unlikely to accept the fight at featherweight, it’s a great opportunity and one which the UFC would reward her handsomely for.
From a financial perspective this is a fight which makes a great deal of sense for the UFC, as if Cyborg wins it would cement her reputation as the greatest female mixed martial artist of all time and propel her into mainstream stardom. Should Holm win it would undoubtedly resurrect her career as she would hold wins over two fighters who were at one time considered to be the greatest of all time.
Stylistically the Preacher’s Daughter matches up well against the Brazilian and is unlikely to be dwarfed against Cyborg as so many of her previous opponents have been. The lateral movement of the American would trouble Justino as she would likely refrain from engaging in wild exchanges, opting instead to circle off like she did in the Rousey fight.
There are a number of noticeable similarities between Cyborg and Ronda Rousey. Both look to blitz their opponents and it would seem the most effective way to combat this would be through constant lateral movement, which Holm is clearly capable of. We saw her catch Rousey with a check hook many times in their bout as she used her own aggression against her. This could be a winning formula against the aggressive Brazilian too.
With the American coming off back-to-back losses it seems as though her days of post-Rousey stardom are a thing of the past but a fight with Cyborg would be just what the doctor ordered, provided she wins, which would be no easy task against a woman who has not tasted defeat since 2005.
Cyborg’s destruction of Lansberg reminded us of the sheer power and strength the Brazilian possesses, in case you had somehow forgotten. But with it also came hope for other fighters that the Cyborg storm is one which could be weathered, if the right strategy is employed.
Lansberg chose time and time again to tie up with the Brazilian and engage in a battle of strength, which she was clearly losing. What the Swede had in terms of toughness she sorely lacked in fight IQ and experience.
Surely the time has come for Cyborg to take a step up in class and fight a big name inside the UFC’s octagon.
Holly Holm has played the part of spoiler once before, maybe it’s about time she had the chance to do it again.
Fionnán Rowan, Pundit Arena