For anyone who was not following Women’s MMA before the UFC added the women’s bantamweight division in December 2012, current Invicta FC Featherweight Champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino has been the consensus number one pound for pound woman fighter for a long, long time. It was back in 2009 when she was going by her married name Cristiane Santos, that she put forth a dominant performance over the then current face of women’s MMA Gina Carano. That victory won her the Strikeforce Women’s Featherweight Title. This is the fight that really brought her name to the mainstream’s consciousnesses. Only a few years later Cyborg’s new found fame was somewhat snuffed out.
In March 2012, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, who had been competing in Strikeforce’s featherweight division, moved down to 135 lbs where she submitted Miesha Tate to win the Women’s Bantamweight Title. Nine months later, the UFC bought the floundering promotion and named her undisputed champion. “Cyborg” and the rest of the women not in the bantamweight division were left out in the proverbial cold.
Cyborg and the UFC
Fast forward three and a half years to May 2016. Justino and her 17-1 record have finally made it to the UFC’s octagon. However, despite not losing a fight in almost 11 years, she is a somewhat of an anomaly. Her only two fights in the promotion have been contested at a catch weight of 140 lbs. A couple of test runs to see if she could ever make it down to 135 lbs. She cannot. Possibly the greatest fighter of her generation has made it to the promised land of the WMMA, yet there is no division for her and therefore no UFC title in site. The 145 lb world champion now detained in the limbo of a none existent junior featherweight division. How is that for irony?
Fighting at 140 lbs is a kin to chasing the gold at the end of a rainbow. And just like the leprechaun’s gold, 140 lbs has no end game. Not even an actual roster for the champion to wipe out with her pugilistic dominance. Ask the majority of casual fans if they have heard of her you will be greeted with a puzzled look? Cyborg who? The next name they are sure to bring up is Ronda Rousey. The constant thorn in her side.
If you ask UFC president Dana White, he will tell that the organization has done just as much to promote Justino’s UFC career as they did for Rousey’s in the beginning. Listen to the champ, and you will get a different take. In a recent interview with mixedmartialarts.com, Cristiane let lose some harsh accusations directed to her current employer as to how she perceives the situation:
“People ask me, ‘What did Dana White do for Ronda that he didn’t do for ‘Cyborg’?’ Well, he’s lied. He also never said Ronda looks like Wanderlei [Silva] with a dress. He never said that about her, even though he said that about me,” the champion recollected. “For almost six years, I’ve had to see him control the media. Hear Ronda say I have a [penis] and that I have to cut my [penis] off to make 135. I’ve had to deal with this before I didn’t even speak English. I couldn’t defend myself. I didn’t have any opportunity to defend myself,” Justino lamented.
“I do MMA just for sport. I’ve been doing this 10 years. I haven’t lost in 10 years and they don’t respect me. Tell me, if there was an American girl who went 10 years, undefeated, you don’t think they’d make something special? [Dana White] knows he can control the media,” she contended. “Anything he says – that I don’t have opponents, that I don’t have a division, that they can’t make a division – people will believe what he says. He knows he can manipulate everybody. I think everything Dana says, he is trying to manipulate everybody.”
In Justino’s two UFC fights, it took her less than 3 rounds to dispatch both Leslie Smith and Lina Lansberg by knockout. Both fights took place in her native Brazil and drew huge applause from the crowds there. Even after those performances she still does not feel that she has earned the respect of the UFC’s top brass. She points to the catch weight assignments and the fact that she is not promoted as a world champion as prime examples:
“I’m the world champ at 145 pounds, and they wanted me to fight at 140. They don’t want to show everybody that I’m world champ,” she asserted. “When I had to do some videos for them, I couldn’t use my belt. [That] is ridiculous. I’m world champion, they cannot delete this. They cannot delete this in my career. I’m still world champion. Nobody has beaten me in my division. They don’t respect me. I’m still world champ and they don’t respect me.”
“It doesn’t matter if you have a UFC belt because they could give one to me the same way they gave one to Ronda. But, I don’t need another belt. I have two belts in my house. I really don’t need another. They cannot lie. I’m still world champ. They cannot change this. If they want to change this, put someone against me in my division and have them beat me. But, don’t try and kill me because you control the media,” she declared.
Will we ever get to see Ronda Rousey versus “Cyborg” Justino? As the years roll by, it seems less and less likely. Maybe now, even more so than ever. Despite both fighters being back in the same promotion, the only one who the fight makes sense for in the long run is Justino. If it happens, it will have to be North of 135 lbs. To put it very lightly, “Cyborg’s” last weight cut to 140 lbs did not go well. It is now evident that she will never be able to make it under the bantamweight limit.
The bantamweight division has been in volatile disarray since Rousey lost her title to Holly Holm last year. We have watched the title go from Holm to Tate to Nunes with not one of them being able to make even one successful defense. If Rousey beats Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 in December, it would not make any financial sense for her or the promotion to risk a move up in weight and a possible loss to Cyborg.
The title picture will essentially be back to where it started before the Holm loss. Actually, it will be in an even better spot. That is the best case scenario for the UFC. They can have rematch after rematch that will be very intriguing to fans and generate monster PPV numbers. All of the storylines are already in place and the fights would pretty much sell themselves. Think of it: Rousey v Holm II, Rousey v Tate III, Rousey v Nunes II, Nunes v Holm…there is a lot of possibilities. Each with an outcome that directly leads to the next.
If Ronda losses to Nunes then the fight would make even less sense for her. The fact is, if she were to lose two fights in a row, there might not be a fight that makes sense to her. Her post-fighting career has already been outlined. Why risk getting in the cage with a knockout artist like Justino when she doesn’t have to? She already circumnavigated the fight once before in Strikeforce. That decision turned out to be a wise one for her and as well WMMA fans. Had she stayed at featherweight, and lost to Cyborg back in 2012, the UFC might still not have any women’s divisions.
When the early history of WMMA is written, “Rowdy” versus “Cyborg” will more than likely be the biggest women’s MMA fight that never happened. Remembered as the fight that was caught up in the politics of what is best for business, not what is best for legacy. The super fight that destiny did not see fit to grant. Just a hypothetical match-up that the detractors and fans of each fighter will continue to debate what the outcome would have been and who was truly the best of the best. What a shame. Welcome to the fight game WMMA fans.
Forget Cormier vs. Jones – Cyborg vs. Megan Anderson Should Headline UFC 214
Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones II is all but confirmed for UFC 214 in Anaheim, California on July 29. Despite the magnitude of the light-heavyweight championship rematch, the UFC would do well to look elsewhere for their UFC 214 main event — namely in the direction of Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino and Megan Anderson.
The UFC’s schedule for the first half of 2017 is largely booked as of now. Fight announcements for July are coming in daily but there is still no clue as to who might headline UFC 213, the promotion’s International Fight Week pay-per-view offering. Jon Jones is expected to make his long-awaited return in July however not for 213.
UFC President Dana White has stated that Jones will not be eligible to compete during International Fight Week due to his suspension, making UFC 214 in late July the most likely option. White also insisted that Jones cannot be trusted to headline an event due to his past transgressions.
If White holds true to his word it’ll be a bizarre and unfortunate set of circumstances to promote the most important rematch in the history of the UFC. Many titleholders are booked for the moment, so the Cormier vs. Jones rerun would seem the most logical choice. However, as has been the norm in the past two years of UFC promotion an interim title can be slapped on to any semi-interesting match.
Countless arguments are made about how interim titles are senseless and harmful to the actual titleholder but those arguments although valid, are not much more than gripes.
The absence of sanctioning bodies in mixed martial arts are a contentious point of debate in the MMA community and combat sports in general but sanctioning bodies in regard to titles are almost always a nuisance in the world of boxing.
Any educated fan knows who the real champion is. Even in the rare instance where the interim titleholder is held in higher regard or more popular than the actual champion as was the case with Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo, nothing was done to diminish the value of the featherweight belt.
The notion that a title fight must headline a card may be antiquated but it seems that is the manner that the UFC will continue to handle business for the foreseeable future. Five rounds are seldom a negative in high-level MMA and an interim belt would be most justified if a match is made between former Invicta featherweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino and current champion Megan Anderson.
If Cormier vs. Jones will play second fiddle to another fight, an interim featherweight title fight between “Cyborg” and Anderson would be a sensible headliner for UFC 214. Given the lack of options and the current featherweight champion’s fighting future in doubt, the fight would merit its headlining spot.
Jones in a co-headliner may seem strange business wise. It is rare for Dana White to put morale ahead of dollar signs but if it is the case it may be for the better. An alpha male like Jones doesn’t want to be second to anyone. The very fact that the marquee will say Cormier vs. Jones instead of Jones vs. Cormier most likely rankles with the superstar.
Yet the promotion of Jones is more intriguing now than it ever has been. Jones reportedly pulled in right under 500,000 buys for UFC 197. Not too shabby for a 15-month layoff with a lukewarm undercard.
Moreover, a fight with the magnitude of Cormier Vs. Jones will be heavily promoted under any circumstance. ESPN, TMZ, Deadspin, will all be pulled towards covering the event, so the co-main event placing may not be that big of a deal. The benefits that the Cormier/Jones rematch can provide for the women’s featherweight division are substantial.
..that the fight itself was between a 135 pounder who had lost her last two and a fringe top 10 bantamweight didn’t make matters any better.
UFC 208 was the official introduction of the featherweight division in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and it wasn’t loved by many spectators. Germaine de Randamie outpointed Holly Holm in a 25-minute striking affair.
Technically, the fight was brilliant but provided not a single awe-inspiring moment. The fact that there was controversy regarding some illegal blows, a contested decision, and that the fight itself was between a 135 pounder who had lost her last two and a fringe top 10 bantamweight didn’t make matters any better.
The great thing about a Cyborg/Anderson fight is that both women really want the fight and also happen to be great kickboxers that have genuine horsepower. “Cyborg” trounced Leslie Smith in less than a round and utterly pummeled Lina Lansberg in just over five minutes. Anderson is young and still relatively raw but has some exceptional power at featherweight.
The desire to improve is also not lost on the talented Aussie. Her Invicta FC debut was an embarrassingly one-sided loss to notorious overachieving veteran Cindy Dandois.
Grappling is an aspect of MMA that Anderson hasn’t fully grasped as of yet but is miles ahead of where she was in 2015. Anderson’s 2016 was outstanding with three knockouts in a row and she showed her artistic side as she used Charmaine Tweet’s blood to splatter the canvas red like a deranged college activist student.
There was a USADA flagging for “Cyborg” after her last win that was retroactively cleared. Unfortunate and badly timed, it ended up rekindling an old hatred that some in the MMA community have had for the Brazilian since her first positive test in 2011.
“Cyborg” is a respectful competitor and her fighting style is barbaric but her past with PEDs rubs some fans the wrong way, making her a lightning rod for controversy. More often than not, controversy sells.
In the skills and experience department “Cyborg” will hold a distinct advantage, however, Anderson is not lacking in confidence and may be the first fighter that can match “Cyborg’s” power. Anderson also happens to be a fan favourite in Invicta and isn’t shy about trash talking when the opportunity calls for it.
Justino vs. Anderson would not only be a well-matched and entertaining scrap, it would possess something many women’s MMA fights are too commonly missing, intrigue.
Ronda Rousey is unlikely to come back and that leaves the UFC looking for ways to create a new female star. This bout would seem like the most probable one to do that.
Rousey had a great home backing in Southern California from early on in her career and it might be time for “Cyborg” to take some of those fans as she has been a SoCal native for years. Anaheim is only a few miles from “Cyborg’s” hometown of Huntington Beach and it shares an ocean with The Land Down Under.
If a sacrifice is made by the UFC to prove a point, then let it be one that carries some positive possibilities for other athletes who are hungry and deserving of the spotlight. Step aside Jones, and let the ladies handle this one.
Reports: Vitor Belfort to step in against Anderson Silva at UFC 212
UFC 212 may have a new co-main event featuring two legends from Brazil.
Ag.Fight has reported Vitor Belfort has offered to fill in for Kelvin Gastelum to face Anderson Silva at UFC 212 in Rio on June 3.
Gastelum was originally scheduled to face Silva, but due to a potential USADA anti-doping violation which saw Gastelum flagged for marijuana metabolites stemming from an in-competition sample collected on March 11, 2017, a provisional suspension was levied and he was removed from the card.
Silva, who celebrates his 42nd birthday on April 14, will remain on the UFC 212 card which is headlined by a featherweight title fight between Max Holloway and Jose Aldo. Silva found his way back into the win column at UFC 208 where he won a unanimous decision over Derek Brunson, notching the 34th professional victory for the former UFC Middleweight Champion. The win over Brunson is the first official victory on Silva’s record since UFC 153 over Stephan Bonnar since the win over Nick Diaz at UFC 183 has since been overturned to a No Contest.
Due to Gastelum’s USADA issues, we may have a rematch of a title bout that took place at UFC 126 that saw Silva defend his middleweight strap against Belfort in devastating fashion.
Belfort, who turned 40 on April 1, has one more fight remaining on his UFC contract and expressed his desires to fulfill his contract after suffering a loss in his last outing to the aforementioned Gastelum at UFC Fight Night 106 in March. The loss was the third straight TKO loss for the former champion, whose last win came over Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 77 in November 2015. Belfort always wants the biggest fight available, and name-wise, they don’t come much bigger than Anderson Silva.
While both men have had their bumps in the road in the recent final chapters of their careers, fighting on their home soil in Brazil is something both men always look forward to.
UFC 212 takes place at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janerio, Brazil on June 3, 2017.
Confirmed bouts include:
- Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway
- Claudia Gadelha vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
- Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Eric Spicely
- Johnny Eduardo vs. Matthew Lopez
- Marco Antonio Beltran vs. Delveson Alcantra
- Yancy Medeiros vs. Erick Silva
- Paulo Henrique Costa vs. Oluwale Bamgbose
- Leonardo Santos vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
Rafael Carvalho – I Hope Manhoef Comes to Fight This Time
Bellator 176 takes place this Saturday on April 8th from Torino, Italy and will mark the promotion’s second trip to Italy after Bellator 152 which took place almost one year ago. The main event for the event will be a middleweight title rematch between champion Rafael Carvalho and challenger Melvin Manhoef.
The two first met at Bellator 155 in May of last year. On that occasion, Carvalho left with a decision victory that some felt should have gone the way of his Dutch opponent. Carvalho does not believe that the judges will be required this time, however. “I will defend my title with a knockout,” Carvalho told MMA Latest News. “I hope he (Manhoef) comes to fight this time like the Manhoef we know.”
The fight received some criticism at the time from fans and even Bellator commentator Jimmy Smith. However, Carvalho believes the blame for that lies squarely at the feet of Manhoef, whose tactics on the night surprised him. “I trained for, and came with, a tactic to knock him out,” Carvalho explained. “However, he did not come to fight and was not as aggressive as he usually is. He was afraid I would take him to the ground. I do not understand why he ran away from the fight. I was always moving forward but he did not want to come and strike, just to use low kicks. You do not win a fight with only low kicks.”
The rematch takes place in Europe, which is a first for Carvalho, but will also be in front of a crowd that loves striking, as the card takes place in conjunction with a Bellator kickboxing event. That is something which excites the Brazilian. “It will be really good to fight in Europe,” Carvalho enthused. “Europe is the land of the great K-1 strikers – the fans love strikers. Manhoef is a feared striker and I hope he does not sh*t himself scared and comes for a murderous striking fight.”
The fact that the event is happening alongside a Bellator kickboxing event has another level of intrigue to it, as Carvalho also revealed that he is planning on competing on a Bellator kickboxing card in the near future and hopes to fight in both Bellator disciplines. “I think about it a lot,” he said. “My manager has already informed Bellator that I would like to fight in Bellator Kickboxing also.”
The expansion of Bellator in recent times has been there for all to see, from signing big name free agents such as Rory MacDonald and Ryan Bader, to hosting more shows in different countries such as Italy and Ireland. However, one country that the promotion has not yet visited is Brazil, which is something that Carvalho believes should happen in the near future – and one would have to believe that Carvalho would have a strong case to headline such an event. “It would be a great show,” he began. “Bellator cannot stay out of Brazil. Brazilians love MMA – it is where it all started. A show in Curitiba or Rio de Janeiro would be a great success. We have many top Brazilian fighters in Bellator. A card in Brazil cannot wait any longer.”
Bellator 176 takes place on April 8th from Pala Alpitour in Torino, Italy. Tune in to see Rafael Carvalho and Melvin Manhoef settle the score once and for all to see who will leave Europe with the Bellator middleweight title.
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