I’ll avoid the legacy blabber as it pertains to the winner of the contest. You can get all that analysis elsewhere. A sound argument can be made to validate the fighter that gets their hand raised at the conclusion of the event. No matter your thoughts on the outcome this is a monumental fight in the women’s division overall. Taking their collective accomplishments into consideration both competitors enter tonight’s bout supremely decorated.
Cris “Cyborg” Justino wins after pinning Holly Holm’s back against the cage and unleashing a relenting, punishing barrage that leads to a stoppage! I’ll buy that. Holm stays true to her counterstriking prowess, uses Justino’s aggression against her – matador style – and captures the title with a pinpoint, devastating head kick. It’s possible.
I’ve been wondering over the last week if Holm could employ a strategy that could win her the title on points. It’s strange to consider once you begin to realize that in Cyborg's 20 fight MMA career she’s 18-1-1 with only two of those contests reaching the scorecards. She’s a fight finisher unlike most of the loudmouths of the sport boasting 16 stoppages on her ledger. Throughout her career only one made it to the fourth round; a TKO of Marloes Coenen.
Imagine Justino eschewing her new-found, measured, approach after (possibly) finding minimal success this evening, provided Holm remains on the horse. As one that doesn’t initiate a ton of offense as a lead fighter, Justino does bring the kind of style that could allow Holm to flourish. Holm has to keep the fight at distance! In close-quarters, Justino will use her elbows and knees and if that’s the route the evening takes this is an easy night for the defending champion.
If Holm dictates the fight and controls the pace on her terms there is a path to a victory. Her oblique, side, and push kicks will be crucial and I can see her scoring points with her combinations – which, honestly are foreshadowed with her loud exhalations – to begin building a slight lead.
Will any of this happen? That’s why they’re in the ones locked in the cage. Cyborg’s path to a successful defense is written in her previous matches. She takes control early and often with her physical dominance and powerful strikes, especially her right hooks. Now I have noticed that she ducks her head to the left when launching the strike and tends to drop her left hand at times as she hits the target. Hmm? If this minor technical glitch has been scouted by Jackson-Wink, the right side head kick is there.
Size won’t be the advantage that it has been in the past for the champion as Holm is the same height – and does boast a one inch reach advantage. That advantage is negligible as Holm doesn’t employ the jab as a true weapon which is startling as she’s a former boxing champion and a dominant one at that. Cyborg’s built like a tank whereas Holm is leaner but physically impressive in her own right. I’d love to see them in a clinch battle although it does expose “The Preachers Daughter” to clinch fighting and the understated jiu-jitsu of the defending champion.
I think the fight will be exciting after the first three minutes; I believe there will be an auditing process as they survey one another and calculate their moves. Both women are great fighters and I hope they both enter and exit the cage with their health intact.
Has Khabib Nurmagomedov made weight? Can someone check? Whew. Lastly, since The Ultimate Fighter has been relegated to building the roster while paying the new fighters pennies why haven't they built a season on unearthing talented women at women's featherweight? Why isn't the UFC propping up their champion and creating a true division around her?
Women's flyweight was created on the reality show - and it was needed to give the women more options - but did they have to crown a champion? Since they did, why not blow out a season on finding true featherweights or maybe, I don't know, three other women that are actually fit to compete at 145? The only women listed at featherweight according to the UFC website are Megan Anderson and Tonya Evinger - a bantamweight. As for the rankings in the division, there aren't any.
Looking past tonight, who's the next challenger in the division? I'm sure that if Holm wins they will book an immediate rematch but who does Cyborg fight next if she retains? Use TUF to populate the division and give Cyborg some exposure by having her do interviews on each show and have her interact with the women who will be vying for a title shot upon completion of the season.
It seems obvious the UFC doesn't want to put her on a pedestal and give her a larger platform. Why?
They haven't promoted this event like they have others. Maybe they were afraid about Nurmagomedov's reliability on the scale. They were scrambling to find a marquee fight to headline tonight and were forced to push the women into the main event once those options evaporated. It's the show that closes the year and the main event can sell the card, if the promoter actually went out and promoted.
Picks: Carlos Condit, Carla Esparza, Marc Diakiese, Nurmagomedov and Cyborg.
(This piece can also be viewed here.)
Published by Sthe writer