Outside of Ronda Rousey’s groundbreaking entrance into the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) back in 2013, there may not be a more anticipated promotional debut than Cristiane Justino’s UFC 198 bout with Leslie Smith later tonight (Sat., May 14, 2016) live on pay-per-view (PPV) from the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil.
As the biggest name in women’s mixed martial arts (WMMA) not currently competing in the UFC, "Cyborg" has a prime opportunity to prove she’s worth the while, and wait. Remember, the Brazilian knockout artist has been dying to get her hands on some of the promotion’s biggest female draws, while taking care of business as the Invicta FC Featherweight champ.
While Justino will be competing outside of the UFC women’s Bantamweight faction, she’ll have the opportunity to showcase her skills against one of the 135-pound division’s most able competitors in Smith. The two confident strikers will meet at a catchweight of 140 pounds.
With expectations at an all-time high, and an eager opponent to fend off, all eyes will be on "Cyborg" later tonight at UFC 198. Even on the same card as a Heavyweight title fight between champion Fabricio Werdum and Stipe Miocic, as well as legendary Brazilian fighters like Vitor Belfort, Ronaldo Souza, Demian Maia, Mauricio Rua, and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Justino is undoubtedly the "Fighter to Watch."
It may seem crazy to think a woman making her promotional debut outside of her natural weight class will command a major slice of the spotlight alongside some of the organization's biggest names, but "Cyborg" has done more than enough throughout her career to warrant such praise. Having recorded 13 knockouts in just 15 career wins, the heavy-handed Brazilian has demonstrated the ability to finish any fighter at any time. That sort of predictable chaos is exactly what casual fight fans look for, and it will be a major attraction on a gigantic PPV card like UFC 198.
Outside of her past accomplishments, it will be interesting to see how Justino performs after cutting an extra five pounds. At yesterday's (Fri., May 13, 2016) weigh ins, "Cyborg" noticeably looked more depleted than usual. Her face was sucked in and her stomach more defined. Whether or not the extensive drop in weight plays any factor in the Brazilian's performance at UFC 198 has yet to be determined. It will be fascinating to see if "Cyborg" experiences any sort of energy dump in the early going. If she does run into trouble, it may allow Smith to stick around longer than anticipated.
The more intriguing part of this entire "Cyborg" takeover is the unlikely chance that she loses to Smith. While some may go as far as proclaiming anything outside of a glorious knockout finish a failed first impression for the 30-year-old, she can certainly come out on top with a hard-fought decision win. But if she comes up short enough to see Smith get her hand raised, UFC 198 will mark one of the most disappointing UFC debuts of all time.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 198 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.