After a messy and protracted battle to win respect from the corporate brass at Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), a battle she ultimately won, Cristiane Justino finally made her Octagon debut in early 2016.
Two fights later, “Cyborg” was UFC women’s featherweight champion.
Her first title defense could be her toughest test to date, as the Brazilian will throw hands with fellow striker Holly Holm, a former pro boxer who made a career out of beating the unbeatable.
Unless Justino decides to try something she’s never done before.
“I have five rounds, I am going to see which way I can finish the fight,” she said. “Of course, I love the knockout, my hands are really powerful. If I have the opportunity to finish like this, I will. If not, I have other ways.”
I guess we’ll have to take her word for it, as Justino has yet to finish a fight by way of submission, though ending her UFC 219 pay-per-view (PPV) headliner by way of tap, nap, or snap would undoubtedly flip the script.
“People don’t know too much about me, I don’t have the opportunity to show my grappling,” she continued. “I’m a two-time world champion, I have my brown belt from Cobrinha (Rubens Charles). And then I have wrestling too, I train with Tito Ortiz.”
And he has the backaches to prove it.
Justino (18-1, 1 NC) captured the crown by turning away Tonya Evinger at the UFC 214 PPV back in July, her eighth straight win — and eighth straight knockout finish — since departing Strikeforce back in 2011.
Holm (11-3) surrendered her 135-pound strap to Miesha Tate in early 2016, thanks to her rudimentary ground skills, then bounced back and forth between bantamweight and featherweight until opportunity knocked.
Saturday night’s headliner (results here) is going to be very, very interesting.