Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Featherweight and Bantamweight champions Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes will collide this Saturday (Dec. 29, 2018) at UFC 232 inside The Forum in Inglewood, California.
Cyborg is the most dominant fighter in the history of women’s mixed martial arts (MMA). The Brazilian has pummeled every poor soul willing to step into the cage with her, usually finishing things violently within the first couple rounds. Incredibly, Cyborg hasn’t tasted defeat since her debut in 2005, though she faces a tougher task than normal here. Meanwhile, Nunes did not have the perfectly straight path to dominance like Cyborg, but her losses over the years allowed her to grow tremendously. Currently, Nunes has asserted herself on top on the Bantamweight division and has an iron hold over the crown, leaving her quite free to take this super fight.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Record: 18-1 (1)
Key Wins: Holly Holm (UFC 219), Marloes Coenen (Invicta FC 6, Strikeforce: Miami), Gina Carano (Strikeforce: Carano vs Cyborg), Leslie Smith (UFC 198)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Given Cyborg’s immense physical advantage over just about every one of her opponents, it would be understandable if Cyborg never developed much of a technical game. Unfortunately for opponents, that isn’t the case, as Cyborg has proven to be a very well-rounded fighter with no glaring holes in her game.
As Valentina Shevchenko wisely pointed out ahead of this match up, Cyborg’s biggest advantage is likely her conditioning. Even though Nunes has improved quite a bit in that area, she’s also been fighting women that are hardly pushing her from her comfort zone. Cyborg can do just that ... and she can do it for five rounds.
Though Cyborg generally prefers to pick apart her opponents standing, she’ll mix in takedowns, and I think that would be wise her. Historically, Nunes tends to fall apart when put on her back: it fatigues her and is far from her best area. Considering Cyborg’s excellent top game and brutal power, that seems a really bad combination for “Lioness.”
Key Wins: Ronda Rousey (UFC 207), Miesha Tate (UFC 200), Valentina Shevchenko (UFC 215, UFC 196), Sara McMann (UFC Fight Night 73), Raquel Pennington (UFC 224)
Key Losses: Cat Zingano (UFC 178), Sarah D’Alelio (Invicta FC 4), Alexis Davis (Strikeforce: Barnett vs Kharitonov)
Keys to Victory: Like her opponent, Nunes is physically superior to the vast majority of her opponents, but has nevertheless developed a well-rounded game. Nunes has a reputation for punching ridiculously hard, a trait she’s proven repeatedly over the years by flattening women known for toughness.
Both women are accustomed to being the stronger athlete, but Nunes has actually been challenged by better competition over the years, meaning she’s likely more able to adjust than Cyborg — who, again, has cruised past everyone. As such, Nunes should keep adaptability in mind against Cyborg, as she’s could be the first to really test Cyborg in many areas if she mixes it up.
Perhaps unexpectedly, I’d also like to see Nunes looking for the takedown. The reasoning is fairly simple: Cyborg has only ever been wrestled by significantly smaller women, and size is hugely important in wrestling. As such, she’s always repelled shots easily or gotten back up immediately. Against a similarly physical foe, there’s a real chance Cyborg will be unprepared from her back if not able to immediately stand.
Bottom Line: It’s the biggest fight available in women’s MMA right now, and it’s a super fight that actually works.
Cyborg seems absurdly unhappy with UFC for reasons I don’t understand, and it appears this may be her final fight in the Octagon — making it the possible final women’s fight at 145 pounds in general given the state of the division. As such, there’s absolutely no better way to go out then smash the Bantamweight champion and most legitimate challenger yet. Then, it’s on to Japan to fight Gabi Garcia or some other nonsense fight.
Alternatively, a loss ends her unbeaten run and stings bad. Plus, leaving UFC would cost Cyborg any opportunity at revenge.
As for Nunes, this is a lower risk fight; her title is safe no matter what. However, it’s also a huge moment for her. Not only does victory improve her chances of becoming a real draw, but taking out Cyborg gives Nunes a strong argument as the greatest female fighter of all time. The only real risk is getting beat up — hardly a scary fate for an MMA fighter — and the reward is bigger than ever, so expect Nunes to really go after it on Saturday night.
At UFC 232, Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes will square off in a Featherweight super fight. Who will score the biggest win of her career?