Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has a women’s featherweight champion, but no 145-pound division for her to rule over. So it should not come as a surprise to see Cristiane Justino competing against an assembly line of bloated bantamweights, regional imports, or whatever else the promotion can get its hands on.
“Cyborg” has been a part of UFC for nearly two years and yet during that time, matchmakers still have not been able to scrounge up 15 featherweights to cobble together a division.
I doubt they’re even trying at this point.
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) was used to create a strawweight division back in 2015, rather hastily I might add, but it was done and can be done again. So the fact that we still can’t name three featherweights outside of Justino means the promotion is content to have “Cyborg” play the role of eighties Mike Tyson.
That's okay, because violent knockouts are still marketable.
To that end, her UFC 222 pay-per-view (PPV) headliner was a success. Invicta FC bantamweight import Yana Kunitskaya helped the Brazilian repair the broken main event after Max Holloway went down with a bum leg and admirably did her part, stuffing Justino into the fence while trying not to die.
Leaving the cage under her own volition should be considered a moral victory.
After last night’s drubbing, which took place inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, the first question that came to mind was ... now what? With no divisional rankings there’s no list to peruse and say “A-ha!”
So we either look to Invicta FC (again) or the UFC women’s bantamweight division (again).
Prior to UFC 222, Justino was playing contract-tag with 135-pound titleholder Amanda Nunes. Working in favor of “Lioness” is her punching power, which drew 10 knockouts in 15 wins and a first-round laugher against former bantamweight deity Ronda Rousey.
It also helps that Nunes won’t face much blowback from the rest of the weight class if she decides to move up, especially when you look at the top five.
- Holly Holm
- Raquel Pennington
- Julianna Pena
- Germaine de Randamie
- Ketlen Vieira
Holm lost four of her last five, Pena just had a baby, De Randamie ran from featherweight after Justino got her title shot, and Vieira needs another big win. That leaves Pennington, who was rumored to be fighting Nunes at UFC 224.
No disrespect to “Rocky,” but if the promotion has the opportunity to book champion vs. champion, it’s going to, and may not want to risk a Pennington upset at UFC 224 and lose a decent name to fight “Cyborg” later this year.
It’s not like we can bank on this happening.
Either way, it would not be much of a layoff for Justino, who does love to compete and already has five fights under her belt since her UFC debut in May 2016. That’s more than Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagmedov, and Tony Ferguson have during that same span.
It’s safe to say that “Cyborg” is currently the most dominant female fighter in all of mixed martial arts (MMA). It’s just a shame the promotion has been so lazy about building a division around her or giving us a reason to care about her wins.
For now, Justino doesn’t have a pack to distance herself from and could be the combat sports equivalent of Secretariat, running an amazing race with no other horses on the track, save for whatever warm body is trotted out to get trampled.
For much more on last night’s UFC 222 PPV event, including breaking news, highlights, videos, reactions, and so much more, check out our “Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya” event archive right here.