UFC 232: Champions Collide as Nunes Looks to Topple Legendary Cyborg

Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes UFC 232
Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes, UFC 232 Pre-Fight Press Conference Face-Off Credit: Matt Hunter/Sherdog.com

UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes will attempt to stop pound-for-pound great Cris Cyborg in the co-main event of UFC 232.

Quite bluntly, Cris “Cyborg” Justino is unstoppable.  Throughout her career, her blend of size and skills has been too much for opponents from around the globe to handle.  She recently has changed her approach, attacking with less ferocity and more technicality to become arguably more dangerous than before.

Undefeated for over a decade, she holds several major titles throughout MMA history.  She claimed the Strikeforce title all the way back in 2008 in the first super fight in women’s MMA against Gina Carano. Then later claimed the InvictaFC title by stopping Marloes Coenen a second time, and in 2017 finally completed her career’s journey by winning the UFC title.

Cyborg has put together twenty victories in her career, virtually all of them one-sided.  Recently, Justino’s UFC run has been against smaller competition.  All of her opponents have made the move up from bantamweight to face her. But while names like Holly Holm have given her competition, none had what was necessary to crack the code and stop the most dominant champion in women’s MMA.

Enter Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes.  If there is going to be a fighter to move up and upset the great Cyborg, many feel it is the UFC’s bantamweight champion.  For the last two years, Nunes has reigned supreme and dispatched opponents such as new flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko and former bantamweight champions Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey.  In many ways, Nunes has dominated in a fashion similar to Cyborg: her skillset combined with her awesome power has made her a difficult puzzle to solve.

For Nunes, the fight on Saturday is a win-win situation.  A victory would put her in rarefied air as the only woman to ever hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously as well as being the only woman to have wins over both Cyborg and Rousey.  If she were to lose, many would simply point to the size difference and she would return to 135 to take on either Holly Holm or Ketlan Vieira.

Nunes will have to fight differently compared to how fans have seen her during her title reign.  “The Lioness” is usually the bigger fighter in the cage and can look to pick her spots to counter with power.  On Saturday, she will need to use footwork and high volume.  Cyborg fights by picking her spots and conserving her energy so Nunes must look to vary her attack by chopping away with leg kicks and incorporating takedowns so that the champion is more hesitant to take the offensive.  Most importantly, she must get out of range after each combination to avoid a firefight in the middle of the Octagon.

Justino should be ready to check leg kicks and cut off the cage.  She is the bigger and more powerful fighter and has only gone into the championship rounds once in her career.  While she will be looking to walk down Nunes, she can’t eat a vast number of leg-kicks and risk hampering her mobility in trying to do so.  Staying disciplined in pushing the action will be the key to securing another high profile victory in a career full of them.

An upset for Nunes will set up an immediate rematch in the upcoming ESPN era, without question.  Cyborg maintains that there is one more fight on her contract that is expected to take place within the first half of 2019 but has not come to terms on a new deal with the UFC.  She has already mentioned her respect for Bellator’s featherweight division and champion Julia Budd.  Undoubtedly, the PFL would also be interested in acquiring her talents and possibly setting up a fight with rising star Kayla Harrison.  However, winning has a way of taking care of everything.  If Cyborg adds to her legacy on Saturday, it could well inspire the good feeling that leads to a new deal for both parties in 2019.