Bellator 249: Will Cyborg Roll or Will Blencowe Make History?

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Cris Cyborg Bellator 249 weigh-in
Cris Cyborg, Bellator 249 weigh-in Credit: Bellator MMA

Arlene Blencowe has been a stalwart of the Bellator featherweight division for years, but can she overcome a living legend in Cris Cyborg at Bellator 249?

Though it may not seem like it in the bigger picture, this situation is what Cris “Cyborg” Justino has been seeking for the past several years.  Having bested Julia Budd in January and completing the impressive feat of winning championships in four major promotions, Justino is now setting her sights on cleaning out an established featherweight division.  A step removed from the UFC chapter of her career, Justino for the first time in years will look to defend a title against contenders that have consistently fought at 145 pounds and add as many names as possible to her resume.

Now afforded the flexibility that Bellator allows, the pursuit of extracurricular challenges has become a focus when talking about Cyborg.  In the early days of the pandemic, Justino was briefly linked to talks about a boxing super fight with longtime champion Cecilia Braekhus.  Though a trip to Japan to compete in a cross promotional event with RIZIN is unlikely for the near future, Justino could still find herself in matchups with the likes of Cat Zingano, Janay Harding, or Leah McCourt in the coming months.

Arlene Blencowe has long operated as the second best featherweight in Bellator.  Having had competitive bouts with former champion Budd, Blencowe was automatically one of the top candidates to face Justino when the Brazilian signed with the promotion.  Mentioned by Bellator President Scott Coker himself following Justino’s win over Budd, Blencowe steps into the bout after notching victories over Amber Leibrock, the aforementioned Janay Harding, and UFC veteran Leslie Smith.

Though unfair, the fact remains that operating outside the UFC has led to the Australian product receiving less media attention throughout her career.  Though one of the most formidable threats in the Bellator featherweight division, she is the understandable underdog going into the biggest fight of her career.  Considering that “Angerfist” didn’t have a professional fight until she was 30 years old in 2012 in boxing, to take out arguably the best female fighter in MMA history would be seminal accomplishment.

Stylistically, Blencowe’s conditioning and output figure to pose the biggest problems for Justino.  Cyborg should look to use her forward pressure and physicality to control the exchanges with Blencowe and not allow her to get comfortable to put together combinations.  For Blencowe, she must return with more output when exchanging with Justino as that will keep the Brazilian from getting momentum going which is when she’s at her most dangerous.  Finally, getting the fight to the ground should be considered for Justino as former champion Julia Budd revealed that Blencowe’s grappling is not at the level of her striking.

A victory for Blencowe would undoubtedly set the stage for an automatic rematch on a major card in 2021.  A victory for Justino would open more options and leave her to choose from Cat Zingano, Leslie Smith, and Leah McCourt for the next title shot.  Previous talk of a crossover boxing bout is not impossible, but it is also likely to be on hold until things improve amidst the pandemic.

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