Bellator 279: As Cyborg Enters the Twilight of Her Career, Can Blencowe Shock the World?

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Cris Cyborg and Arlene Blencwoe, Bellator 279
Cris Cyborg and Arlene Blencwoe, Bellator 279 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Bellator MMA

Cris “Cyborg” Justino has proven all she needs to for her career and in Bellator, so the focus will be on her as Arlene Blencowe looks to exact revenge at Bellator 279.

For the first time in many years, it feels as if there’s little left for Cris “Cyborg” Justino in MMA.  For more than a decade, she has been a dominant force in the sport.  In a testament to her longevity, there has only been one woman in her weight class to seriously challenge her supremacy in that time. Now approaching the end of her current Bellator deal, the question has begun to arise as to whether there is anything new to be presented to her in her current home.

To address the obvious, the promotion can certainly churn out a name familiar to the casual fan in Cat Zingano who was previously in talks to fight Justino earlier this year.  The other option is a foray into free agency where she can see what the PFL will offer her to set up a titanic collision against their two-time champion Kayla Harrison.  Should Justino remain in Bellator, it is worth noting that the prospect of the company co-promoting with the PFL as of this writing is unlikely to happen.  Having already proven all there is to do in MMA, and believed to be on the tail-end of her athletic prime, the question after Saturday may be whether or not there is one last major offer on the table to add to her legacy that has long since been set in stone.

For Arlene Blencowe, Saturday feels as if it may be a last hurrah despite entering the bout as one of the most consistent performers in the featherweight division.  The 39 year-old is a nearly ten year professional whose Bellator run has only seen her lose to women who either held or went on to hold championship gold in Justino, Julia Budd, and Marloes Coenen.  Since joining the promotion in 2015, Blencowe has turned back veterans and prospects alike in Janay Harding, Sinead Kavanagh, Leslie Smith, and Pam Sorenson.

“Angerfist” enters the bout with plenty to prove to the public.  In 2020, she was stopped assertively by Justino in what was her second shot at Bellator gold.  Saturday will be her third attempt to claim a world title.  While she would remain the second best featherweight in the promotion, she would likely need a shake up in the title picture in order to get a fourth opportunity to win it herself.  It would be an unenviable position for any athlete who turns 40 later this year and would make her victory all the more seminal should she score a historic upset.

For Blencowe, perfect shot selection will be the key to getting the better of Justino as she will need to use movement and feints to get in-and-out effectively to do damage to Justino.  Much as she did in their first fight, “Cyborg” should implement a patient approach that sees her use her physicality to overpower Blencowe over time as she picks her spots to explode with combinations.

Looking ahead, an upset for Blencowe would likely set up a trilogy later in 2022.  Cat Zingano would also be a possible opponent for both Blencowe and Justino as the UFC veteran looks to return to action for the first time since last April.  It is expected that Justino may have at least one more appearance for Bellator in 2022 regardless of the outcome before she enters free agency next year.

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