Cristiane Justino, better known as “Cyborg”, has a UFC championship in her possession, but the value of that belt is very much in doubt. The UFC created the women’s featherweight division entirely for Justino’s benefit, only to predictably find no featherweight challengers; Justino has faced three bantamweights in a row.
Inaugural featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie has returned to women’s bantamweight without ever entertaining a fight against Justino and the only seemingly credible featherweight challenger outside of the UFC was Megan Anderson, who got ragdolled by a striker in her debut. UFC women’s featherweight is objectively a ghost town, and that town is Justino’s queendom.
That isn’t to say that Justino has disappointed in any of these showings, however; she punished Tonya Evinger over three rounds, obliterated Yana Kunitskaya within one, and got a wide 50-45 against Holly Holm. Even though her competition has largely been subpar, Justino has looked as dominant as anyone has looked in WMMA. She now faces another dominant champion in Amanda Nunes, who has virtually cleared women’s bantamweight.
With a sub-minute knockout of Ronda Rousey, a submission over Miesha Tate, and a fairly recent shellacking of Raquel Pennington, there is nowhere for Nunes to go but up to featherweight to challenge the most terrifying woman in MMA today. Beating another bantamweight isn’t great for Justino, but in the absence of too many true women’s featherweights, beating the best bantamweight is the best option for her to legitimize her title reign.
Amanda Nunes has generally looked her best as a counterfighter, and while it’s a fairly rare skill set in WMMA (especially coupled with legitimately game-changing power), it also seems to generally cover for her otherwise pedestrian boxing. Nunes can leg kick decently and can swarm a totally overmatched striker, but against Valentina Shevchenko, she had real trouble creating opportunities when not given them by her opponent’s volume.
In comparison, Justino can counterpunch (despite not being as imposing a one-puncher as Nunes), as she punished Holm for her predictable left-straight entries every time with right hands, but she can also lead with the help of a decent pressure game. Justino can jab competently and can swarm well enough, and low volume from her opponent is less likely to trouble her. Justino is a generally better-rounded boxer, and while Nunes is a more punishing puncher (with each individual punch, at least), Justino is the more polished overall striker who should be able to outstrike Nunes the way Shevchenko did (to what should’ve been a win).
The wrestling is a question, considering that Nunes is a solid wrestler and grappler and Justino was taken down in her short outing against Kunitskaya, but that likely isn’t a consistent route to victory since Justino is a good grappler and will have the physicality edge over Nunes. Nunes has also had cardio questions surrounding her for a while, especially before the second Shevchenko fight (the slow pace of which didn’t exactly dispel those concerns).
Considering Justino’s usual output, it’s hard to see Nunes winning a decision or winning past round three. An early knockout is the most realistic route to a win for the iteration of Nunes we’ve seen at bantamweight. Past that, it’s Justino’s fight.
Prediction: Justino via fourth-round knockout. This writer caps it: -200 Justino.
Long-time MMA fan. Catch my (incomplete) betting history at betmma.tips/sriramsays.