March 6, 2018

UFC 222: Cyborg vs. Nunes Is the Fight To Make Next

By Adam Martin

Following another dominant first-round TKO win for Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino, this time over an overmatched Yana Kunitskaya in the main event of UFC 222, there just aren't many capable opponents left for Cyborg to fight. One of the few left is UFC Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes, despite Nunes being scheduled to fight Raquel Pennington at UFC 224 in May; the UFC should scrap that fight and book Cyborg vs. Nunes instead.

Cyborg vs. Nunes is just a much better fight anyway, and in a year when the UFC is desperate to put together blockbuster PPV fights, this booking makes a lot more sense. As one of the true superfights the UFC could book featuring champion vs. champion, Cyborg vs. Nunes would be a lock to headline a PPV, and the one in Brazil this May is especially appropriate, as both fighters are Brazilian, and would be able to do even more local publicity. Sure, it's a quick turnaround time for Cyborg, but she didn't take much damage against Kunitskaya and should be good to go sooner rather than later.

Sure, some will claim it's unfair to Pennington to take away her promised title shot, but also keep in mind Pennington sat out the entirety of 2017 with injuries and hasn't fought in well over a year now. Taking another tune-up fight before a fight against Nunes might be in her best interest anyway. And though she's on a four-fight win streak, most of her wins have come in mediocre decision fashion, and she hasn't finished a fight in nearly three years; her signature win over Miesha Tate just feels so long ago now. Pennington isn't very marketable either, and was only being given a title shot because there just aren't many contenders at 135 lbs. Compared to the other fighters in the division, yes, Pennington deserves the title shot more, but the sport deserves a Cyborg vs. Nunes superfight even more. And the UFC knows that's a way bigger money fight, so no wonder UFC President Dana White is interested.

Though Cyborg has shown few flaws throughout her UFC tenure, if anyone could exploit any weaknesses in her game, it's Nunes, who has been a dominant champion since winning the bantamweight belt a few years ago. Nunes is one of the few female fighters who can match the physicality of Cyborg, as well as one of the few women in the promotion with true finishing power. I would say the biggest advantage Cyborg would have in this fight is her gas tank, which has always been a flaw of Nunes, but maybe Nunes will have some extra gas not cutting so much weight. Stylistically this is just a very fun matchup, and though Cyborg would be favored as the bigger fighter, it would likely be the toughest test of her MMA career to date.

Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes is a fight the UFC must make. The fans want to see it, White wants to make it happen, and the fighters want it. Say what you want about the UFC, but time and time again the promotion tries to book the best fight possible. Unfortunately for Pennington this means her title shot might be taken from her, but if she's really a true #1 contender she can go and fight Ketlen Vieira and prove she deserves a crack at the belt. For now though, the UFC must keep the momentum flowing and do its best to get Cyborg vs. Nunes signed. It has the potential to be one of the best fights of 2018 if the promotion can get it done.

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