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The Internet is a great source for quick information, but it can also be a den for trolling, insults and bullying. It seems that no matter what Cristiane Justino accomplishes, she will always be criticized for what is perceived to be a minus to her many pluses. In the UFC 219 main event on Saturday in Las Vegas, the powerful “Cyborg” showed she could be patient and cerebral against the most skilled women in the Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight division.
Before she faced Holly Holm in the final UFC event of 2017, it looked to be a fairly even matchup. The argument could have been made that Holm on paper held the edge in the striking department because of her extensive background as a pro boxer. “Cyborg” appeared the have the advantages in the clinch and grappling departments, with the ability to hunt for takedowns, work some ground-and-pound or even sink a submission -- a weakness in Holm’s game that had been exposed before. That is not what happened.
Instead, fans saw Holm force the Brazilian into the clinch against the cage. What was more surprising was the fact that Justino thoroughly outstruck the former boxing champion and shut down doubts about her ability to go five rounds to defend her title. “Cyborg” never even attempted a takedown, choosing instead to explore her advantages in the standup. While Holm bloodied Justino’s nose, the Brazilian did considerably more damage and was well-prepared for Holm’s patented left high kick, blocking it virtually every time it was thrown. “Cyborg” showed unusual patience in her first title defense and admitted that she decided to forego any takedown attempts in the clinch because Holm felt too slippery. Plus, she was enjoying considerable success while striking.
“I had a plan to take her down and do jiu-jitsu, but I like to stand and punch,” Justino said in one of her post-fight interviews. “It’s a war.”
Justino showed no signs of slowing down, as her cardio held up against a mobile challenger with excellent footwork. “Cyborg” kept up with the Jackson-Wink MMA standout and won the overwhelming majority of striking exchanges; and if Holm’s bid to initiate clinches was designed to fatigue the champion, her plans went south early on. Justino never seemed concerned about being on the fence. Holm deserves credit for trying to find alternate routes to victory and for being the only woman to go five rounds with someone as dominant as “Cyborg.”
The 32-year-old Justino has won the Strikeforce, Invicta Fighting Championships and UFC featherweight titles, and she has successfully defended them all. In a sport where greatest-of-all-time conversations spring up on an almost daily basis, “Cyborg” in 2017 cemented her status as the greatest female fighter of all-time. Even when she cut well below her walk-around weight to enter the UFC, she dominated her opposition. No one is perfect, but it in 2018, maybe Justino will get the long-overdue respect she deserves.
Edward Carbajal serves as the lead MMA analyst for Frontproof Media and holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a brown belt in Ishin Ryu Karate. He has covered combat sports since 2014 and has been a fan of MMA since UFC 1. You can follow him on Twitter @Carbazel or at his website TheBlogBoardJungle.com.