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Making Rousey vs Cyborg – Three Fights Away

Cris Cyborg Invicta (Photographer D. Mandel/Sherdog.com)
Photo: Cris Cyborg (by D. Mandel for Sherdog.com)

Rousey vs Cyborg – How Close Are We?

It has been pitched as the biggest fight in UFC history. Some have called it the Mayweather – Pacquiao of MMA. The road to a highly anticipated super-fight between UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey and Invicta Featherweight Champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, has now been laid out publicly.

With reports appearing to suggest that Justino had signed with the UFC, Dana White confirmed on Wednesday’s UFC Tonight that a deal has been in place for roughly two months. Provided Justino can make weight for a future bout at 135lbs in Invicta, she will compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

For UFC fans desperate to see the fight, this only serves to swell their excitement. Even those without interest, myself included, now concede that the fight has to happen so we can put it to bed and move on.

Both fighters know what is required. Rousey’s half of the deal seems most straightforward. She will defend against Bethe Correia at UFC 190 in August before facing the winner of Miesha Tate – Jessica Eye. Win both fights and wait for Cyborg to do her bit.

Justino will defend her Invicta Featherweight championship in July. Assuming that goes well, she will then make the cut to 135lbs for a fight at Bantamweight in Invicta. Make weight there, win – preferably in the same dominant fashion displayed in her previous fights – and move over to the UFC. It all sounds so simple.

Should the MMA Gods allow those stars to align, Justino’s presence in the UFC must be for a fight with Rousey. Nothing else will do.

UFC Women’s Featherweights?

There has already been speculation that this could be leading to a women’s featherweight division in the UFC. With Bellator working hard to put together a 145lb class of their own, could the UFC be looking to shut them down? It seems unlikely.

While safeguarding the signing of Justino does stop Bellator picking up the only fighter who would give their new division relevance, the talent pool in women’s MMA remains shallow. Bellator has already picked up Marloes Coenen and Julia Budd, as well as a number of untested prospects. Beyond that, the UFC would be digging incredibly deep to build a respectable division from what’s left.

As women’s MMA continues to grow, the UFC will develop new weight classes in time. For now, Strawweight and Bantamweight are enough.

One of the many lessons we learned from the demise of Strikeforce, was that Justino is not marketable enough to build a division around. Even off the back of her one round destruction of Gina Carano, they struggled to get fans to care about her subsequent fights. The UFC already has one dominant champion raising questions about the legitimacy of the challengers she is facing. They don’t need another.

It’s Rousey or nothing. There is no other way to use Justino, and that includes any warm up fight at 135lbs in the UFC. We still don’t know the effect the weight cut will have on her, and a bout against one of the better fighters in the division could lead to disaster. Rousey may have made the Cat Zingano’s, Miesha Tate’s and Sara McMann’s of the World look like they were swimming way out of their depth, but all would pose a serious threat to a drawn out Cyborg at 135.

If Justino holds up her end of the deal, nothing but a UFC debut against Ronda Rousey is acceptable. There are still plenty of hurdles to overcome before the fight is made. The UFC would be acting irresponsibly if they were to add any more.

Once Rousey takes her down, locks in an armbar and picks up another comfortable victory, we can all ask “what’s left?”. Then, and only then, can the MMA world move on.

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