Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino will finally make her long awaited UFC debut against Leslie Smith at UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil on May 14th.
The fight will take place at 140lbs, a first for the UFC, meaning that former Strikeforce and current Invicta FC featherweight champion ‘Cyborg’ will move down from 145lbs, while Smith will step up from 135lbs.
The UFC had previously been resistant to having ‘Cyborg’ compete in the Octagon unless she cut down to the bantamweight division (135lbs), so what’s changed now?
Well, they will likely point to the fact that ‘Cyborg’ was actually born in Curitiba, so there’s never been a better time to welcome her on-board, especially as they need to put a lot of bums on seats if they are to fill the 42,000 capacity Atletico Paranaense Stadium in the city.
A lot of the resistance to ‘Cyborg’ being in the UFC also seemed to revolve around Ronda Rousey, who’s had a long-standing rivalrly with the Brazilian and has often been critical of the fact that she tested positive for steroids in 2011.
There’s always been a suspicion from that perhaps the UFC were just trying to shield Rousey from ‘Cyborg’, who at one time looked to be her biggest threat, and the fact that they are now bringing on board just months after ‘Rowdy’ lost her title and unbeaten record only adds fuel to that fire.
The 30 year-old ‘Cyborg’ has remained unbeaten in over 10 years, having only lost once in her entire career, being submitted in her professional debut back in 2005.
She has been plying her trade in the Invicta FC promotion for the past three years, racking up five wins in a row, all in the first round by either KO or TKO, and becoming their reigning featherweight champion along the way.
There’s a sense that her record has been somewhat inflated by the lack of credible challengers at 145lbs however, with the majority of available talent having already been drawn to the UFC’s 135lb division instead.
Attempting to give her more of a fight than her other recent opponents will be Smith, who’s coming off a uanimous decision win over Rin Nakai at UFC Fight Night 85 earlier this month.
Prior to that Smith had showed her toughness by trying to fight on despite having her ear virtually torn off against Jessica Eye last year, though a cage-side doctor eventually called off the fight due to the injury.
Smith is only 2-2 in her UFC career so far, isn’t ranked in the bantamweight division, and will be undersized against ‘Cyborg’, so despite her ‘gameness’, some obsevers will perhaps question whether this is the right match-up for the debut of one of the sport’s most dominant competitors.