Is the winner of the upcoming UFC 219 fight between Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino and Holly Holm the greatest women’s MMA fighter of all time?
This question could not have been asked just a little over two years ago without including Ronda Rousey’s name. Back then, Rousey was on top of the world. Rousey looked unbeatable until Holm changed the face of women’s MMA with one perfectly placed head kick.
So much has transpired since that fateful night in Melbourne, Australia. Holm would go on to take the title off Rousey’s hands that night, but she failed to defend the belt even once. The women’s bantamweight strap has changed hands two more times after Rousey’s loss. Amanda Nunes added a bit of stability to the division when she captured the title from Miesha Tate at UFC 200. All the fighters mentioned so far are fantastic fighters in their own right. You can make an argument for any or all of them being the greatest women’s fighter of all time. However, let’s move beyond the bantamweights.
The UFC now has four divisions for the women to compete in. The organization recently crowned the inaugural women’s flyweight champion Nicco Montaño following the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter. It looks as if this new division is going to be chock full of existing UFC roster talent, but the weight class has yet to cultivate anyone the caliber of a GOAT. That leaves us with the featherweights and strawweights.
With six straight dominate title defenses, Joanna Jędrzejczyk appeared as if she was going to be the UFC’s strawweight champion for a long, long time. Rose Namajunas had other ideas, though. “Thug” Rose landed a picturesque left hand and turned the MMA world on its head when she finished Joanna “Champion” at UFC 217. Jędrzejczyk is a strong bet to reclaim her title at strawweight and possibly go on to challenge for the belt at flyweight in the future. When it’s all said and done, the pride of Poland might just go down as the greatest women’s fighter of all time. But that’s looking ahead.
This brings us to the featherweight division and the two women that go head to head on Dec. 30, the current 145-pound titleholder Cyborg and challenger Holm. It’s extremely difficult to try to convincingly argue that Holm is the GOAT. It’s hard to even justify her title shot. Holm has lost three of her last four fights, yet here she is in the main event.
The UFC is still building the featherweight roster, but this all just feels a bit too played out. Perhaps the more likely scenario is that Holm was the only fighter willing to fight Cyborg. If that’s the case, hats off to the former champion.
The GOAT nod, then, must go to Cyborg.
At this point, she is the best women’s fighter on the planet. It’s not even close. She has it all. She is a five-tool MMA fighter. Cyborg has ridiculous one-punch knockout power. The Brazilian also has grappling skills — she’s a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, even. Furthermore, she has the look and the intimidation factor — most of her opponents have been defeated before they ever step into the cage, which is a true sign of a GOAT.
Cyborg has a record of 18-1. The lone loss on that resume came in her 2005 pro debut. She has been fighting at the highest level of women’s MMA for over a decade, and she is still only 32 years old. It’s a scary thought, but Cyborg may just now be entering her prime as a combat-sports athlete.
Cyborg may never lose again. Holm, with her recent stumbles, certainly doesn’t seem like she can beat the Brazilian. If Cyborg isn’t the women’s GOAT, then who is?