UFC 232: Cyborg vs Nunes Preview & Prediction
By Claudia Peterson
UFC 232 closes out the year with the first superfight in the history of women’s MMA. Two of the best well rounded fighters will compete for the featherweight championship as current bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes moves up to challenge featherweight champion Cris Cyborg.
I discussed the history of this match up in my article “The Rise of Amanda Nunes,” but essentially, there was discussion of these fighters meeting in 2011 when Cris Cyborg was the Strikeforce featherweight champ and Amanda was on the rise. That year, after beating Julia Budd in 14 seconds in January, Amanda went on to lose to Alexis Davis by TKO in September, while Cris Cyborg defended her belt against Hiroko Yamanaka in December.
Cyborg was later stripped of that title due to having tested positive for stanozolol. Their paths never crossed at that time, and Amanda eventually signed with the UFC in 2013 and has been fighting at 135 since. Cyborg went on to sign with Invicta that same year and won the inaugural featherweight title by beating Marloes Coenen, and continued on a knockout trajectory thereafter.
We all know that the UFC women’s featherweight division was created for Cyborg. She and Holly Holm were supposed to fight for the inaugural featherweight strap, but Cyborg was flagged for a potential USADA violation, and the fight did not take place. Holm faced Germaine De Randamie instead, in a forgettable match up which later saw the Iron Lady be stripped of her title due to her refusal to face Cyborg, her excuse being that she did not want to fight a cheater.
Cyborg’s suspension was later lifted when she was granted a therapeutic use extension for a substance she and her team claimed was used to help her heal from a weight cut. At that point, she fought Tonya Evinger for the vacant featherweight title, and has remained dominant in her two subsequent title defences. Cyborg has only lost once in her 22 fight career, and that fight was in her pro debut back in 2005. She has been impressive, powerful, and unstoppable ever since to the point that her name has become synonymous with GOAT status amongst many commentators.
During her time in Strikeforce and Invicta, Cyborg won and defended her featherweight title a total of seven times and holds notable wins over Gina Carano and Marloes Coenen. She has been undefeated in her UFC run, and in addition to wins over Lina Lansberg, Leslie Smith, Tonya Evinger and Yana Kunitskaya, she has a very dominant win over former bantamweight champion Holly Holm, a fight which is considered to be the best performance of her career, being forced to go the distance for the first time. She certainly rose to the occasion in that matchup.
From the moment Cyborg was fighting for the vacant belt against former Invicta bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger, she exercised patience, and took her time to eventually finish Evinger in the third round. It was evident from the opening frame that Cyborg was the superior fighter, and knew she could finish the fight early on. Instead, she softened Evinger up and gave herself time to warm up.
Later on, against Yana Kunitskaya, Cris was able to get the finish midpoint through the first round, giving herself time to back Kunitskaya into the fence and finish the fight. Once again, she showed a tremendous amount of patience even as Yana went for a single leg, mounted Cyborg and attempted to go for a submission. Still, Cyborg showed the most amount of maturity and skill in her fight with Holly Holm. In that fight, Cyborg was able to figure out Holly’s game plan early on, and was easily able to control the entire fight moving forward. Cyborg constantly looked for an opportunity to finish the fight, by utilizing a constant high kick. By slowing backing up Holm towards the cage, she forced Holm to lead and waited with the counters. Cyborg understands that her competition is getting tougher and she is adjusting her game to show patience and maturity in what she can do.
Amanda Nunes has also faced some very strong competition since coming to the UFC, and much like Cyborg, she is a finisher with explosive punches. In her ten fights for the promotion, Amanda has one loss to Cat Zingano, followed by an impressive list of victories. She holds notable wins over Germaine De Randamie, Ronda Rousey, Valentina Shevchenko and Miesha Tate, all former and current champions across three weight classes.
This is an impressive record that not a lot of other female fighters can lay claim to. Prior to her UFC run, Amanda made her pro MMA debut in 2008 and fought in promotions in brazil before signing with Strikeforce and later with Invicta. Much like Cyborg, Amanda proved to be one of the best wherever she was fighting, and her power and dominance also puts her in the GOAT status conversation, especially when you add her UFC victories to the mix.
Amanda has only been forced to go the distance by Valentina Shevchenko twice, in fights which exposed the Lioness’ vulnerability. Amanda is known for tiring out early and not executing the best fight finishing plan as we saw in the second fight with Valentina Shevchenko and in her title defence against Raquel Pennington.
In the Pennington fight, it was obvious Amanda could have finished the fight sometime in the third round, but her tactics usually turn into just pure fighting and throwing, making her look somewhat sloppy toward the end of a fight. It’s as if she becomes overwhelmed when she sees a potential finish in the horizon. At the same time, she has looked impressive in fights in which she was not only the stronger fighter, but the longer and better boxer, as we saw in the Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate fight.
By now, Nunes and Cyborg are considered veterans in the sport, both having fought for 10 and 13 years, respectively. Both women match up with each other quite well. Cyborg is a black belt in Muay Thai and a purple belt in BJJ. Amanda Nunes is a black belt in BJJ and a brown belt in Judo. Both fighters are not only considered two of the best strikers in their divisions, but they both have knockout power. Both prefer to keep a fight standing standing due to their dominance on the feet, but throughout the years Amanda has been the more willing fighter to engage on the ground if the need arises.
Cyborg has not been challenged to the point of needing to take a fight to the ground or fight on the ground at all. It is very possible Cris will force Amanda to stay on the feet to figure out her timing, while Amanda will most likely want to change things up by taking Cris to the ground and get a submission win.
As I mentioned in my article “The Rise of Amanda Nunes,” Amanda may have to take the fight to the ground to win, although let’s not forget that her last two losses came while fighting on the ground with Cat Zingano and Alexis Davis. In those fights, she was overwhelmed in the grappling and was finished by TKO via ground and pound. Though Amanda could probably win those fights now, she has shown vulnerability in that area if she gets overpowered by her opponent, and this might just be an opportunity Cyborg is willing to take.
Prediction: Cyborg by KO/TKO