Cris Cyborg's status as arguably the greatest female fighter in history was further elevated at UFC 219 when she defended her UFC Women's Featherweight title against who many regarded as her biggest career threat in Holly Holm.
Cyborg (19-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) entered the fight having stopped her past 12 opponents by knockout. She was unable to continue that run against Holm (11-4 MMA, 4-4 UFC) in the pay-per-view headliner at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, but she did answer many questions about her greatness, winning a unanimous decision by scores of 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47.
Holm, the Former UFC Women's Bantamweight champion, came in looking to duplicate her unforgettable upset of Ronda Rousey from November 2015. She came close, forcing the fight to come down to a deciding fifth round, which ultimately she was unable to win. "The Preacher's Daughter" came into the fight with a solid game plan and tested Cyborg unlike any foe before her, but she wasn't able to do enough to best the Brazilian.
Cyborg's endurance and power were major deciding factors. She out-landed the former UFC and boxing champion Holm by a count of 118-44 in signifiant strikes over the course of 25 minutes. The result was Cyborg extending her unbeaten streak to 20 consecutive fights, and she hasn't lost since her MMA debut in May 2005.
Although Cyborg's level of dominance is unprecedented, she remained humble after the fight, refusing to label herself as the greatest female fighter in the world.
"I never think like that," Cyborg said at the UFC 219 post-fight news conference. "I let my fans think about that. I just have to keep training and keep learning, because the girls are going to (try to) beat me, and I have to be ready."
Following the win, Cyborg called for a matchup for Megan Anderson (9-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), who she was supposed to fight at UFC 214 in July before the Australian withdrew due to personal issue. UFC President Dana White, however, said earlier in the week that he would be interested in booking a fight against UFC Women's Bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes (15-4 MMA, 8-1), though somewhat dismissed the potential bout.
"I wouldn't like to fight somebody Brazilian, but if she wants to fight me, I’ll fight anybody Dana White puts in front of me," Cyborg said. "I'm saying Megan, because she's 145 pounds, and I would like my division (to keep) growing. I think she's in line to fight for the belt."
Khabib Nurmagomedov dominates again, moves to 25-0
Undefeated Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov may have stole the show at UFC 219 when he put on yet another brilliant performance against Edson Barboza to improve his flawless record to 25-0.
Injuries have plagued Nurmagomedov's career in recent years. He's only fought three times since April 2014, but each time he steps in the Octagon, "The Eagle" reminds the world why he's perhaps the best 155-pound fighter out there – and that includes UFC Lightweight champion Conor McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) and interim titleholder Tony Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC).
Nurmagomedov routinely makes elite-level fighters look ordinary, and that was once again the case against Barboza, who is regarded as one of the most dangerous strikers in the UFC. Nurmagomedov's overwhelming grappling skills, influenced by a background in Sambo, completely drowned Barboza into a sea of defensive desperation and won a decision by incredibly lopsided scores of 30-25, 30-25 and 30-24.
Although he couldn't get the stoppage, Nurmagomedov once again had observers taken aback by his ability and drummed up conversation for future fights against McGregor and Ferguson. He already considers himself the best, and made is clear he's confident in his chances against either.
"The real belt is (my record of) 25-0 – this is real belt," Nurmagomedov said post-fight. "They're all fake belts. To be honest, I think real belt is Tony Ferguson's. Conor, he only has one fight in UFC (at) 155 and he's champion. He beat old Eddie Alvarez. He is good fighter, but he is not champion. I think a lot of people can beat him at 155."
Nurmagomedov has been the brunt of criticism from the likes of McGregor and Ferguson, who are likely to unify their titles in 2018, but he used his performance at UFC 219 as a platform to fire back. He knows his history with injuries and fight withdrawals is worrisome, but Nurmagomedov said he hopes his win over Barboza is the beginning of a trouble-free trip to a UFC gold.
"These guys talk when I'm injured, but when I'm healthy, where are these guys?" Nurmagomedov said. "Tony or Conor, it doesn't matter. Or maybe they're going to fight it each other? It doesn't matter. Maybe if UFC approves, I can fight with these guys the same night. I swear, I don't joke. If UFC makes this, I can fight with these guys the same night. Why not? I'm fresh. I fight with Edson Barboza for 15 minutes. Maybe I have to stay a little bit humble, but tonight I have to smash these guys, give them it back, because these guys talk too much when I'm injured."
Complete UFC 219 results included:
- Cris Cyborg def. Holly Holm via unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47)
- Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Edson Barboza via unanimous decision (30-25, 30-25, 30-24)
- Dan Hooker def. Marc Diakiese via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 3, 0:42
- Carla Esparza def. Cynthia Calvillo via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Neil Magny def. Carlos Condit via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Michal Oleksiejczuk def. Khalil Rountree via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Myles Jury def. Rick Glenn via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Omari Akhmedov vs. Marvin Vettori declared majority draw (28-28, 29-28, 28-28)
- Matheus Nicolau def. Louis Smolka via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-25)
- Tim Elliott def. Mark Delarosa via submission (anaconda choke) – Round 2, 1:41