Post-Fight Thoughts: Cris Cyborg -vs- Holly Holm
And so, after much speculation — and a lot less marketing and over all hype than one would reasonably expect — the meeting between Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm is officially in the books. The bout was in some ways a reaffirmation of the common knowledge, but also presented some surprises. Cris Cyborg routed the challenger, and former bantamweight champion, though some of the judges' scorecards raised eyebrows. One judge scored the fight 49-46 for Cyborg, while the other two officials turned into mind-boggling scores of 48-47 — albeit for the correct winner. There was some room to argue that Holly may have won the second round, however my personal score was 50-45 for Cris.
I have no idea how or why a pair of judges saw fit to give Holm two rounds, but those were egregious scores. Thankfully, the right winner was decided, even if the judging left a lot to be desired. Cris's victory was methodical, violent and completely one-sided. To her credit, Holm withstood some very heavy shots and was never completely out of the fight, though she remained overly defensive and never seemed to hurt Cyborg in the least. Holm put in a valiant effort, but was ultimately outclassed by a bigger, more pro-active opponent. I was genuinely surprised that Holm lasted all 5 rounds; Cyborg did seem more cautious and methodical, but that makes sense given Holm's only way to win was a big counter off of a reckless mistake.
It is unfortunate that the bulk of UFC 219 was fairly lackluster and unremarkable. The opening three bouts were exciting and spirited, but that momentum was not sustained throughout the night. The rest of the card was a laboured, imemorable affair, and nothing really stuck out save for Khabib Nurmagomedov putting an utter mauling on Edson Barboza, and Dan Hooker choking-out Marc Diakiese. This left the main event with even more pressure to deliver end-of-year violence, and, in that regard, the fight was a dud. In more realistic terms, Holm / Cyborg was a very skilled, respectable fight, it just wasn't anything exceptionally entertaining or noteworthy. (How it won Fight Of The Night honours, over Marvin Vettori and Omari Akhmedov is something I will never understand, either.)
It is unfortunate that the event was poorly received, as Cris Cyborg did put on a masterful, technical performance. Asserting herself as easily the most dominant woman in MMA, Cris Cyborg defeated a decorated former boxing and MMA champion, and made it look fairly easy. Cyborg pressed forward, landing consistently as Holm tried, unsuccessfully, to stay at range and tie Cris up in clinches against the cage. The clinching was the only aspect of the fight where Holm had any measure of success, and Cyborg ultimately escaped every tie-up unscathed. Holm's strategy was what everyone expected, and Cris had it figured out almost immediately.
I honestly thought Cyborg would finish Holm, but the latter proved to have a very sturdy jaw, only appearing to be rocked briefly. By the end of the fifth round, Holm's face was wearing a lot of damage, while the featherweight champ looked almost completely untouched. It was a good, solid, decisive win for a veteran of the sport, and a fighter who has never gotten their due due to a tenuous relationship with the UFC. The Cyborg / Rousey fight never materialised, so we got the next-best match-up. While a Rousey fight would have generated far, far more attention and revenue, logging a complete dismantling of the woman who ended Ronda's title run certainly has its value.
The question of what comes next is interesting; women's featherweight is barely a division — in the UFC or other organisations — due to an extremely limited talent pool. There has been talk of matching up Cyborg and Invicta FC 145-pound champ Megan Anderson, but the latter has been on hiatus and has given no signs as to when she will resume fighting. Aside from Anderson, there are no other big names — or even legit 145'ers — out there for Cyborg to face. Germaine de Randamie is an option, unless she is adamant about returning to bantamweight and / or continues to have problems with her injured hand. The future of women's featherweight remains to be seen; right now, Cris Cyborg is head-and-shoulders above her competition. It will be fun to watch her dominate lesser foes, and hopefully she inspires a new generation of fighters to follow in her footsteps.
As for Holly Holm, I don't know what her next move is. There is no room for any rematch talk; the fight was one-way traffic, and Holm was quite visibly busted up as a result. Since knocking Ronda Rousey out cold, Holly has a KO win over Bethe Correia, has lost 3 decisions and was choked unconscious by the now-retired Miesha Tate. Whether she continues to fight or not, I don't know; I am not immediately sure who you would match her up with at this point. Holm showed a lot of toughness and heart in this fight, and it is important to note that given how much of the narrative has become "Cris is just as tough as we thought - theory confirmed."
Published: January 2nd, 2018.