How dominant is Strikeforce 145-pound female champion Cristiane Santos? Look no further than the amalgam of betting lines that favor her in four-digit increments that range from -1400 to -1011 against Hiroko Yamanaka. The women's title will be up for grabs in the co-main event of Saturday's Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal event on Showtime.
Women's MMA has made incredible strides in the last few years, but the progress was hindered by the UFC's purchase of Strikeforce, shrouding the future of the promotion and female fighting in uncertainty. Now, Strikeforce has extended their contract with Showtime and the ladies are featured in the supporting role to the show's headliner.
After a year and a half on the bench, Cristiane Santos (10-1) will return to action after having crushed all four of her previous Strikeforce opponents with ferocious strike-stoppages. The Chute Boxe product has redefined the way public perceives female fighting by, quite frankly, performing with just as much athleticism, technique and violence as top-level male combatants.
The challenger, Hiroko "Incomplete Queen" Yamanaka (12-1), will be making her stateside and Strikeforce debut, but she's far from a newcomer to the sport. Yamanaka is a former Smack Girl Open Weight champion and currently ranked second in the world (behind Santos) by MMARising. She is a composed and diverse mixed martial artist with solid striking and submission grappling. The sole blemish on her record was a 2008 submission loss to Hitomi Akano (who Cyborg defeated in her Strikeforce debut) but Yamanaka would later avenge the loss by split decision in the Jewels promotion.
Match up analysis in the full entry.
Yamanaka is 5'11" and the tallest fighter that Cyborg has ever encountered. Considering the champ's propensity to rag-doll opponents, Yamanaka should endeavor to maximize the advantages of her size. She has previously implemented a hard-nosed sprawl and brawl strategy against Josh Barnett's student Shannon Hooper, where Yamanaka exacerbated her length with solid boxing and footwork.
Striking-wise, she throws tight and precise punches. Though not a power puncher, her activity and accumulation of blows can be quite formidable and she also has a library of high-level submissions. Yamanaka is a crafty and composed fighter who I don't expect to be intimated by the tremendous challenge in front of her.
Santos is the complete package in every aspect: boxing, Muay Thai, wrestling, submissions, strength, agility and aggression. Her chin has passed the test thus far and her only loss was via kneebar in her MMA debut back in 2005. Really, "Cyborg" represents the pinnacle of all aspects in women's MMA. She's steamrolled all comers and hasn't offered up any flaws to nitpick on even a microscopic scale.
The two areas that prohibit any excitement for an upset are Yamanaka's lack of knockout power and wrestling. While she may be competent in keeping Santos on the end of her punches, she will be hard-pressed to finish the champ and avoiding her wrath in every round makes winning a decision unlikely. While her submission game is sound, she was taken down rather easily by Akano. This means that Cyborg will not only dictate the location of the fight, but will probably assume the top position on the ground, where her striking prowess is just as deadly as it standing and her submission awareness is intact.
My Prediction: Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos by TKO