[Image via www.tatame.com.br]
Looking back on Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal, the card featured a lot of fights that ultimately didn't live up to the hype.
K.J. Noons almost lost an easily winnable match against Billy Evangelista. Gegard Mousasi beat up Ovince St. Preux, when the latter proved tentative to engage in the fight. Most damning of all was Gilbert Melendez, who shut down a surprisingly game Jorge Masvidal in a clinical victory that didn't exactly scream "world beater."
But last night, Cristiane Santos looked better and more dangerous than all of the other fighters on the card, once again smashing her way through another "Top 10" ranked fighter in her division with extreme prejudice. At approximately 16 seconds of fight time, it wasn't even a competition, but more like a one-sided beatdown. Before the fight, the betting odds favoring "Cyborg" were as lopsided as -1400, reflecting the MMA community's expectations that #2 female featherweight fighter Hiroko Yamanaka would be thrashed without much trouble.
With the exception of Fedor Emelianenko, Anderson Silva, and Jon Jones, no fighter has dominated their divisional peers so ruthlessly. As much as MMA pundits and fans alike want to joke about Santos competing in the men's division, the Strikeforce Featherweight Women's Champion could probably give some UFC featherweights and bantamweights a run for their money. Even if her competition just can't seem to catch up, it's time to stop pretending that Cristiane Santos isn't one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world, regardless of gender.
If the MMA pound-for-pound lists combine division dominance and world rankings, here's how I think it looks:
1. Anderson Silva
3. Jon Jones
4. Jose Aldo
8. Gilbert Melendez
9. Christiane Santos
10. Junior Dos Santos
Right above the UFC Heavyweight Champion and just below the Strikeforce Lightweight Champion, Cyborg Santos seems like a natural fit in the MMA pound-for-pound rankings.
Her fights against world-ranked female opponents in Gina Carano, Hitomi Akano, and Marloes Coenen were spirited, exciting brawls. Taking out Hiroko Yamanaka further showed the difference between the two best female featherweights. Simply put, Cyborg has more ranked wins under her belt than several of her male counterparts — and even if women's MMA isn't as deep as the men's division, her quality of opponents are better than most.
Hopefully, Strikeforce will be able to sign her to more competitive fights in the future without much delay. And if that's not possible, let's all wish Christiane Santos luck if she decides to cut a difficult 10 pounds in weight to chase after the female 135-pounders. Talent like Cyborg is rare, and shouldn't be squandered with such a light schedule.
[McKinley Noble is a former staff editor at GamePro and an MMA conspiracy theorist. Follow his Twitter account for crazy talk, 1990s movie references, and general weirdness. Or you could just stalk him on Google.]