Amanda Nunes is the first women’s MMA fighter to hold UFC titles in two different weight classes — better yet, she did it at the same time.
Nunes entered the UFC 232 co-main event on Saturday the UFC women’s bantamweight champion and left with a second belt on her shoulders. “The Lioness” knocked out dominant women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg in less than a minute at The Forum in Inglewood, California. With the win, Nunes became the third fighter to hold two UFC titles simultaneously, and the sixth double champion overall.
Cyborg was the large betting favorite heading into the highly-anticipated contest, but it didn’t look like that once the pair of elite fighters were in the Octagon. Nunes and Cyborg wasted no time at all, exchanging heavy punches right from the opening bell. Nunes got the better of her opponent, widely considered the most feared — and most dangerous — women’s MMA fighter on the planet. Nunes pressured Cyborg towards the fence with heavy shots, giving her no room to breathe. Cyborg tried to brawl with Nunes, mostly in an attempt to survive, but Nunes was the more precise striker and did not allow Cyborg to do so. And that led to a knockout finish 51 seconds into the opening frame.
What was the highlight of the fight?
Before Saturday night, Cyborg hadn’t lost since her pro MMA debut in May 2005 — nearly 14 years ago. Nunes was the one stepping up in weight. She was understandably so the betting underdog with little to lose. In general, the path to victory was greater for Cyborg than Nunes in most people’s opinions heading into the bout. Cyborg has always been known as the most powerful and dangerous female fighter in the sport’s history. She had never been challenged.
Until tonight. Nunes on Saturday proved everyone is beatable — even Cyborg. And that’s the beauty of the sport, and the highlight of the event’s co-headliner between Nunes, the new double champ, and Cyborg, one of the most dominant figures in the sport.
Where do these two go from here?
Nunes has a lot of options as the UFC’s women’s featherweight and bantamweight champion. She could defend right away at 145 pounds, her new division, against perhaps Megan Anderson, who defeated Cat Zingano at UFC 232. Or she could drop back down to 135 pounds, where she could face either former champ Holly Holm or rising contender Ketlen Vieira. If she does that, Cyborg could try to bounce back against fellow former Invicta FC titleholder Anderson.
No matter what Nunes decides to do next, one thing is for sure: she shook up the women’s featherweight division on Saturday, and most likely for the better. In the long term, a Nunes vs. Cyborg rematch could be a terrific — and lucrative — option for the promotion. The division has not had much life at all — Nunes’ win could change that.
On the other hand, Cyborg is in an interesting spot. There’s no doubt about it she’s still one of the best female fighters in the world, and undoubtedly the second best featherweight. But what’s next? She’s never had a great relationship with the UFC, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see her leave sooner than later to pursue other opportunities — perhaps outside of MMA, but staying in the realm of combat sports. Cyborg could argue she deserves an immediate rematch with Nunes, but I’m not sure getting starched inside a minute warrants that. For my money, give Cyborg a bounce-back fight and she’ll be back in title contention in no time.
Watch now, later, or never?
“The Lioness” made history in more ways than one at UFC 232. She is now on the short list of UFC double champs, and she ended the long reign and winning streak of the once-invincible Cyborg. Watch it now.