Holly Holm? Cat Zingano? Another challenger? UFC champ Cris Cyborg wonders who's next

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RIO DE JANEIRO – After a tumultuous start, longtime pound-for-pound force Cris Cyborg finally has a UFC title belt – most importantly, one in her own weight division.

However, she had barely cooled off from her title-winning third-round TKO over Tonya Evinger at UFC 214 before the question was asked once more: What’s next for the world’s most dominant female 145-pound fighter? Or, more specifically, who could be next in a division that’s been surrounded by uncertainty from the start?

Cyborg can’t answer that question yet. What she can answer, though, is what she wants to happen. And, as she’s made clear before, that’s a fight with former 135-pound titleholder – and one of the two original 145-pound title challengers – Holly Holm.

The main reason, Cyborg explains, is pretty simple.

“I think it would be a great fight for the fans,” Justino said during a media day in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday. “It’d be an exciting fight. Because Holly Holm is a great striker, and I like to strike. And then for sure somebody’s going to be KO’d.”

Stylistically, she has a point.

While Cyborg’s powerful muay Thai has become her trademark throughout her overwhelmingly victorious career, Holm (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC), is a well accomplished boxer in the past. Not only that, Holm has used a smart kickboxing game to pick up a pair of UFC knockouts – including the major title-winning victory over Ronda Rousey.

But when it comes to whether Holm actually deserves a title shot, things get more complicated. After all, while the ex-135-champ is coming off a win, a TKO over Bethe Correia at UFC Fight Night 111, she was on a three-fight losing skid before that. And that includes a failed 145-pound title bid.

Cyborg (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) can kind of see why a title fight makes sense.

“When she fought the first time, she already didn’t deserve to fight for the belt,” Cyborg said. “When she fought (Germaine) de Randamie, I don’t think both deserved to fight for the belt. De Randamie hadn’t fought at 145 for a long time. I think last time was at Strikeforce, a long time ago.

“And then Holly, she came off (two) losses in a row to fight for the belt. But I talk about her because I think she’s the biggest girl at 135. And then she fought already at 145. And maybe this fight could happen.”

At the end of the day, in a weight class that at this point holds basically only herself, it’s not like Justino has a lot of options. The women’s featherweight division’s inaugural champion, de Randamie, was even stripped of her title exactly because she refused to face Cyborg after beating Holm at UFC 208.

Invicta FC’s most recent 145-pound champ, Megan Anderson, had to pull out of a scheduled bout with Cyborg due to personal issues that haven’t been disclosed. Evinger herself is a 135-pound fighter, who left Invicta FC’s bantamweight belt behind to take the UFC 214 call on short notice.

While Cyborg is diplomatic, she admits she’s not exactly excited about the lack of options in her division.

“It bothers me,” Cyborg said in her native Portuguese. “I wish the UFC would sign girls in my division. I didn’t want to fight 135-ers. I talk about Holly because she’s one of the bigger ones in the division, and she’s fought at 145 against de Randamie. And I think she could take the fight.

“But I’d like to fight girls in my division. I believe there are many girls. They’re signed under other promotions, but I believe that, if there were more opportunities in the division, I’d think for sure they’d want to migrate. The UFC is a great (promotion) and for sure there’ll be more opportunities.”

While that doesn’t happen, Cyborg says she’s already going into camp to prepare for her next challenge. Other than Holm, she sees possibilities in Anderson (9-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), who she believes rankings-wise makes sense – and Cat Zingano (9-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC), who the Brazilian says won’t be medically cleared to fight until 2018.

“Maybe it can be Megan Anderson, but Megan has to fix her problems for the fight to happen,” Cyborg said. “Can be her, too. I’m going to Thailand to focus on training (for a) southpaw and get started on the camp. People say maybe Cat Zingano – Cat Zingano is a southpaw, too.

“So, we started the plan already for both girls. If it changes, we change the game. But we already started camp for that fight.”

Zingano, of course, also originally belongs to the 135-pound division – where she’s had one failed title bid against Rousey. And, as Cyborg has pointed out, she hasn’t won a UFC fight since 2014. But, with the two already at odds on social media, perhaps the very interest she’s shown in meeting Cyborg could end up paying off.

When it comes to her main target, however, Cyborg says the ball is pretty much in Holm’s court. And she believes the former champion may very well be waiting for the 135-pound title rematch between champ Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko – set for Sept. 9 at UFC 215 – to unfold before making her next move.

“I think that maybe makes (our) fight harder to happen, because she’s close to the belt,” Justino said. “Maybe if she wins and fights for the belt, she’s interested in fighting me. I think it will be a cool fight for the fans, but it’s up to her whether she wants to make it happen.”

If the fight does end up coming to fruition, Justino doesn’t seem particularly intimidated by what her possible foe might have to offer.

“I think Holly doesn’t have knockout power,” Justino said. “All her fights, she knocks them out with kicks – not punches. I don’t think she’s very aggressive. I don’t think she’s going to be really dangerous. I think it will be an exciting fight, because I like to fight. And, of course, I’m going to find her. She’s going to run in the ring, but I’m going to find her.”

To hear more from Cyborg on her future, check out the video above.

And for more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Top 25 finishes in Invicta FC history (Nos. 21-25): Cat Zingano vs. Raquel Pennington pre-UFC

More than five years have passed since Invicta FC hosted its first event. During that time the all-female organization has gone through a number of different incarnations.

Despite having its roster consistently ravaged by the UFC, Invicta FC frequently hosts solid fight cards to help further the growth of women’s MMA. The fighters do their part by delivering inside the cage, and with the 25th event in company history set to go down later this month, Invicta FC has decided to highlight its young history.

Invicta FC 25 takes place Aug. 31 at Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, Calif. Ahead of the seminal event, Invicta FC’s social media team is rolling out a countdown of the 25 best finishes in its history.

Check out the first portion of the list, which counts down No. 25 to No. 21.

* * * *

25. Ashley Yoder def. Amber Brown at Invicta FC 20 (Nov. 18, 2016)

Ashley Yoder was successful in her Invicta FC debut when she locked up a tight armbar on Amber Brown to win in the second round.

Instagram Photo

24. Megan Anderson def. Peggy Morgan at Invicta FC 18 (July 29, 2016)

Megan Anderson’s charge toward the Invicta FC featherweight title continued at Invicta FC 18 when she throttled Peggy Morgan with a series of right hands for the first-round knockout.

Instagram Photo

23. Ayaka Yamasaki def. Amber Brown at Invicta FC 16 (Mar. 11, 2016)

Invicta FC atomweight champion Ayaka Yamasaki made her first successful title defense at Invicta FC 16 when she caught Brown with a second-round armbar to stay unbeaten in her career at 105 pounds.

Instagram Photo

22. Cat Zingano def. Raquel Pennington at Invicta FC 3 (Oct. 6, 2012)

In a bantamweight matchup between two fighters who now hold a place among the UFC elite, Cat Zingano put away Raquel Pennington by second-round rear-naked choke at Invicta FC 3.

Instagram Photo

21. Livia Souza def. Katja Kankaanpaa at Invicta FC 12 (Apr. 24, 2015)

The triangle choke is now fairly rare in top-level MMA, but Livia Souza proved it still works. At Invicta FC 12, she caught Katja Kankaanpaa with the technique in the fourth round of their bout to win the vacant strawweight belt.

Instagram Photo

Check out the Blue Corner on Saturday for the next installment of Invicta FC’s top 25 finishes countdown.

And for more on the Invicta schedule, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Cat Zingano angling for title fight with new UFC champ Cristiane 'Cyborg'

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Not many fighters are publicly pushing for a matchup with new UFC women’s featherweight champion Cristiane Justino. So, when someone like Cat Zingano begins to poke at “Cyborg,” it’s a notable.

Zingano (9-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC), a former UFC women’s bantamweight title challenger, has expressed interest in fighting Justino (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) in the past. The matchup has been discussed for multiple dates, but it’s never come to fruition.

Although Zingano has been inactive in recent years – fighting just twice since September 2014 – she believes she has what it takes to end Brazilian’s more than 12-year winning streak, and she’s made it known (via Twitter):

Zingano, No. 5 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA women’s bantamweight rankings, has competed at flyweight and bantamweight during her career, but she’s never found her way up to the 145-pound division. She wants to give it a try, though, and hopefully make the best of a potential second UFC title shot after Ronda Rousey submitted her in just 14 seconds at UFC 184 in February 2015.

“Alpha” hasn’t seen action since UFC 200 in July 2016, when she suffered a unanimous-decision loss to Julianna Pena. Prior to her current skid, Zingano earned a third-round TKO win over current 135-pound champ Amanda Nunes at UFC 178. She’s the only one to defeat Nunes in UFC competition.

Despite Justino, who claimed UFC gold with a third-round TKO of Tonya Evinger at UFC 214 this past weekend, looking near-flawless during the majority of her career, Zingano believes there are holes she can exploit, as she told “The MMA Hour” earlier this week.

“With ‘Cyborg,’ this is a winnable fight for me. When I’m healthy, none of these girls (can) deal with me, not one, so that’s what I’m looking for. Going into a fight with ‘Cyborg,’ you need to be as on point as possible. She’s got her advantages – whatever, arguably fair or unfair – and I just know that If I’m at 100 percent, she probably can’t even touch me, and those are things that are in consideration when trying to achieve my goal.”

Justino recently expressed interest in a fight with Zingano, as well, but warned her potential future opponent that she should have taken advantage of the chance to fight sooner.

“(She) should have fought me at 140 (pounds),” Justino said. “I’m the best I’ve ever been in my career with my return to 145 and am ready for either next.”

For more on UFC 214, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Cris 'Cyborg': Holly Holm, Cat Zingano made mistake by not fighting me sooner at 140

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Newly crowned UFC women’s featherweight champion Cristiane Justino accused Cat Zingano and ex-bantamweight champ Holly Holm of ducking previous offers to fight, but said she’s now ready to take on either one.

“I accepted Cat and Holly as an opponent for both #ufc198 and #ufcbrasilia and was told neither would fight me in Brazil,” Justino (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) wrote today on Twitter. “I asked for both to replace (Megan Anderson) when she pulled out (of UFC 214) after making such a (campaign) for the fight and was told they both declined.

“They should have fought me at 140. I’m the best I’ve ever been in my career with my return to 145 and am ready for either next.”

At this past Saturday’s UFC 214, Justino added another belt to her collection with a third-round stoppage of Tonya Evinger (19-6 MMA, 0-1 UFC), who accepted the bout after Invicta FC featherweight champ Anderson withdrew citing personal issues.

Justino, who claimed the vacant belt after inaugural champ Germaine de Randamie refused to face her, said after her title win that she would fight whomever the UFC puts in front of her. But UFC President Dana White seems to favor a bout with Holm (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC), one of the matches he said Justino turned down for the inaugural title at UFC 208.

This past year, Holm turned down a fight with Justino at UFC 198 and wound up fighting Valentina Shevchenko one year ago at UFC on FOX 20. With Justino now holding the belt, White said the ex-champ is interested.

Zingano (9-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC) today told “The MMA Hour” that she was almost one of Justino’s opponents, accepting a bout early this past year. But she was told the Brazilian champ turned it down.

Today, Justino responded with her side of the story in the aforementioned series of tweets.

Justino defeated Leslie Smith at UFC 198 in her octagon debut, and then went on to beat Lina Lansberg at UFC Fight Night 95. She took the bouts at 140 pounds with the intention of making bantamweight for a fight with now-former champ Ronda Rousey, but swore off the move after two brutal weight cuts for her first two appearances.

For more on UFC 214, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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