Cristiane Santos and her management team have made a massive gamble when they walked away from a UFC contract to fight in Invicta FC without the Zuffa safety net. Cris “Cyborg” had served a substantial suspension for testing positive for a banned substance, of course, and the massive payday of Cyborg vs. Ronda Rousey is one fight that feels like it could be an event as opposed to just another title fight. Why?
Because it remains the last true super fight we could see for a while.
The last superfight outside of Jon Jones vs. Cain Velasquez is Cyborg/Rousey. Jones/Velasquez, or JDS if the trilogy fight goes his way, is going to be a big fight when it happens down the road. The thing holding it up right now is that Jones can still make 205, fairly easy too, and hasn’t committed himself to a true timeline yet because the weight cut is really easy for him.
Having spoken with him earlier in the year he seemed reticent to go up as long as 205 is still an easy cut, too. He may eventually fill in to being a heavyweight in the next couple years I can see him staying at light heavyweight for a while; he may be as big as a number of heavyweights but making 205 comfortably is something I think Jones values. While he might be running out of challengers soon the prospect of going up to 265 is a daunting one for Jones, one he won’t have to take until he’s physically ready to.
As long as 205 is still something he makes without effort one imagines that super fight will be on hold for a while. The heavyweight division will always be there for him and so far Ronda Rousey appears to be on track to holding the women’s title for some time as well. She may have had a Kimbo Slice style moment against Liz Carmouche, her love of the judo scarf allowing someone with a strong BJJ game to grab her back, but so far the rest of the division doesn’t look ready to defeat Rousey as well.
A rematch with Meisha Tate is interesting, if only because of their mutual dislike of one another, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Tate does anything but get arm-barred once more by the champion. There’s not a lot of intrigue in that fight, the exact opposite of Cyborg/Rousey.
It’s why Cyborg’s fight this weekend means substantially more than just another win over Marloes Coenen. The Golden Glory product is a tough out who fought Meisha Tate hard for the title Rousey would eventually hold as well as giving Santos fits in their matchup. Coenen is a tough fighter, one who many would eventually like to face Rousey as well, and Santos is taking a huge gamble by facing the other best fighter in WMMA not currently in the UFC.
The only other time a fighter has taken a gamble like that is Fedor Emelianenko, who leveraged his status as the best heavyweight not in the UFC similarly to Santos using hers as the best woman not in the UFC women’s bantamweight division. It’s a massive gamble as Santos has to keep winning and do so in dominant fashion to keep up the hype train behind this potential fight alive.
Once Cyborg loses the intrigue behind a fight with Rousey goes away in the same way a Rousey loss would. But there’s a huge difference if either were to lose. Rousey could weather the storm and survive in the UFC for a significant period of time if she isn’t champion. It would perhaps dampen the women’s division permanently in the same way her retirement to pursue acting would, of course, but Rousey as another UFC fighter is still something intriguing on a number of levels.
Cyborg she has to keep winning in order to maintain relevance in the same Fedor had to when he didn’t sign with the UFC after Pride folded. It’s the ultimate gamble in MMA: The Fedor Gamble.