The more things change in mixed martial arts, the more Cris Cyborg remains the same.
Cyborg (25-2, 1 NC) lured hard-hitting challenger Sinead Kavanagh into a slugfest early in Round 1 before finishing her with a brutal counter right hook to make the third defense of her women's featherweight title in the main event of Bellator 271 on Friday from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
The 36-year-old living legend retained her status as the pound-for-pound best female fighter in the promotion by adding yet another highlight-reel knockout to her lengthy and incredibly consistent career.
"I knew [Kavanaugh's style] was more [about] strikes so I knew had the opportunity to take her to the ground and work the ground game," Cyborg said. "But you never know what is going to happen and I'm very excited to get the knockout."
Cyborg, who has won titles in nearly every major promotion she has fought including Strikeforce, Invicta FC and UFC, moved her training camp to Team Bodyshop MMA in California for this fight. That doesn't mean the native of Brazil necessarily utilized what was taught to her by head coach Antonio McKee, the father of Bellator men's featherweight champion A.J. McKee.
"I trained really hard for this fight but I'm sorry for my team, I didn't do anything that we planned," Cyborg said. "I'm happy I still got the win."
Cyborg came out guns blazing with heavy punches off the start to back Kavanagh up to the cage. But the native of Ireland was able to prevent Cyborg from taking her to the ground, which created pockets of two-way striking in the center of the cage.
The problem for Kavanagh (7-5) was that she didn't quite have the same chin or punching power to overcome her opponent's aggression.
Cyborg worked her way off the cage with a combination and was countered cleanly with a hard left hook by Kavanagh. But Cyborg came right back with a right hand of her own that caught Kavanagh flush on the chin to drop her. A brief flurry of hammer punches followed just as referee Jason Herzog leaped in to call the fight at 1:32 of Round 1.
By winning her fourth straight trip to the Bellator cage after signing with the promotion in late 2019, Cyborg also extended her record to 14-1 overall in championship fights. The first-round knockout was also the 11th of a 16-year career.
With PFL champion and free agent Kayla Harrison sitting cageside with a wide smile, Cyborg was asked after the fight whether she would entertain a superfight against the two-time Olympic judo gold medalist.
"I asked [Bellator] for Cat Zingano but I leave it in the hands of [CEO] Scott Coker," Cyborg said. "I don't choose opponents. Anyone here can get in against me.
"Kayla, thanks for coming today to the fights. I really appreciate it. I'm here if you want to fight me one day, it would be a great fight. But [Harrison's manager] Ali [Abdelaziz] is going to have to talk to the organization."