UFC 219 results, highlights: Cris Cyborg outduels Holly Holm to retain title
Cyborg battled through a grueling 25-minute fight with Holm to retain the featherweight title in Las Vegas
Cris "Cyborg" Justino built her name as a female pioneer in mixed martial arts because of her menacing power and aggressive style. But the UFC's featherweight champion cemented her status as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world on Saturday by showcasing just how well rounded she has become.
In her first shot as a pay-per-view headliner, Justino (19-1) relied on timing and technique just as much as power to outpoint former bantamweight champion Holly Holm in the main event of UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Justino, 32, took home a unanimous decision on judges scores of 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 for the first defense of her 145-pound title. CBS Sports scored the fight 49-46 for Justino.
"I want to say thank you for Holly Holm," Justino said. "She is an amazing fighter."
Holm (11-4), who lost the inaugural featherweight title bout to Germaine de Randamie at UFC 208 in February, was incredibly game throughout. Despite two badly swollen eyes by the fight's end, Holm used her size and a smart game plan as a defensive counter striker to, at times, give the champion fits and bloody her nose.
But Justino, a native of Brazil, was simply not to be denied. Extended to five rounds for the first time in her career, Cyborg managed her gas tank perfectly and systematically broke Holm down with heavy jabs and right hands.
While Justino's power ultimately played a key role in terms of the damage she did to Holm, the fact that Cyborg was able to outbox and match the technical prowess of Holm, who upset Ronda Rousey in 2015, was just as impressive.
Justino was incredibly poised and patient from the beginning, forcing Holm to take the lead and countering with right hands that twice staggered Holm in the opening round.
Holm, 36, did her best work of the fight in Round 2 with perfect footwork to slip punches and score with lead left hands. She also repeatedly suffocated Cyborg's power by using her size to force the clinch and slow the pace along the cage wall.
The final three rounds, however, were all Justino. She rocked Holm twice to break open a close Round 3 with right hands in the final minute. Justino also used a flurry of knees and heavy leg kicks to the body to slow Holm down.
With Rousey unlikely to return to the Octagon and longtime strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk recently suffering her first defeat, Justino stands alone among UFC women as the most popular and most talented fighter in the company.
The only problem will be finding quality opponents for Justino to face at featherweight, a division that was created for her after Cyborg fought at a catchweight of 140 pounds in her first two UFC appearances.
"I would like to fight somebody [at] 145 [pounds], maybe Megan Anderson, and I would like to fight in Australia since I have a lot of fans there," Justino said. "I'm ready for anybody that they put in front."
Justino, a former Strikeforce and Invicta FC champion, was supposed to face Anderson in July for the vacant featherweight title after de Randamie was stripped for refusing to face her. After Anderson pulled out late due to personal reasons, Tonya Evinger filled in as a late replacement and was stopped in Round 3.
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