Mixed martial arts and Muay Thai are two completely different sports. Just because Cris Cyborg lost Friday night at Lion Fight to Jorina Baars doesn’t mean she’s still not one of the top two best women’s MMA fighters in the world.
But MMA, unlike other sports, is all about perspective. It’s not so much about how good you are, it’s how good people think you are. And you better believe fans will have a different view of Cyborg now after this loss. Because not only was she defeated, she was roughed up.
Baars dropped Cyborg three times. She was dominant early on. We saw a different version of Cyborg on Friday night. Gone was the ferocious force of nature that couldn’t be beat. In its place was a gutty, iron-chinned woman who was tough as nails, but a little lacking in technique. In other words, Cyborg was more Diego Sanchez than Anderson Silva.
Like it or not, Cyborg’s loss will have a huge effect on her potential future with the UFC. Before now, Cyborg had a ton of leverage. The kind of leverage held by someone who hasn’t lost a combat sports bout in nine years. She doesn’t have that anymore.
UFC president Dana White and women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey have said that Cyborg needs the UFC more than the UFC needs Cyborg. If it wasn’t true before, now it absolutely is. Cyborg’s loss at Lion Fight makes her signing with the UFC and a bout with Rousey even more likely.
Why? How does that make any sense? It’s simple. Cyborg is a prize fighter. Combat sports is her job. Splitting time between MMA for Invicta FC and Muay Thai for Lion Fight was already not going to pay her as much as the UFC would. Now, we’ve seen her get handled in Muay Thai by Baars, who is undefeated, but hasn’t competed in the sport for three years. Her stock has dropped for a company that probably can’t afford to pay her top dollar anyway.
There’s only one fight that makes sense for Cyborg now and that’s Rousey. And then maybe a rematch with Rousey down the line. She can also make pretty decent money in fights against Miesha Tate and maybe even a rematch with Gina Carano if and when she returns to MMA.
Do you see the common thread with these fights? They’re not in Invicta or Lion Fight; they’re all in the UFC.
The question surrounding Cyborg has always been whether or not she can make the UFC’s 135-pound weight class. She fought Baars at 145 and will defend her 145-pound title for Invicta sometime before summer before a planned attempt at cutting to bantamweight.
That’s no chip shot, either. Cyborg posted a picture of herself next to former Frankie Edgar this week. She is considerably bigger than the former UFC 155-pound champion, which is remarkable.
Will a fight between Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg ever happen?
Let’s say she does make 135 this year for Invicta. Once she proves that and continues to test clean for performance-enhancing drugs (another hang-up in her career), the UFC won’t have many excuses left not to sign her. And her career options are dwindling. At 28, she’s still in her prime, but the window is never very big.
Friday night’s loss at Lion Fight shouldn’t have any bearing on Cyborg’s standing among the best female MMA fighters in the world. But looking human in any kind of fight affects her contract leverage for sure. She’s no longer an unbeatable, merciless machine.
And that’s good news for MMA fans, because it means putting together Rousey-Cyborg just got a little easier.