Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino for years was the most feared female fighter in the world, but through an odd and often difficult-to-understand set of circumstances, it wasn’t until Saturday that she finally made it to the UFC.
She reminded fans who hadn’t seen here before why her reputation was so out-sized, landing two-thirds of her strikes in a one-sided demolition of Leslie Smith at UFC 198 in her hometown of Curitiba, Brazil.
For years, fans have longed to see Cyborg compete in the UFC. She built an extraordinary record, losing her pro debut in 2005 and then reeling off 15 consecutive victories, most by first-round finish.
When the UFC made the trip to Curitiba, the deal was finally made to bring her in, though she fought at a catch weight of 140 pounds.
Smith never had a chance.
Justino, who sprinted to the cage and seemed to soak in every second of the loud ovation she received from her hometown fans, roared out of her corner and put Smith away quickly.
She landed two rights in the opening 10 seconds of the bout that set the tone for the fight.
She finished it at 1:21, landing a right hand, a kick, a left hook and two more rights.
“Thank you, everyone,” she said in exultation in the cage. “This is a dream come true.”
It was more of a nightmare for Smith, who never was really in the bout. She spent her time backpedaling and trying to find a way to fend off the powerful striker who was intent on doing damage.
She is a featherweight, a division the UFC does not have, and holds the Invicta championship. But she’s been under contract to the UFC for a while and said she hopes to fight in the Octagon again.
Most of the UFC’s big names are already booked. Champion Miesha Tate will defend her title at UFC 200 on July 9 in Las Vegas. Former champ Holly Holm is set to headline a July 23 card against Valentina Shevchenko.
And the woman most fans wanted to see Justino fight, former champion Ronda Rousey, is expected to fight the Tate-Nunes winner in November at Madison Square Garden.
Since Justino wasn’t hurt, she should be able to fight in July. Since UFC president Dana White promised another major fight to be added to UFC 200, hopefully he can find a way to put Justino on that showcase card.
In running her record to 16-1 on Saturday, she reminded everyone what UFC fans missed for so long. She’s one of the best in the world and belongs in the UFC for the rest of the way.