‘Cyborg’ Santos offers fans fun fights, but not what we really want

It was another easy, dominating, and virtually guaranteed win for Chris Santos against another completely outmatched opponent on Saturday night in Brasilia, Brazil – a night in which the female MMA star gave us no hope for the future matchups that we all want to see.

Chris ‘Cyborg’ Santos is an absolute monster in the cage. Physically, she makes even the most imposing female athletes look out of shape. Her mentality is unmatched too, as she looks as confident as someone who can see the future. And in a way, she can. Before a bout, sports psychologists tell fighters to envisage in their minds their victory. For Cyborg, I imagine that she pictures her opponents as a crumpled mess on the ground, while she reigns down gigantic bombs. It’s how every single one of her fights go, after all.

This one was no different, of course. Sweden’s Lina Langsberg, nicknamed ‘Elbow Princess’ was game, tried her best, and even got out of the first round, but the result was of course the same. Lina managed to land 14 significant strikes (of which I remember zero) compared to Cyborg’s 84. In the clinch is where Cyborg looked the most dominant, using her Muay-Thai skills to land devastating knees to Lina’s body. She’d bring the leg up high, and slam sideways into Lina’s ribs. I winced each time one landed. Once Cyborg had her prey wounded and grounded, the cinderblocks for fists that reigned down on Lina were hard to watch. The referee saved Lina halfway through the second round.

There’s no denying Cyborg’s domination of the 145lb division. There’s literally no-one there that could give her a decent fight. But this isn’t because there’s no-one good enough, it’s because the best female fighters have (of course) followed the money. The money is in the UFC, and the UFC doesn’t have a 145lb division. So any woman who could be good at 145lbs currently is simply making the decision to cut weight and fight at 135lbs. Miesha Tate, for example, is a natural 125lber, but that division doesn’t exist, so she fights larger women at 135.

So simply put, the women that could give Cyborg a real fight are in the UFC already. They are: Amanda Nunes, Holly Holm, Ronda Rousey, Valentina Shevchenko, and others. In fact, looking at the entire women’s bantamweight division top 10, I think every single fighter has skills to give Cyborg a good fight. But there’s absolutely no benefit in taking one of these weird catchweight 140lb fights (unless the UFC make the night worth your while) in terms of climbing the ranks, because to have a war with Cyborg is not going to get you any closer to a title that Cyborg seems to have no interest in herself.

So this leaves us with the problem that we’ve had since forever. If Cyborg really believes in herself, and wants to stop fighting the rest and start fighting the best, she has to come down to 135lbs. She says that’s impossible for her. Clearly given her physique, a weight cut for her right now to 135 would be dangerous, and leave her a weakened mess. No-one would recommend it. BUT. If Cyborg wants to be remembered as the greatest, she needs to plan for the future. She needs to meet with the world’s best dieticians and sports scientists and think years ahead. Losing muscle mass might not sound appealing, but if Cyborg really wanted to, she could eventually make the 135lb weight limit and add the UFC title to her achievements. Her constant stating that it is impossible (or more importantly, that it will always be impossible in the future) is a lie that is only convincing herself.

The problem is that Cyborg enjoys the niche that has been carved out for her. She holds the Strikeforce belt, gets to beat up on fighters who are no-where near her level, and occasionally she gets a nice big payday for fighting at these random UFC Brazil events. She is far too…comfortable. In the octagon after the fight, Jon Anik asked Cyborg about the UFC belt, and Cyborg said “I already have two belts at home. I just want to put on superfights for my fans and make them happpy.” Nothing about her demeanour made me think she was hungry. This saddens me. The greatest athletes are hungry for what they’ve not yet achieved, but Cyborg only looks at what she has already done.

In a later interview, Cyborg at least realised that the level of opponent she was facing was poor. She said she would now only fight top 10 ranked opponents, but still at her 140lb catchweight. Which leaves us with the same conundrum we had before. It’s a riddle that Cyborg needs to solve, otherwise her name will be forgotten in years to come, while the rest of us talk about MMA’s female legends- Rousey, Tate, Nunes and more- the fighters who were happy to take on a new challenge.

Lawrie Williams

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