While Mike Winkeljohn, Holly Holm’s longtime striking coach, is confident in his fighter’s ability to defeat newly-crowned featherweight queen Cristiane Justino, it isn’t necessarily a given that the fight will happen.
“There’s talks back and forth,” Winkeljohn recently told Submission Radio. “Right now it’s at a point where Holly fought her last fight at 135. Jumping up in weight with Cyborg cutting, those are issues that we have to think about and decide time-wise what’s best. Holly, on a side note, never will turn down a fight. She’s like, ‘Yeah whatever you want.’ She’ll just go out and fight. She’s OK with fighting Cyborg, there’s no doubt about it. She really wanted to get a shot at [Valentina] Shevchenko again, or [Amanda] Nunes. She just wants a big fight, and she’s very capable of it.”
After falling to Germaine de Randamie at UFC 208 in a bid for the inaugural women’s featherweight championship, Holm returned to 135 pounds at UFC Fight Night 111. There, she halted a three-bout skid with a third-round head-kick knockout of Bethe Correia on June 17. Meanwhile, after de Randamie vacated the belt, “Cyborg” claimed the crown with a third round stoppage of Tonya Evinger at UFC 214 on July 29. Afterward, she called for a future showdown with Holm. This week, she doubled down on that request, targeting UFC 219 on Dec. 30.
Winkeljohn watched Justino dismantle Evinger at UFC 214, and he came away both impressed and confident that the Brazilian wrecking machine can be defeated.
“There’s a lot of ways to look at it. She showed that she can do some more rounds. I wasn’t sure about her conditioning after her weigh cut,” he said. “But there’s some holes in her game, there’s no doubt. I think Evinger showed a lot of that. Tanya’s kind of unorthodox with her striking, and that can make anybody look kind of weird sometimes.
“We definitely see a lot of weaknesses in Cris Cyborg. I like Cris as a person, [but] there’s no doubt there’s some holes in there and she’s definitely beatable.”
Holm began her UFC tenure with three consecutive triumphs, including the knockout of Ronda Rousey that made her a superstar. However, she lost the belt to Miesha Tate via fifth-round submission in her next outing and then dropped a five-round verdict to current bantamweight No. 1 contender Shevchenko. After that came the controversial loss to de Randamie before she was able to return to the win column in June. Despite some recent struggles, Holm remains one of the most polished strikers at either 135 or 145 pounds, and Winkeljohn believes that could cause some problems for Justino.
“I think Holly can pick her apart, no doubt about it,” Winkeljohn said. “What people don’t understand is how strong Holly is in the clinch. On her feet and moving, Cris is definitely going to try to do most of her damage pushing her back against the cage. Good luck keeping Holly there and backing her up coming in that hard. Cris is very strong, but I think Holly wears her down and is able to stop her. Holly’s got the power to stop Cyborg, just like Cyborg’s got the power. The difference is, Holly’s got the speed and the footwork.”
Still, Winkeljohn reiterated that everything has to fall in to place correctly for Holm to agree to face Justino, particularly after she just returned to bantamweight.
“It’s not a time thing. I would like to see Cris be clean for a long period of time….But it’s just about what’s right for Holly right now at this time in her career,” he said. “The Cris Cyborg fight may or may not be the right fight depending on money, where it’s at and if we have enough time to put on a little bit of weight.”