Cristiane Justino personifies ferocity perhaps better than any other fighter in mixed martial arts, male or female. “Cyborg” wields a special kind of savagery.
The reigning Invicta Fighting Championships featherweight titleholder will make her second appearance inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship in a headlining gig opposite Lina Lansberg on Saturday at Nilson Nelson Gymnasium in Brasilia, Brazil. Their catchweight clash at 140 pounds sits atop the UFC Fight Night “Cyborg vs. Lansberg” card, as the UFC heads to South America for the first time since May.
In the featherweight co-main event, Nova Uniao standout Renan Barao locks horns with “The Ultimate Fighter 8” finalist Phillipe Nover. The rest of the six-fight main draw features a heavyweight tilt pairing Roy Nelson with Antonio Silva, a lightweight encounter slotting Francisco Trinaldo against Paul Felder, a middleweight battle matching Thiago Santos with Eric Spicely and a featherweight affair pitting Godofredo Castro against Mike de la Torre.
Let us take a closer look at each UFC Fight Night 95 matchup, with analysis and picks:
Women’s FeatherweightsCristiane Justino (16-1) vs. Lina Lansberg (6-1)
THE MATCHUP: Lansberg is pretty good. She has only been competing professionally for four years, but she claims to have at least 85 muay Thai fights under her belt, and that level of striking experience comes through in her MMA bouts. Lansberg fights out of a solid, compact stance and keeps her feet under her better than the vast majority of previous “Cyborg” opponents. She is a crisp puncher with a sneaky left high kick. Lansberg’s muay Thai background has also granted her a solid clinch game, an area in which Justino typically dominates opponents desperate to take her down. Lansberg understands how to use head position to neutralize her opponent. True to her nickname, the “Elbow Princess” will happily work elbows and knees against the cage.
Those skills might have actually been enough to defeat the “Cyborg” of 2011, but Justino has not been resting on her laurels. She has, in fact, been training extensively with Jason Parillo, the same man who helped Michael Bisping complete his transformation from fidgety out-fighter to dangerous boxer-puncher. Like Bisping, “Cyborg” has made vast improvements to her footwork and positioning. She could have simply overwhelmed Leslie Smith in her UFC debut, but instead, Justino calmly pressured Smith with sharp footwork, made her jump with a power jab and hammered her with thudding counter combinations, staying balanced and moving her head with every punch and kick.
“Cyborg” is not only a physical force but an intelligent, patient and technical kickboxer. That does not even mention her grappling. Justino is a capable wrestler. Her reliance on lifts and sacrifice throws is a little worrying, but she is powerful enough that no opponents thus far have managed to make her pay. “Cyborg” possesses a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Andre Galvao. She not only took down Marloes Coenen repeatedly in 2013 but effortlessly passed the submission specialist’s guard and battered her from top position.
The last meaningful evidence we have seen of Lansberg’s grappling ability was in her MMA debut against Pannie Kianzad, and she was thoroughly dominated on the floor. Kianzad is a very good fighter and Lansberg has almost certainly improved her ground game in the four years since, but she has a mighty deficit to make up before she can match Justino’s grappling chops.
THE ODDS: Justino (-1250), Lansberg (+700)
THE PICK: Solid striking and clinch wrestling are two of the most important skills to have against “Cyborg,” but mindset is even more crucial. Most of Justino’s opponents, including the ultra-tough, Diaz-esque Smith, are cowed by the woman before ever setting foot in the cage. Lansberg has been speaking confidently, and her vast combat sports experience will most likely have her better prepared for the fearsome “Cyborg” than anyone before. In the end, however, that should only be enough to make “Cyborg” work; it will not be enough to beat her. Justino is a fully developed mixed martial artist and a woman constantly seeking improvement in every area of her game. Lansberg will make the early striking and clinch exchanges interesting, but she will eventually become No. 17 on Justino’s long list of wins. The pick is “Cyborg” by second-round TKO.
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