Women’s FeatherweightsCristiane Justino (20-2) vs. Felicia Spencer (7-0)
ODDS: Cyborg (-680), Spencer (+490)
With Justino having been stopped by Amanda Nunes and this being the last fight on her contract, it is unclear exactly where the women’s featherweight division goes from here. Justino’s career has been a fascinating one. For most of Ronda Rousey’s run, the “Cyborg” fight was clearly the biggest bout on the table, with the UFC even signing the Brazilian powerhouse to compete in Invicta Fighting Championships and keep the hopes of that matchup alive. However, Rousey was never willing to move up in weight, and after “Cyborg” committed to cutting down to 135 pounds, she suffered an injury and somehow came back bigger than ever, essentially scuttling any realistic possibility of that fight taking place. Once Rousey lost and the pressure was off to make that fight, the UFC saw fit to bring “Cyborg” in as an attraction, and after some solid results at the box office, the promotion eventually introduced women’s featherweights to build a division around her. At least that was the plan; a flagged drug test resulted in the UFC kicking off the division without her, though “Cyborg” eventually ascended to the crown roughly two years ago with a win over Tonya Evinger. From there, Justino outclassed inflated bantamweights -- bad scorecards in favor of Holly Holm aside -- and there was not much sense of the UFC building an actual division, as career featherweights like Leah Letson were signed, only to cut down to 135 pounds. Then came the Nunes fight. Nunes was the rare fighter who could put a scare into “Cyborg,” but conventional wisdom was that Justino had become enough of a practiced fighter to leverage her physical advantages into a clear win. Instead, “Cyborg” regressed into the berserker she was much earlier in her career and, in a manner that can only be described as “Garbrandt-esque,” decided to trade bombs with Nunes until she found herself knocked loopy on the canvas. A rematch looms as the most obvious fight for both Justino and Nunes, but it remains unclear how the situation will play out. “Cyborg” has the star power and leverage to command the type of money that usually sees the UFC let fighters walk; and there is also this fight, where, if nothing else, she is finally fighting a natural featherweight in Spencer.
Spencer beat Megan Anderson -- the only other featherweight on the roster besides “Cyborg” -- in May, and even she wondered what was next given the state of her division. Ideally, Spencer would get a bit more seasoning before facing Justino, since she only now seems to be coming into her own as a fighter. For most of her career, the Canadian has gotten by on her aggressive grappling and little else, but near the end of her Invicta tenure, the “Feenom” showed a striking game that had been upgraded to functional. There is not much else to say, as Spencer’s fights have mostly consisted of her constantly trying for takedowns and attempting to find her opponent’s back.
Spencer is a worthy enough opponent, particularly for a natural 145er, but this is basically a return to the days when “Cyborg” would just smash overmatched foes. Even if Spencer was developed into whatever the best form of her career turns out to be, the style matchup is still all wrong for her, as rushing in and trying to outgrapple “Cyborg” has never been the way to get anything positive done. She might be able to stifle Justino for a bit, but eventually, the Brazilian’s strength should take over and allow her to pour on the violence at close range. The pick is “Cyborg” via first-round finish.
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