Former Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s featherweight titleholder Cristiane Justino will return to the Octagon to take on Felicia Spencer in the UFC 240 co-main event on Saturday at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta. “Cyborg” finds herself on the rebound following her first loss in 14 years and has drawn what some view as a warmup fight with the undefeated Spencer. Have we already seen the best of Justino, who turned 34 on July 9?
“Cyborg” steps into the spotlight in this edition of The Film Room.
With her career winding down, everyone should know what “Cyborg” is all about at this point. She made a name for herself in Strikeforce when she defeated Gina Carano for the inaugural woman’s featherweight championship, and she has knocked out all but two of her opponents since. Her striking is fairly simple, but her power, aggression and perfection of the basics have allowed her to become one of the most feared strikers in the history of the sport. “Cyborg” spent the majority of her career training with the Chute Boxe team, and she embodies the style that Raphael Cordeiro has been teaching for decades: constant pressure, ripping the body and always looking for the Thai clinch. Cordeiro’s students do not have the deepest bag of tricks, but they learn to get by on perfecting the basics and overwhelming their opponents with pressure. “Cyborg” has now left Cordeiro to train with Jason Parillo and the RVCA team, but the tactics she learned with Chute Boxe remain prevalent in her style today.
Since “Cyborg” is so aggressive, she can easily trap opponents against the cage, at which point she can unload with a flurry of strikes to the head and body. These moments may seem reckless, but they are more technical than they appear. She rarely overextends on her strikes and is always aware of her cage positioning, so as to not let the opponent circle away. She will often switch from throwing combos in the pocket to clinching in an effort to mix up her attack. “Cyborg” will also lay off at times and reset the action before going back to her usual flurries. She also mixes in kicks and punches to the body during these flurries, which are the perfect complements since they force opponents to worry about their entire body and not just the head.
Justino is almost always the leading attacker, but she also has tremendous countering ability when she chooses to stay on the outside. So far, only one woman has been able to deal with her pressure and use it against her. Outside of Amanda Nunes, all of her opponents have been flustered by the pressure, which forces them to lead sloppily and open themselves for counters. Her counters are generally just a right hook or counter lead hook, but her timing has been good enough to land them with ease.
Since “Cyborg” has become famous for her striking, we forget that she can be just as dominant on the ground. She is a black belt in jiu-jitsu under Andre Galvao and has won two world championships, along with being a bronze medalist at the 2009 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships. However, she rarely shoots for takedowns, and most of the ground exchanges in which we see her result from her having dropped an opponent with strikes. Still, nobody should take her grappling lightly.
Once “Cyborg” gets an opponent to the ground, you would never know she is a black belt under a legendary coach. Instead of using her technical prowess on the mat, she will fire off some of the most vicious ground-and-pound in the sport. In fact, about half of Justino’s knockout wins have resulted from her dropping an opponent with the right hand and finishing with ground strikes. She does not have any submission victories in MMA, but we know with her Brazilian jiu-jitsu background that she is certainly capable of it.