UFC 198 In Focus: Will Cyborg Live Up to the Hype?

UFC 198 in Curitiba is shaping up to be one hell of a card.

Anderson Silva had an emergency surgery to remove his gallbladder (which means no more impressions?) and Demian Maia is pissed he’s on the under-card, but there are still at least six fights that make the event worthy of purchase from top to bottom.

Among the salivating match-ups are of course the Nogueria and Shogun fights but now that Silva/Hall match is off the main card that leaves room for Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino vs Leslie Smith to take the third-to-last slot of the night.

Justino has had a long career not short on controversy nor accomplishments. Even since testing positive for anabolic steroids – which we call lazy in our podcast – she has four 1st-round-finishes and one 4th-round finish. Not too shabby considering how unbeatable the Brazilian has been in Championship fights.

Whether you want to make it a Barry Bonds situation or not and put an asterisk on all her pre-2012 wins, the fighter formerly known as Cyborg Santos has just one loss and one no decision on her record.

That loss came in her very first fight (submission via kneebar) and since then it’s been nothing but TKOs. Her first and seventh wins were by unanimous decisions, however her other 12 have been finishes; sprinkle in a corner stoppage here, knees to the body there and a victory via stomping for good measure.

For those making the argument that her high levels of testosterone make her an unfair opponent for many women, look no further than her win before ‘pissing hot’, a 16-second KO of Hiroko Yamanaka.

Or, we can reference perhaps the most brutal beating in women’s MMA history vs. Jan Finney, winning Sherdog’s ‘Beat Down of the Year’. This was also arguably the worst refereeing performance in all of MMA by Kim Winslow, who is no stranger to criticism from fighters. View with caution:

Curitiba

Her opponent, Leslie Smith is playing a Keith Jardine role at this point and she has no problem with being labelled a ‘gatekeeper’, even going as far to say she has no desire to fight her friend and Champion Miesha Tate.

Smith maintains a sense of confidence and California-calmness, as expected from a person from a town called Pleasant Hill. At 2-2 in the UFC she’s had two decisions, a loss via doctor stoppage and a TKO win, so predictions of her performance are all over the map. Or they would be, if she wasn’t facing Cyborg at 17:1 odds.

In any case, she seems way more confident than her training partners/friends do (just look at their faces) in recent UFC promos. Nonetheless, she has fought a couple worthy names. A unanimous decision over Raquel Pennington and the fact her loss to Jessica Eye was a doctor’s stoppage gives her some credibility, however no one ever expects anyone to beat Cyborg.

So will we see the same Cyborg that made Gina Carano second-guess her career choice? Or a new Cyborg, version 2.0 that can’t handle the hype & pressure of fighting in the UFC on a huge card at a big venue. All questions will be answered on Saturday.

Bonus Fight: Cyborg vs Carano: Carano puts up a surprisingly good fight and shows a lot of heart.

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