THE UFC WILL crown its first ever female featherweight champion tonight, but the woman who has been responsible for the organisation’s decision to introduce a 145lbs division won’t be in contention.
Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino (17-1) has widely been regarded as the best female fighter in the world, but her reputation took a significant hit again in December when she was flagged for a potential anti-doping violation for the second time in her career.
Cyborg, who was stripped of the Strikeforce title in Janaury 2012, picked up two wins under the UFC banner in 2016 at a catchweight of 140lbs. After bemoaning the arduous weight cut, the Brazilian reiterated her desire to see a featherweight division introduced by the UFC.
The organisation relented and offered Cyborg an immediate title shot, but she turned it down at first, insisting that she wouldn’t be ready in time. Instead, the UFC matched Holly Holm (10-2) and Germaine De Randamie (7-3) to contest their inaugural featherweight title bout, which headlines UFC 208 tonight at Brooklyn’s Barclays Centre.
Just over a week after the fight was announced, the news of Cyborg’s brush with the United States Anti-Doping Agency emerged. The 31-year-old’s next step is subsequently uncertain but her shadow looms large over tonight’s main event nevertheless.
Former world champions in boxing and Muay Thai respectively, the meeting of Holm and De Randamie has the makings of an entertaining match-up in its own right.
It also offers Holm — the former women’s bantamweight champion — the opportunity to become just the fourth fighter (after Randy Couture, BJ Penn and Conor McGregor) to win a UFC title in two separate weight classes. But beyond tonight, it remains to be seen what kind of a future the UFC’s newest division will have without its biggest name.
UFC 208 is unlikely to break any box office records but there’s certainly enough on the card to justify a late night. In the best of the rest, former middleweight champion Anderson Silva will aim for a first win since October 2012 when he faces Derek Brunson, Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza will be fancied to see off Tim Boetsch, while Dustin Poirier versus Jim Miller has the makings of a cracker.
There’s plenty of quality on the prelims too, including Nik Lentz, Wilson Reis and Ian McCall, who’s finally set to fight for the first time in over two years after the UFC found a replacement (Jarred Brooks) for Neil Seery. The Dubliner was forced to pull out of the flyweight bout due to a family bereavement.
Main card (BT Sport 2 — 3am)
Holly Holm vs. Germaine De Randamie
Anderson Silva vs. Derek Brunson
Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza vs. Tim Boetsch
Glover Teixeira vs. Jared Cannonier
Dustin Poirier vs. Jim Miller
TV prelims (BT Sport 2 — 1am)
Randy Brown vs. Belal Muhammad
Wilson Reis vs. Ulka Sasaki
Nik Lentz vs. Islam Makhachev
Ian McCall vs. Jarred Brooks
Fight Pass prelims (UFCFightPass.com — 12am)
Ryan LaFlare vs. Roan Carneiro
Phillipe Nover vs. Rick Glenn