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Rener Gracie: ‘People are giving Cris Cyborg more credit than she deserves’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It's no secret that Ronda Rousey is fast running out of contenders to compete for her bantamweight throne. Following her 14-second victory over Cat Zingano at UFC 184, Rousey has now defeated all five of the top-ranked female fighters in her division. And while there are still decent challenges out there in Jessica Eye and Bethe Correia, there's really only one name that carries the buzz of a potential blockbuster match-up: Invicta FC featherweight champion Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino.

Rousey and Justino share a long and tempestuous relationship with one another, to put it mildly. Talk of a possible superfight between the two rivals reignited once more this past weekend, as both women shared the Los Angeles stage and steamrolled their respective opponents just 24 hours apart from each other, with Justino's 46-second mauling of Charmaine Tweet at Invicta FC 11 only being topped by Rousey's split-second brilliance one night later.

For now the fight remains purely a ‘what if' -- the 10-pound weight chasm between Rousey and Justino keeping the discussion a non-starter until Justino commits to meeting Rousey at 135 pounds. But regardless, if the fight ever does come to fruition, Rousey's jiu-jitsu coach Rener Gracie told MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani on Monday that it may not ultimately be as competitive as many observers believe.

"I think people are giving Cris ‘Cyborg' more credit than she deserves, in the sense of beating Ronda," Gracie said on The MMA Hour.

"No offense to her, she's obviously an amazing athlete and has done amazingly well in MMA, and from what I hear is a great person as well. This is just me personally, I know what it feels like to roll with a very athletic, strong person. People say rolling with Cris ‘Cyborg' is like rolling with a man, you don't have to go easy, you're rolling very hard. And I've rolled with a lot of world class men, martial arts, jiu-jitsu, MMA, and I know what they feel like. Ronda doesn't feel like them.

"That's the whole point," Gracie continued. "She's beyond. I don't say rolling with Ronda is like rolling with a man. I've never said those words and I never will. Rolling with Ronda is like rolling with an alien."

Justino posted a photo on social media of her weighing in at 175 pounds the Sunday after her win over Tweet, only further illustrating the vast size discrepancy between herself and Rousey.

But again, Gracie doesn't believe Justino's physical gifts would mean much if ever matched against Rousey's seamless and adaptive technique.

"I've rolled with very good fighters, all of whom have been compared to ‘Cyborg' in terms of athleticism and her power, and I think all of that is great," Gracie said. "But there comes a point where there's something beyond strength and power and tenacity, right? And that's the special gift that Ronda has, and has sharpened and honed over the last 15, 20 years."

For now, the "Cyborg" discussion remains just one of many debates revolving around Rousey, as the combat sports world continues to adjust to the 28-year-old who may already be the greatest female fighter ever. One of the more eccentric debates, however, continues to be the question of how Rousey would do against her male counterparts.

UFC color commentator Joe Rogan threw more kindling on that fire this past weekend, claiming to ESPN's Dan Lebatard that Rousey "might be able to beat 50-percent" of the 135-pound men under UFC contract. It's a bold claim, no question, though while Gracie downplayed the idea, he also hinted at it being at least partially feasible.

"There's no doubt that she can put it on some men, for sure," Gracie said. "I've seen it happen, and really do some damage.

"Here's the thing, naturally, what everyone is going to say is ‘no' -- that men have the physical strength, the power advantage over someone like Ronda, or any female, you would say. And that's generally a fair statement, I think. But the thing is this: Ronda has some things that I've never felt in even men, if that makes sense. Ronda has a certain flexibility, a dynamic flexibility mixed with strength, and blended with those two, impeccable technique.

"So she can be totally twisting and turning out of a position, as we saw this weekend, and apply a submission like that," Gracie continued. "We've never even seen men do what she did this weekend against Cat Zingano. So in terms of her adaptability, in terms of her dynamic strength, we'll call it, this ability to be strong in weird positions is unprecedented, in any athlete, in any MMA fighter -- and I've worked with a lot of them -- in any weight class.

"Now, you know, what happens when you're going against a man, they put a little more power behind their punches, the knockout power is stronger, and who knows, they can muscle out of submissions a little crazier. But I'll tell you what, once she's latched onto a limb, I don't care who's limb it is, they're going to tap. That's for sure. She finds ways to incorporate her entire body, the leverage of her whole body, against the joint that she's attacking. So I wouldn't put it past her, but I don't know if I'd go so far as to claim [she'd beat most male UFC bantamweights]. It's just, I know what Ronda's capable of and I know for sure that it's not fair, it's not competitive where she's at right now. Because man, she's just too good. I just don't see any woman in the world beating her."