The problem with Cris Cyborg and her run as the longest-lasting dominant woman's fighter in history has always been a lack of competition.
Once is became clear that Cyborg (19-1, 1 no contest) was never going to make 135 — the division UFC originally wanted her in — and since it was clear she was putting her health in jeopardy to make 140, the UFC, largely for her, created a 145-pound weight class. The weight class is now one year old, and it is the only weight class in the company with no rankings, no contracted contenders, and a roster that at this point still has only one fighter.
To Holm's credit, this was not the mismatch in either size or talent level that the previous three Cyborg fights were, and really virtually every Cyborg fight of the last decade has been. And really, it was the most competitive of all of Cyborg's fights since she showed up in U.S. for the old Elite XC promotion.
It's more than eight years since Cyborg’s landmark fight with Gina Carano, the one that proved women could both sell tickets and draw television ratings in a main event position on a major show. And since that time Cyborg has been waiting for another fight to have that level of interest.
Saturday's fight with Holm was probably the closest to that. While still an underdog, Holm was Cyborg's first opponent in MMA where it was at least conceivable on paper that she had a path of winning. In theory, it was the skill and footwork of Holm with her Hall of Fame boxing background against the size and power of Cyborg. Holm, looking larger and clearly physically stronger than ever before, kept the fight somewhat competitive for five rounds. It wasn't nearly as close as the scores, 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 would indicate, as Cyborg out-landed Holm in every round, and her shots landed harder. But no rounds were blowouts either.
But with Cyborg's win, we're back to square one. After the fight, two names came up as potential next opponents, bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes (15-4) and Invicta featherweight champion Megan Anderson (8-2).
Anderson was scheduled to fight Cyborg on July 29 in Anaheim, Calif. to determine who would be the UFC featherweight champion. She pulled out for personal reasons and Cyborg ended up beating Tonya Evinger to win the vacant title.
Before UFC 219, Dana White threw around the idea of Nunes fighting the winner of Saturday's main event in a battle of champions, though Cyborg clearly wants her next opponent to be Anderson.
"I don't like to fight somebody from Brazil, but if she (Nunes) wants to fight me, I'll fight anyone Dana White puts in front of me,” Cyborg said Saturday night at UFC 219’s post-fight press conference. “But I say Megan Anderson, because she's 145 pounds and I'd like my division to grow. They need to invest, you need to put the girls at 145."
In the cage after the fight, Cyborg brought up the idea of facing Anderson in Australia, since Anderson is from the Gold Coast of Australia. UFC also has a pay-per-view on Feb. 11 (Feb. 10 in the U.S.) taking place in Perth, Australia.
But Cyborg wasn't pushing to be on that specific show.
"My hand really hurts now because her (Holm's) head is very hard," she said. "I don't know about six weeks."
Regarding Nunes, she made it clear if she was to fight her, it would be for the title at 145, and not a meet-in-the-middle battle of champions at 140.
"No, just 145, no more 140," Cyborg said. "I feel great at 145. This is my division. I'm open to fight anybody."