MMA Fantasy Fights: Nunes-Cyborg is the MMA Rematch We Were Robbed Of

January 8, 2024
5 months

Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg are two of the best mixed martial artists of all time. They may be the two best female fighters of all time. But when they collided in the octagon together at UFC 232, the fighter lasted 51 seconds.

Nunes pulled off one of the all-time shockers in MMA history. It wasn’t so much a surprise that she beat Cyborg. MMA is a high-variance sport, and anyone can get caught on a bad night. But Nunes flattened Cyborg.

The fight would only last 51 seconds. Nunes and Cyborg traded wild haymakers early on. Nunes backed Cyborg up along the fence and hit her with a straight right that sent her on all fours, allowing Nunes to win the featherweight championship and to become the first female simultaneous champion in UFC history.

Because of the lack of challengers in the 145-pound featherweight division, many thought the fight could happen again. But it never did. It’s still worth taking a look at how that second fight may have gone, according to MMA news sites.

Cyborg Set Standard for Women’s MMA

Cyborg, 38, has durability like few athletes have ever had. She turned professional in 2005 and has 29 career fights. Cyborg has her roots in Muay Thai but has also competed in several grappling competitions during her career. It wasn’t an easy climb to the top for Cyborg.

When she first started fighting, there was no top to climb to. Many major MMA promotions didn’t sponsor women’s fights. EliteXC was one of the first promotions to push a major female star. Gina Carano was the early star of EliteXC, which was eventually absorbed by Strikeforce.

Carano was a tough fighter but was known more for her marketability due to her personality and overall looks. Cyborg would win the inaugural Strikeforce women’s featherweight championship by stopping Carano with punches with one second left in the first round.

Looking For a Home

While the early days of women’s MMA were tough on all fighters, they were particularly difficult on fighters in heavier weight classes. Typically, there wasn’t enough quality opposition to fill a 145 or 150-pound weight class. Once Strikeforce was bought by the UFC, Cyborg went to the all-female promotion Invicta. To no one’s surprise, Cyborg dominated the division. She won the title in her second fight in the promotion, then defended the belt three times by KO or TKO. All of those successful defenses eventually led to her finding success in the UFC.

The UFC created a featherweight division and signed Cyborg to a deal. Cyborg won the vacant title in July 2017 at UFC 214 in Anaheim. Cyborg would defend it twice, against Holly Holm and Yana Kunitskaya, before Nunes came up a weight class for a super fight.

Nunes Didn’t Look Like Future All-Time Great

Nunes is now generally considered the greatest women’s fighter of all time. But after 13 career fights, Nunes had a 9-4 record and didn’t appear to be headed toward greatness. At UFC 278 in September 2014, Nunes took a TKO loss to former title challenger Cat Zingano.

All of a sudden, things changed. Nunes was able to fine-tune her well-rounded game and run off seven straight victories. Those victories came against top-flight competition. Nunes won the bantamweight championship by submission over Miesha Tate in July 2016. She then knocked off former championship Ronda Rousey and flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko in a pair of super fights.

Following a win over Raquel Pennington at UFC 224, she was ready to take on Cyborg.

Featherweight Division Folds Up Quickly

Nunes’ devastating punching power did more than fold Cyborg up like a card table. It crumpled an entire division. Cyborg started beefing with UFC CEO Dana White over money. The UFC declined to re-sign Cyborg after the fight, according to the best MMA news site.

Nunes would defend the featherweight championship twice, against Megan Anderson and Felicia Spencer. The belt was never defended after Nunes’ win over Anderson at UFC 259 in March 2021. It was vacated when Nunes retired in June 2023.

While the UFC hasn’t said so formally, the division is likely not going to be revived. The featherweight division only had three champions during its short run. Germaine de Randamie won the inaugural title fight in February 2017 and also held the belt but refused to defend it against Cyborg and was stripped of the championship.

Success Continues After Feud Ends

MMA breaking news shows Nunes took a stunning loss at UFC 269 and lost her bantamweight championship to Julianna Pena. However, Nunes got revenge seven months later by taking the title back with a decision win. Nunes defended her title one more time against Irene Aldana last June to end her career at 23-5.

Cyborg is still chasing a superfight with Kayla Harrison in the PFL. After leaving the UFC, Cyborg went to Bellator and dominated their featherweight division. Cyborg won the title by beating Julia Budd by TKO in January 2020 and defended her title five times.

Rematch Would Likely be Different

While Nunes is capable of beating Cyborg again, it’s hard to imagine the fight going the same way. Both women were reckless and willingly traded wild shots in the center of the cage. But Cyborg, who is 27-2 with one no contest in her career, would have adapted.

Nunes had a clear speed advantage. Cyborg would want to try to slow things down. While Cyborg is more known for her striking, she is capable of changing levels and trying to mix things up. Both women have victories over some of their best contemporaries.

Nunes and Cyborg should have fought one more time. While Nunes did win decisively, Cyborg was one of the top opponents for Nunes in that weight division. Perhaps they could have inspired more women in that weight range to compete. But we’ll never know.

A second fight between the two would have been fireworks. Nunes may have gotten her hand raised again, but it definitely wouldn’t have lasted only 51 seconds.

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