The direction of the UFC’s women’s featherweight division will be decided when Cris Cyborg takes on Felicia Spencer in the co-main event of this weekend’s (Sat., July 27, 2019) UFC 240 from Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Cyborg needs little introduction. The women’s MMA legend is one of the greatest to ever compete. She won the UFC, Strikeforce, and Invicta FC female featherweight titles throughout her illustrious 14-year run in the sport. For most of that run, she was considered borderline unstoppable and carried a seemingly unbreakable aura of invincibility.
But that aura was shattered into pieces in her last bout. Cyborg was knocked out cold by two-division champion Amanda Nunes at last December’s UFC 232. The 51-second fight was one of the most shocking results of 2018. Some believe she could be at the start of her inevitable decline, and Spencer is in a prime position to capitalize on that.
The undefeated Canadian who now trains out of Florida is also a former Invicta 145-pound champ. She stormed into the UFC by submitting Megan Anderson in an impressive Octagon debut this May. With there literally being no other contenders at women’s featherweight, this fight will almost certainly decide who faces Nunes next. The stakes are high in Edmonton for that reason. Let’s break down how these women match up in the major aspects of mixed martial arts (MMA).
It’s fairly cut and dry here, as Cyborg has more than twice as many knockouts as Spencer has professional fights. The Brazilian slugger has won 17 of her 22 total fights by T/KO. You could make a case for her being the most dangerous women’s MMA striker of all-time, or at worst second to Nunes. She’s also competed in professional kickboxing three times and holds a black belt in Muay Thai.
By comparison, Spencer holds one win by knockout, a TKO in her pro debut in Invicta back in September 2015. She is a black belt in Taekwondo, proving she has a striking background. But it’s safe to say Spencer cannot win a prolonged stand-up battle with Cyborg, at least on paper.
This one clearly goes to the legend.
Advantage: 85-15 Cyborg
Just as the striking game should be where Cyborg will shine, taking the fight to the ground should be Spencer’s area of expertise. It’s cliche, but this fight does present an interesting striker vs. grappler match-up in that regard. Spencer has been able to drag her opponents into deep water and tap them out.
She’ll have to get the fight to the ground first. While that will be no easy task because of Cyborg’s feared strength, Spencer should hold a small edge in the wrestling department. Cyborg has shown great resiliency to being grounded thus far in her UFC career. Yana Kunitskaya did ground her briefly at UFC 222. To be honest, however, she hasn’t really fought a true featherweight who repeatedly tried to take her down in the UFC.
Spencer also has a bigger frame than many of Cyborg’s previous UFC opponents who were converted bantamweights. With her focus on getting the bout to the mat in order to both neutralize Cyborg’s striking and end the fight via submission, the wrestling edge should go to Spencer. It still shouldn’t be a walkover for ‘Feenom’ to drag Cyborg down.
Advantage: 60-40 Spencer
As mentioned, this is Spencer’s area of expertise, even more so than her perceived edge in the wrestling department. Spencer holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. She works a variety of techniques on the mat due to her background competing in grappling competitions. In terms of MMA, she’s utilized a lethal rear-naked choke to great results. In fact, she’s won four of her seven pro bouts with that move alone. All in all, Spencer is an expert at getting to her opponents’ backs and choking them out.
It remains to be seen if she can do that to Cyborg. The former UFC champ has a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under the famed Andre Galvao, but we’ve seldom seen her use it. She has no submission wins on her record and obviously chooses to strike it out in her fights. Cyborg was submitted in her first-ever MMA bout back in 2005 but it’s tough to say that fight will have any bearing on this one in 2019.
Still, this is once again Spencer’s area to shine. Cyborg has favored such a stalking, bludgeoning style of Muay Thai that she just hasn’t really looked to grapple at all. Of course, she could surprise us by showing us her game is a wholly well-rounded one in Edmonton. But overall, you have to think Cyborg will be looking to keep it standing while Spencer will be looking to grapple at all costs. That will give this edge to the challenger once again.
Advantage: Spencer 70-30
Aside from those three major areas of technical expertise in MMA, there are some aspects of this fight that are not as quantifiable. Nevertheless, they could come into play significantly at UFC 240.
Of course, Cyborg is coming off of her first loss in roughly 14 years, and it was a brutal one. But it was also a wild, sub-minute fight where if Cyborg had landed one or two more of her own shots, the result may have been different. No fighter stays at the top forever, but that fight didn’t tell us much about where Cyborg really is. Now, if Spencer goes in and finishes Cyborg with ease, it will be easy to say it did.
So in the eyes of her prospective opponents, Cyborg’s armor may have begun to crack. Spencer says she isn’t judging her own match with Cyborg based on her result versus Nunes. Spencer still seems supremely confident and relaxed heading into UFC 240, which could help or hurt her. Regardless, it’s tough to imagine she’d be so loose and happy had Cyborg just run through Nunes like she had basically everyone else.
In that sense, this is a very telling bout for both women. It will decide the future of the women’s featherweight division, but without any contenders lined up beyond these two, it’s hard to predict what’s next after the winner here fights Nunes. This will still be an elite match-up between a WMMA great and an undefeated talent, making it quite the intriguing match-up.
How do Cyborg and Spencer match up in your eyes? Let us know your prediction for the UFC 240 co-main event!