Cris “Cyborg” Santos confirmed her spot as best female fighter in the world with a 16 second blowout over Hiroko Yamanaka Saturday night in San Diego. It was an excellent performance that in the end may be a bad thing for the future of women’s MMA.
Remember as a kid watching your favorite sports stars in action? What was your natural response? You grabbed a ball and bat then headed outside trying to mimic what we just saw. That usually led to playing little league baseball or Pop Warner football. I’m not just talking to the guys, the girls on my block played every sport we did and were usually pretty damn good.
I would imagine plenty of you played high school sports and some may even have played in college. We were chasing a dream and having a great time doing it.
What girl watched Strikeforce on Saturday night and said “I want to do that”! “I want to fight “Cyborg”!? Maybe some said they wanted to fight LIKE “Cyborg”, I doubt anyone wanted to be next in line for the featherweight champ. Hamanaka got crushed just as Jan Finney and so many others before her did. Ronda Rousey may have been smiling and waving at ringside, but do we really believe the former Olympian is in a hurry to face Santos at this stage of her career? Rousey has had just 4 professional fights and 3 amateur matches, winning all of them in under a minute. She has been impressive and I get it that you have to be pretty good to have the success worldwide that Rousey has had. Still, I would have sat there quietly hoping Santos left the cage without seeing me.
When asked in her post fight interview about a possible showdown with Rousey, the champ simply said “she talks too much”. Uh-oh. I think the results are bad enough with a happy champion; I don’t want to see what goes down when she enters the cage in a bad mood.
Maybe Rousey is able to tap out the champion as she has done her previous 7 opponents. Maybe she catches Santos charging in, takes the fight to the mat and executes an Armbar to win the title. That’s the scenario Strikeforce officials have to be praying for. Rousey is an excellent fighter, but Santos looks unstoppable right now.
What happens if Santos beats Rousey in the same manner she has defeated world class fighters like Gina Carano and Marloes Coenen? Who does she fight next? Scott Coker the former head of Strikeforce said last week that fighters are dropping down to 135 to avoid Santos. That isn’t good.
When asked his thoughts on women’s MMA, UFC president Dana White has always said the same thing; ”There are some good fighters, just not enough to fill out a division”. If fighters are cutting an extra 10 pounds to avoid a possible beat-down at the hands of Santos, how does that help the long term future of the sport?
Forget about the talk of Santos fighting a man. That is never going to happen. The UFC has enough fires to put out without starting a massive one promoting a fight between a man and a woman.
If you are a young male fighter you try to work your way up the ladder and hope to get a shot in the UFC. If you are a young female fighter you could find yourself in Bellator or Strikeforce pretty quickly due to the lack of quality fighters. If you weigh 135 pounds you could someday face Miesha Tate, Sara Kaufman or Coenen. All excellent fighters, but not the wrecking machine Santos is.
Yamanaka was a 9-1 underdog Saturday night who fought like a 99-1 underdog. Fights are great when you have no idea how they are going to play out. Most of us expected a short night, but I’m not sure anybody saw the fight ending in less than 20 seconds. Yamanaka was in the midst of an 8 fight win streak and had an overall record of 12-1. While all of her previous fights took place in Japan, she was expected to give Santos a good challenge. She didn’t.
If I am Sean Shelby (matchmaker for Strikeforce) I make the Rousey/Santos fight right now. Rousey is the only viable challenge and people want to see the fight. I then pray for a Rousey win to set up not only a rematch, but hopefully to encourage more quality fighters to enter the 145lb division.
Look at the lightweight division. You have 7/10 guys spread out over the UFC, Strikeforce and even Bellator that put together make excellent fights. That’s what we need for the women as well. Start with 5 fighters and work up from there. It generates buzz and keeps the women a major part of the sport. Anymore 16 second blowouts and the buzz goes away replaced by memories.
I am a big fan of Cris Santos, and it was great to see her live, it doesn’t change the fact I think she needs to lose and lose fast if women’s MMA has any chance to survive.