By: Ty O'Keefe
The minute Amanda Nunes was crowned women's featherweight queen following her stunning win over Cris "Cyborg" Justino, the world of women's MMA changed forever. No longer is there a seemingly-indestructible champion ruling over the women's featherweight division--and often the sport itself. Cyborg has become beatable, and every 145-pounder with a heartbeat imagined themselves in Nunes' position as soon as they saw the fight.
But despite Nunes' historically violent win over Justino, Cyborg still sits atop a very, very, short list of women's featherweight contenders, and it's now obvious that if any 145-pounders want a title shot, they'll probably have to go through the once-immortal former champion. Ultimately, if your someone like Megan Anderson, or possibly Holly Holm or Cat Zingano, the only thing that's changed is that an uncommon talent knocked-out another uncommon talent.
Anderson has continued to be outspoken when it comes to the UFC's handling of her division. Her message throughout UFC 232 fight week was simple; the UFC must search every corner of the globe for women's featherweight contenders. Furthermore, during a recent appearance on The MMA Hour, Anderson spoke to Luke Thomas about Nunes' win over Cyborg, and why she believes Justino's presence hasn't necessarily helped the women's featherweight division.
"I think it's good [Cyborg's loss to Nunes]," said Anderson. "I think Cris--she was on like a 21-fight win streak or something like that, I think her invincibility is what made it hard for people to want to stay in this division because she was so dominant and I have believed for a while that if Cris was to lose, or if she was to not fight anymore, I feel like the division would flourish."
"I honestly think people are scared to fight her and that's why they don't stay in this division. And I think with Amanda showing that there are people out there that have potential and that not everyone is invincible, I hope it shows people that they can stay in this division and start building it."
Anderson has a point. Cyborg was invincible until running into Nunes, and other than that fight---and the Brazilian's bout with Holly Holm, the UFC has been forced to give her fights against obviously over-matched opponents. While we'll never really know for sure, Justino's aura of invincibility has probably played a role in this struggling division's demise.. Nunes was already seen as a once-in-a-generation talent before she knocked-out Justino, and to some extent, until someone else defeats Cyborg, featherweight contenders will continue to see her as the same unbeatable champion she once was.
Moving forward, Cyborg's options are unquestionably limited. She can either become the division's gatekeeper and face Anderson, or, campaign for a rematch with Nunes--something Dana White is currently ruling out.
"I don't think you do," White told the UFC 232 post-fight media when asked if he planned to set a rematch between Cyborg and Nunes [via MMA Fighting]. I mean, it was a pretty convincing win. I gotta get back to the lab and figure it out [what's next for Cyborg], but we'll come up with something for her."
With just one fight remaining on her current UFC contract, Cyborg's time in the Octagon could realistically be coming to an end. The UFC no longer needs her to represent the women's featherweight division, and re-signing her would lock the UFC into potentially years of searching for worthy opponents that, other than arguably Anderson and Cat Zingano, simply don't exist. But Cyborg is an MMA icon and future hall-of-famer, and that alone may be enough to keep her fighting in the sport's leading promotion.