The UFC’s women’s featherweight division is not off to a great start and it may take a while for it to gain any real traction.
It was a mediocre main event to a mediocre fight card. UFC 208 under delivered in many ways on Saturday night and unfortunately for the company it is only the tip of the iceberg as it tries to figure out where to go from here with its newest division.
It may not have been the way the UFC dreamed up the crowning of the first ever women’s featherweight champion but neither was the match up that took place. In a perfect world the UFC would have loved to have Cris “Cyborg” Justino in the main event against Holly Holm. However the UFC and Cyborg could not come to an agreement on a date for the fight. Reports stated that Cyborg was unhappy with the short notice and needed proper time to cut weight to reach 145-pounds. Reports also stated that the UFC countered with a second date, presumably UFC 208, but she again rejected the date citing lack of time for a proper weight cut. Fed up the UFC went ahead and booked Germaine De Randamie in her place and what they received was a controversial ending to what was essentially their plan B.
It should be noted that Cyborg was flagged for a potential violation by the USADA shortly after all this went down and is currently in middle of an investigation.
De Randamie went on to defeat Holly Holm via a unanimous decision but the win was met with controversy as De Randamie struck Holm after the bell not once but on two separate occasions. Holm expressed her dissatisfaction with De Randamie at the post fight press conference, “She hit hard shots after the bell; those are the hardest shots I felt the whole entire fight.” Strikes after the bell have occurred in the sport many times but they are often thought of as accidental. Crowd noise and fighters being so focused and in the moment are often attributed to the accidental strikes after the bell. Holm does not buy any of that when it came to De Randamie’s shots, “It wasn’t like the last punch of a combination after the bell rang. It was intentional and it was after the bell. What can you do?”
Many felt what should have been done was a point deduction or at the very least a warning for De Randamie but the referee Todd Anderson did no such thing, “A lot of times, the first one they give a warning, that’s kind of normal. I wouldn’t expect them to take a point after the first one, even though it was intentional. The second time, at that point you think they’d do something,” Holm said.
With the point deduction the fight could have been close enough to where Holm may have received the decision win or the fight could have been declared a draw. Instead the UFC has an inaugural champion with a negative cloud over her head.
The women’s featherweight division got off on the wrong foot by not having Cyborg, who is widely considered the best female featherweight on the planet, not involved in the fight. The UFC cannot be entirely blamed for not working out an agreement with Cyborg. She seemed unwilling to work with the UFC on a date and was flagged by the USADA for a potential violation. It seems she did just as much as the UFC to not be in this bout. The case can also be made as to why the UFC was in such a rush to create this division and crown a champion after years of stating that they had no intention or interest of creating a featherweight division.
This is almost a worst case scenario for the UFC. The division now has a champion who as unknown prior to the event and she is now labeled as a dirty fighter who barely escaped with the win. To make matters worse many fans believe that Holm and De Randamie do not have a real chance of beating Cybrog in a fight. To add fuel to that fire when De Randamie was asked about a potential fight with Cyborg she stated that she is in need of hand surgery. One can draw their own conclusion to that answer. Despite saying she needs hand surgery; De Randamie has offered a rematch to Holm citing the strikes after the bell and the backlash she has gotten for it. She posted the offer on her Facebook page which was then shared by her management on Instagram.
Another name added to the mix is current Invicta FC interim featherweight champion Megan Anderson. Anderson was called out on Twitter by Cyborg shortly after De Randamie stated she needed hand surgery.
Anderson was quick to shoot down a fight with Cyborg stating in an ESPN article that, “I want to fight Cris, but right now in my career, I’m not going to get the type of money she’s getting.” That part is true as a fight between the two inside the octagon would be very one-sided in terms of payout but Anderson also mentioned that the paychecks may not be the only thing that is one sided, “I’m not running from her, but yes, I know that I need to work on my skills if I’m going to fight the best pound-for-pound female in the world.”
Nobody can fault Anderson for wanting extra time to prepare for Cyborg. This is a woman who has not lost an MMA bout since 2005 and is on an 11-fight streak in where she has won by either KO or TKO. Cyborg is not even officially in the division and already she is having a hard time finding an opponent.
Cyborg is reportedly near to being cleared for her USADA violation and may compete sooner rather than later. The only set back is that she may not have anyone to fight. If Randamie goes ahead with her hand surgery then Cyborg will have to wait it out or take a fight in the meantime. As of right now the only other 145-pound fighter on the UFC’s roster is Holm. Holm is now 0-3 since defeating Ronda Rousey and stepping inside the octagon with Cyborg may not be the best option at the moment but she did state that she would do whatever the UFC asks, “I’m sitting in a spot where my last three fights I’m 0-3, so I’m going to take whatever they give me.”
The UFC’s newest division is definitely not off to a hot start but hopefully they can bring an influx of fighters in from outside organizations and highlight their personalities so that the fans can have more than just Cyborg to watch. All we can do know is wait to see what the next move will be. How long will De Randamie be out if she gets her hand repaired? Will Holm get a rematch? How soon can Cyborg get over her USADA hurdle and fight? Only time will tell and we have to be patient. If only the UFC would have been a little more patient in announcing this division then they could have avoided a lot of this drama.