Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos (standing) vs. Jan Finney | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Sherdog’s Beatdown of the Year
By Chris Nelson
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “beatdown” as ... well, it’s not in the dictionary, but a beatdown in mixed martial arts is not tough to spot.
Rare is the sort of prolonged pummeling that makes spectators fear deeply for one -- and only one -- of the participants’ well-being. It is the kind of drubbing that leaves even the most desensitized fight fan wincing and wondering, “Why was that allowed to happen?”
While qualifying a beatdown is fairly simple, quantifying one in proportion to another can get tricky. Does one favor the brutish, first-round lumping that Cain Velasquez dealt Brock Lesnar in their meeting at UFC 121, or Jose Aldo’s 25-minute dissection of Urijah Faber at WEC 48?
Sherdog’s “Beatdown of the Year” for 2010 falls somewhere between those two extremes, somehow making it more extreme than either. Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos’ fight with Jan Finney ended quickly enough to fit on a single YouTube video and yet seemed to stretch out endlessly as it took place. In short, it was exactly the kind of event one might expect to see when a fighter nicknamed “Cyborg” runs up against one dubbed “Cuddles.”
To fully elucidate the brutality, a bit of background:
In August 2009, after showing promising bursts of violence in her first three bouts stateside, the 24-year-old Santos took on poster girl Gina Carano for the first-ever Strikeforce women’s 145-pound championship. Cyborg confirmed her spot as one of the world’s best female fighters by decimating the superstar with a beating so sound that, 16 months later, the previously undefeated Carano has yet to return to MMA.
In January, the newly-minted champion made her first title defense against veteran Marloes Coenen. The Dutchwoman held an experience edge of five years and 10 fights over the Brazilian, but it made little difference. Santos bullied her challenger for 13 minutes before finishing Coenen with punches in the third frame. The defeat prompted Coenen to drop to 135 pounds, where she captured a Strikeforce title of her own nine months later.
As Santos laid waste to opponents in Strikeforce, Finney was experiencing something of a mid-career resurgence on the Midwest circuit.
A personal trainer and self-described MMA hobbyist, the Ohioan entered 2009 with a record of 4-7, having won just one of her previous six outings. Following a pair of technical knockout wins over neophyte opponents, Finney joined Oklahoma-based Freestyle Cage Fighting’s 135-pound grand prix, the winner of which was promised a Strikeforce contract.
After earning decisions over Lizbeth Carreiro and Adrienna Jenkins to reach the tournament final, Finney withdrew from her rematch with fellow finalist Shayna Baszler. She had received the call-up from Strikeforce and would fill in for former opponent Erin Toughill against Santos.
When the June 26 title fight was announced, some bookmakers placed Cyborg as high as a -2500 favorite to beat Finney, an almost unprecedented line for an MMA fight. In comparison, lines for that evening’s main event put Fedor Emelianenko around -600 to defeat Fabricio Werdum.
In retrospect, -2500 might have been a bit conservative. As the match began inside the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., Finney met Santos in the center of the cage, began tentatively flicking out her left jab and then laid a right cross on the cheek of the champion. The punch connected exactly five seconds into the first round; it was to be Finney’s cleanest offense of the fight.
Rather than stand toe-to-toe throwing haymakers, the Chute Boxe-trained Cyborg clinched with Finney, muscling her challenger into the fence and going to work with knees to the body. When the fighters disengaged, Santos clipped Finney with a left hand that sent the underdog to her knees, where she wobbled forward and looked for a takedown. It did not come, and, as Finney got back to her feet, Santos cracked her with a knee to the face that looked as though it would have knocked out most other fighters, male or female.
One minute into the fight, Finney already looked to be in serious trouble, her face flushed red, a cut beneath her left eye from the knee strike.
Cyborg went back to the clinch, tenderizing her opponent’s midsection with more knees. She stepped back and launched a volley of vicious punches that put Finney on her rear. Clinging desperately to Santos’ right leg, Finney ate more punches and hammerfists; referee Kim Winslow warned Santos for punching the back of Finney’s head. The challenger found momentary respite as she rolled into guard, trying to create breathing room with upkicks, but Winslow soon motioned her back to her feet.
Finney was upright for approximately four seconds before another half-dozen punches from Santos sent her back to her knees. When Finney rolled to guard this time, Santos gave her no quarter, shucking the challenger’s legs and wailing away. Finney turtled, and an overzealous Cyborg again let her punches stray to the illegal zone. Winslow appropriately deducted a point, though anyone watching knew that it was moot.
Action resumed, as did the clinching and Santos’ phone booth abuse. More gut-wrenching knees and close-quarter punches prompted Finney to step back and wing some shots of her own, but Santos marched forward, unfazed. A left jab snapped Finney’s head back, her blonde bob shaking. Another sent her to the canvas once again with 60 seconds still to go in the opening round. Lying at the base of the cage, Finney pushed away Santos with an upkick.
“Do you want her up?” Winslow asked the champion.
Rather than responding verbally, Santos lurched forward three steps and sought to finish her challenger where she lay. Cyborg threw a single punch that grazed the back of Finney’s head, though only because she was diving for cover. As Finney covered up in the fetal position, Santos glanced up at Winslow, seemingly asking the official to halt the action. But no stoppage came, and Finney rode out the final 30 seconds of the round on the mat, eating more unanswered punches.
After some examination from the cage-side physician, Finney was cleared to enter the second round, which she started same as the first, with her landing a single right hand to the champion’s face. This time, however, she took several punches in return from Santos, who now seemed to move with a justified sense of invincibility. A stiff Santos jab sent Finney shooting on her knees, where she stayed as Cyborg teed off with more punches. Winslow stood nearby, closely watching the punishment and repeatedly instructing Finney to fight back.
Cyborg passed to Finney’s left and rained thunderous blows from the knee-on-belly position. As Santos stood to stack her challenger, Finney grabbed at a desperation heel hook. Santos easily stepped out of the submission, prompting Winslow to issue her final stand-up order of the night.
Somehow still able to stand, Finney lobbed punches at Cyborg, who answered with corking right hooks to her already-swollen left eye. The fighters clinched and stalled; as they were restarted, Finney continued to press forward, before being socked by a pair of crisp left jabs.
Santos smelled blood, fired off more punches and then laced her hands around the back of Finney’s neck. Cyborg drove her right knee sharply into Finney’s stomach, and the challenger collapsed to the mat, prompting Winslow to wave off the match at 2:56 of the second round. After all the battering she had taken above the neck, it was a single, vicious knee that finally ended Finney’s nightmare.
The numbers from CompuStrike detail the dominance of Cyborg’s performance: Santos scored six clean knockdowns to Finney’s zero, landing more than six times as many total strikes (141 to 23). Still, statistics cannot explain everything. On June 26, it took Santos’ unrelenting brutality and killer instinct, combined with Finney’s granite chin and oversized heart, to produce the most sensational beatdown of the year.
Continue Reading » Page Four: Upset of the Year