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Bellator MMA kicks off its 2020 campaign at the Forum in Inglewood, California, with a star-studded lineup. Long-reigning featherweight champion Julia Budd will face the toughest test of her career when the legendary Cristiane Justino steps into the Bellator cage for the first time to try to capture a new piece of gold.
The Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix Quarterfinals will continue in the evening’s co-main event when former bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell squares off against the undefeated Adam Borics, with the winner getting the chance to face off with A.J. McKee in the semi-finals.
Here is a closer look at the main card
Budd enters the Bellator cage on Saturday riding an 11-fight winning streak which spans over eight years. “The Jewel” has faced off against top competition in the past with mixed results. She holds wins over the likes of Germaine de Randamie and Marlos Coenen, but she has also come up short against Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey. If she can successfully defend her title against Justino, she will cement her legacy as one of the greatest female fighters in history. The 13-2 professional is a strong Muay Thai practitioner who loves to work from behind her large arsenal of kicks. Her leg kicks and teep kicks to the body are her specialty. She is a rudimentary boxer, often throwing basic 1-2 punches down the pipe without much zing on them. She was highly criticized for her second bout against Arlene Blencowe and her scrap against Roberta Samad for being very tentative. In both fights, she was easily backed up against the cage and threw single strikes at a time. She picked up her aggression in her last two bouts, however, scoring TKO victories over Talita Nogueira and Olga Rubin. The Jewel is very strong when she gets the Thai plum and can bully her foe with knees and elbows. She does well mixing in takedown attempts with her striking and has good timing on her entries. If she can’t get on her opponent’s hips, the 36-year-old is comfortable grinding her opponent against the fence in the clinch position. The British Columbia native has great top control and likes to punish her foes with heavy ground strikes. The Gibson MMA team member isn’t much of a submission threat, with only one submission win on her record. One of the biggest knocks on the Bellator champion is that she has been very inactive, only fighting once in 2018 and once in 2019.
Justino embarks on her Bellator career with an immediate chance to be crowned the organization’s champion. The female that Bellator President Scott Coker calls the “greatest of all-time” will be looking to add another belt to her mantle, which already includes UFC, Strikeforce and Invicta FC featherweight titles. Cyborg saw a 13-year undefeated stint ended when she lost her UFC title to current double champion Amanda Nunes, but she was able to bounce back with a lopsided decision over Felicia Spencer last July in her final fight with the UFC. The 34-year old is a physical specimen who fights as a pressure counter striker. She swarms her prey when an opening presents itself with a barrage of powerful combinations. Her overhand right is her best strike, but her left hook might be just as deadly. You won’t find many people willing to argue that Cyborg doesn’t possess the most power in her strikes in all of WMMA. She doesn’t just rely on power, though, having displayed great accuracy when she throws. She isn’t just a boxer, either; she dispatches very hard leg kicks and can end combinations by checking her opponent’s chin with her foot. Justino sometimes makes the mistake of being overconfident and just walking through her opponent’s punches to land a combination of her own. Her reckless abandon style cost her dearly against Nunes, as she just ran into a perfectly placed right hand which she never recovered from, ultimately being knocked out seconds later. While the Brazilian doesn’t often look to bring fights to the ground, she thrives there, as well. She brutalizes her opponent in the clinch with knees before the fight hits the ground, and from on top she pummels her foe with ground strikes and is a legit grappling talent, having won the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s world championship twice. It has been well-documented that Justino cuts a lot of weight to hit the featherweight limit, and the strain on her body makes of her gas tank a major question mark — though Joe Rogan’s narrative of her slowing down in her fight against Spencer was false, as she clearly turned up the pressure in the third and final round.
While this is a fantastic fight on paper, I don’t believe that it will be very competitive. The Brazilian appears to have the advantage in every area. She is more aggressive, can match or surpass Budd’s strength, has more of a killer instinct and a better ground game. I think Cyborg captures her 4th title in a major MMA organization. Cyborg by third-round TKO.
Continue Reading » Caldwell vs. Borics