Matches to Make After Bellator 238

Ferocity goes by another name in mixed martial arts: Cristiane Justino.

“Cyborg” strengthened her unparalleled resume with some patented violence, as she buried Julia Budd with punches and captured the undisputed Bellator MMA women’s featherweight championship in the fourth round of their Bellator 238 headliner on Saturday in Inglewood, California. Budd succumbed to blows 74 seconds into Round 4, experiencing her first defeat in more than eight years.

Justino established her dominance from the start—she knocked down the Canadian in the first round—and never relented, pairing steady pressure with mesmerizing bursts of punches, knees and kicks. Budd survived into the fourth round, where “Cyborg” pinned her to the fence and unleashed her hands, feet and knees until the champion collapsed.

In the aftermath of Bellator 238 “Budd vs. Cyborg,” here are four matches that ought to be made:

Cristiane Justino vs. Cat Zingano: Justino became the first woman to win titles in Bellator, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Strikeforce and Invicta Fighting Championships, as she continued to distance herself from a 51-second knockout loss to Amanda Nunes and dazzled in her promotional debut opposite the respected Budd. Now comes the difficult part for matchmakers. With “Cyborg” approaching her 35th birthday, there are no worthwhile contenders available at 145 pounds based on meritocracy alone. Enter Zingano, a recent signee who happens to be the last woman to defeat the aforementioned Nunes.

Juan Archuleta vs. Emmanuel Sanchez-Daniel Weichel loser: In his first appearance since being eliminated from the Bellator featherweight grand prix, Archuleta rebounded from his loss to current champion Patricio Freire in the tournament semifinals with a unanimous decision over Henry Corrales. The former King of the Cage champion has won 19 of his last 20 fights, remains a fixture near the top of the 145-pound weight class and figures to pose a significant threat to his contemporaries for the foreseeable future. Sanchez will lock horns with Weichel in the featherweight grand prix quarterfinals on March 13.

Sergio Pettis vs. Patrick Mix: Pettis made a strong first impression in his Bellator debut, as he leveled Alfred Khashakyan with punches before choking him unconscious with a guillotine just 3:00 into their bantamweight showcase. The Roufusport mainstay could move quickly in a weight class where the title currently sits vacant. Still just 26 years old, Pettis will move deeper into 2020 with the wind of a modest two-fight winning streak in his sails. The undefeated Mix, now 13-0, has finished his past eight opponents, six of them inside one round. He last competed under the Rizin Fighting Federation banner on New Year’s Eve, when he submitted Yuki Motoya with a guillotine choke in 97 seconds.

Aaron Pico vs. Cris Lencioni-Salim Mukhidinov winner: The ballyhooed Pico put an end to a troubling two-fight losing streak and did so in spectacular fashion, as he wiped out Daniel Carey with a crushing left hook 15 seconds into the second round of their undercard tilt. At 23, he remains a work in progress. A September 2018 stoppage of Leandro Higo outlined Pico’s potential, but subsequent knockout losses to Henry Corrales and Adam Borics exposed the Team Bodyshop prospect’s shortcomings. Perhaps Bellator matchmakers have finally decided to pump the brakes on the development of the gifted but green Californian. Lencioni will square off with Mukhidinov at Bellator 239 on Feb. 21.
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