Bellator 238: A closer look at Budd vs. Cyborg
There are not a lot of women in the world who can say that they can match Cris “Cyborg” Justino (21-2) for strength, aggressiveness, and toughness. The Brazilian’s record proves that. But, as fate would want it, the Featherweight queen Julia “The Jewel” Budd (13-2), who is set to welcome Cyborg into the Bellator cage in her fourth title defense on Saturday, boasts all of those things. This is going to be a good one!
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Looking at the ceremonial weigh-ins, Budd’s frame actually appears to be bigger than Cyborg’s, and that has also been a rarity for the Brazilian over the span of a 15-year career. This is a really good match up. Stylistically, the way these two contenders like to throw down is very similar. Both Budd and Cyborg like to impose themselves on their opponents. They want them to know that there is only going to be one outcome once the cage door slams shut, and that outcome will only be reached by putting them through hell. They are both ruthless.
Budd and Cyborg are both very powerful and they both love to strike. Budd is a kickboxer. She had a 10-2 professional record before making the transition to MMA, and she utilizes every tool in her arsenal to her advantage each time she sets foot in the cage. The Canadian is riding an 11-fight winning streak heading into this fight, having last tasted defeat eight years ago against Ronda Rousey. Her only other loss? Amanda Nunes. Three of Budd’s last four wins have been by way of TKO. Make no mistake about it, “The Jewel” is not here on this stage by accident.
Budd has been fighting killers all the way throughout her career. “Fearless” was written along the bright yellow top which the reigning champ donned onto the Forum stage on Friday for the final face off against her opponent, and she has proven time and time again that she is just that. Having faced the caliber of opposition that Budd has over the last 10 years is the epitome of fearlessness, and there is no way she can be looked past heading into this fight against Cyborg.
Budd did not want the Cyborg fight a decade ago as she was just setting out on her MMA adventure. And for obvious reasons, her skillset was most certainly not where it’s at today. Now, on the eve of a career defining war, Budd says that “this is the time for this fight.” The confidence is beaming out of the champ. She is the face of the Bellator Women’s Featherweight division and she wears that title with pride. She does not shy away from it. And you just know that she will not back down from Cyborg once they lock fists in the middle of the cage.
For Cyborg, leaving the UFC was a chance to go on a bit of a retreat. She was once the clear and obvious greatest female fighter of all time. There were no questions about that. But once she embarked on the journey into the Octagon and crossed paths with Amanda Nunes, things changed. It was no secret that Cyborg’s relationship with Dana White was not the most amicable. It almost felt at one point like White had it out for the then Featherweight champ and Cyborg felt in a way victimized, and she had every right to do so.
With things turning sour, Cyborg seemed liked she lost some of that fire for fighting. It was evident that she was not in a good place mentally, and once she lost her title to Nunes, suffering her first defeat in 13-years, the general consensus was that her journey in the UFC was over. She had one fight left on her deal and there was no way Cyborg or her team would allow for that to be extended. She needed to go. She needed a change of scenery.
After an all out war with Felicia Spencer in July of last year, Cyborg was on her way. She bowed out on good terms with the fans and on a win. She put a brutal beating on the Canadian and dived straight into free agency. She did not think twice when Scott Coker’s name popped up on her phone. Bellator was the right promotion for her. At this time of her career, everything in Bellator was perfect for her to get back on the right track, to find herself again.
A structured Featherweight division, a boss with whom she’s had positive history, and a dominant champion waiting for her to sign the contract. All of a sudden, all the stars were aligned. Cyborg got away from all the drama and got back to doing what she loved most. She was finally able to once again focus on fighting only. And we’re about to see the results of that.
This fight has all the makings of a potential classic. As aforementioned, these two women matchup very well and this could very well be an all out brawl. The tale of the tape is virtually identical. They are both just as strong. And they are both extremely motivated.
For Budd, this is all about legacy. This is the kind of fight that pushes you into the all time greats bracket. Should Budd win, she will cement her place among women’s MMA royalty. For Cyborg, it’s about the return to being the best version of herself in and out of the cage. Winning the belt in a fourth different promotion would be a bonus, but her status as one of the all time greats is indisputable. Saturday is all about the peace of mind and happiness to fight again that Bellator offered her. This bout is one not to be missed!
Sports journalist based in CA, USA.