Following the footsteps of Ronda Rousey, Cris “Cyborg” Justino’s UFC debut lasted a mere 81 seconds in the first round against Leslie Smith for UFC 198. Justino (16-1) has long been considered one of, if not the best female fighters in the world. She had never fought in the Octagon, however, as the promotion does not have her 145-pound weight division.
The 30-year-old Brazilian agreed to cut to 140 pounds to make a UFC debut possible and met Leslie Smith at Arena da Baixada in her hometown of Curitiba, Brazil. The fight ended in a Justino TKO at the 1:21 mark of the opening round, after she knocked down Smith (8-7) with a right hand and finished her with strikes on the ground.
Smith, 33, looked relatively comfortable on her feet against Justino but managed to land only three punches, according to Fightmetric. Justino slipped the majority of her jabs and came back with hard right hands and outside leg kicks. The straight right Justino used to knock down Smith came at the end of a flurry of punches, including a left hook that landed. Referee Eduardo Herdy moved in quickly to stop the bout once Smith went down, even though she appeared to be rolling for a leg to slow Justino down.
It is the sixth consecutive win for Justino, who still holds a 145-pound championship in all-female promotion Invicta FC. Fourteen of her 16 wins have come via knockout, eight of which have occurred in the first round.
After the bout, Justino said she’s open to returning to Invicta to defend her title or signing another 140-pound catchweight in the UFC. She has said in numerous interviews she is hesitant to try a cut to 135 pounds, the heaviest female division in the UFC.
“I’m Invicta champion,” Justino said. “I want to defend my belt or I can fight catch weight in the UFC.”
Justino, who trains out of Southern California, is the former Strikeforce featherweight champion. A potential megafight between Justino and former UFC champion Ronda Rousey (12-1) dominated female MMA headlines for years but never came to fruition. The UFC demanded that fight take place at 135 pounds. Momentum seemed to be building toward it, until Rousey suffered a shocking knockout loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193 in November.
Working with nutritionist George Lockhart, Justino weighed-in for the 140-pound catchweight at 139 pounds. She has not suffered a loss since her professional debut in 2005.
“There is nothing better, I am very happy and I got in there very calm,” Justino said. “I didn’t push hard and I studied more. Many people who have followed me since the beginning were waiting for me to come to UFC. I admire Leslie for coming here, because she made my dream come true.”