Where, oh where, is Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, and when will she make it to the UFC?

As Cyborg reigns as Invicta’s Featherweight Champion, Ronda Rousey, the biggest star in the UFC, finds herself in an all too familiar position: sitting aloft of a division bereft of real challengers, waiting for someone who could conceivably be heir to her throne.

To date, only Miesha Tate has come close, and by “close” I mean “made it into the third round” — or, more accurately, “made it past the first.”

Still, Tate remains the biggest challenge out there for Rousey, even after the champion has defeated “Cupcake” twice. This is all the more evident by Tate’s lopsided victory over would-be title challenger Jessica Eye last weekend at UFC on FOX 16, and by her dismantling of Sara McMann prior to that. In fact, Tate has only ever lost to Rousey (twice), Sarah Kaufman, Cat Zingano, and Kaitlin Young. Outside of Young, who Tate faced in just her second pro fight, that’s essentially the best of the best.

Yet while Tate has earned herself a third shot at the champion, it only serves to underline how desperately in need of challengers the division really is. Great expectations were placed on boxing champion Holly Holm, but while she is 2-0 in her young UFC career, she needs to be tested against top ten level competition, and thus far, she just doesn’t look ready (admittedly, her style might give Rousey some difficulty, but it’s hard to say just how much).

With Julianna Pena perhaps the only other interesting candidate other than Holm currently in the UFC that Rousey hasn’t faced, and with Pena just back from a long injury layoff and in need of a couple more wins, that leaves Rousey looking at a very thin crop of candidates once a potential third bout with Tate is out of the way, assuming she comes out victorious.

Which brings us back to Cyborg. The time is now for the UFC to bring her in. Should Rousey defeat Beth Correia at UFC 190 this evening, and it’s likely that she will, the promotion needs to capitalize on her appearance in Brazil. Word has it that Cyborg will be cage side, and as much as staged confrontations can reek of poor taste in mixed martial arts, in this case, some sort of staredown might be warranted.

For those worried about Cyborg making weight, fear not. In the end, money is a great motivator, and the UFC should have given Justino top dollar a while ago to make the cut in proper, healthy fashion, focusing on diet rather than sweating out the weight. Now, with only a third fight with Tate really relevant in the division, the UFC may find its hand forced.

Failing that, it might be time for Rousey to take time off for another movie project, giving the division time to catch up with her. The only problem is, for every advancement they make, Rousey herself is getting better, always a step or two ahead of them.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.