Akano vs. Cyborg Aftermath

Jeffrey EngmannCorrespondent IApril 13, 2009

Life really isn't fair. If you're Hitomi Akano, you know this all too well.

The 34-year-old Akano, found herself trapped in a compromising situation even before the opening bell was rung in her Strikeforce debut on Saturday Night. Less than 24 hours before Akano stood bravely in front of Women's MMA premiere fighter Cris Cyborg, she watched her opponent stand dazed on a weigh-in scale.

Carrying the future of women's MMA and great expectations on her back, Cyborg disappointingly weighed 7.5 pounds over the fight's contracted weight of 145 pounds.

Admirably, Akano accepted the fight and was compensated for her opponent's disregard for the limit. Later, Cyborg's management would blame her inability to make weight on "womenly problems." Experts have barely been able to stomach this explanation.

Nevertheless if this untimely problem continues to persist between the two stars (Gina Carano) in a sport so desperately seeking growth, women's MMA will continue to have its detractors that state women are the problem with the sport, period. The irony is that one of the most legit fighters in MMA pushed her sport further away from legitimacy.

Don't mistake me for a Women's MMA critic or connoisseur. Nevertheless in a sport whose entertainment lies within the spontaneity and unpredictability of each match, the eye test is getting to be too accurate. Last night, it was as simple as looking at each fighter, in size and in weight to determine the outcome.

Months before Cyborg earned her victory, Strikeforce had penned in a Cyborg-Carano match up in August. Akano, who had fought just one fight over 145, was understandably the underdog heading into this match. With an impressive victory over women's MMA pioneer Debbi Purcell, and entertaining bouts with established fighters Tara Larosa and Vanessa Porto, Akano's resume is not something to overlook.

Yet her one chance to shine on a national spotlight was dampened as she was overwhelmed by the brute strength of Cyborg throughout the match.

For the future Cyborg-Carano fight, I will trust my eyes again. As much as I am pulling for the face of women's MMA, I'm afraid it will become a mosaic by night's end, shattered into pieces by Cyborg's powerful punches.

Analysts have countered that technique will triumph over raw strength, but Cyborg's relentlessness and overall command in the ring reminds me of a young Mike Tyson. The advantage Cyborg has that everyone is overlooking cardio and stamina. She is just constantly on the attack.

On the contrary, Carano seems to fight at a much slower, yet methodical pace. The self described "energy conserver" will be hard pressed to take a reserved approach as August approaches. If Carano is not training her backside off harder than she's ever done before, this match will be just as lopsided as the one witnessed on Saturday night.

In any event, since the latter event was a less than spectacular showing for women's MMA, the pressure will be even greater for Cyborg and Carano to propel their sport to the next level. The question is, whether each fighter will take the challenge on or will the begrudgingly carry that weight on their shoulders? I'm sure we will be able to know by the weigh-ins in August.