Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes: Head-to-Toe Breakdown

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2018

Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes: Head-to-Toe Breakdown

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    At long last, the greatest women's MMA fight in history has been booked. According to ESPN.com, UFC featherweight champion Cris "Cyborg" Justino will face bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes at UFC 232 on December 29.

    It's the realization of what has been months of stop-start negotiations, and it's the latest addition to an already-stacked final quarter to 2018. What's more, it's one of the greatest on-paper fights the UFC could have made given it brings together two dominant titleholders.

    There's a whole lot to like and discuss when it comes to this fight, and there's no reason to wait. With that in mind, Bleacher Report is here to offer a head-to-toe breakdown of Cyborg vs. Nunes.

Striking

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    Amanda Nunes is a scary fighter at range. Though many look at her as something of a brawler, the bantamweight champion is a true technical talent. Her distance management is strong, she works angles fairly well and, of course, she punches hard.

    That said, Cyborg is a hair better than her in every department. She's a bit more disciplined, she's a bit rangier, she's a bit more accurate and she's got a bit more pop. Add to that a size advantage, and the scales tip toward Cyborg.

    But Nunes isn't somebody to sleep on in the striking department. Eleven of her 16 career wins have come via knockout, and that's not a coincidence. She's going to hit Cyborg harder than she's been hit before, and there won't be much room for error because of that.

    Still, if we're picking who has the edge, there's only one option.

    Edge: Cris Cyborg

Wrestling

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    Last year, Holly Holm challenged Cris Cyborg for the women's featherweight title. For the most part, Cyborg held the advantage as Holm absorbed hard shots and walked away with a predictable decision loss. Something that was unexpected, however, was how much success Holm managed to have in the clinch.

    Though the boxer mostly looked to handle Cyborg the way she did Ronda Rousey back in 2015—with a speedy stick-and-move strategy—Holm's greatest successes in the fight came in the form of effective tie-ups and drives toward the cage. Cyborg was never seriously flustered, as Holm was never able to convert this into any sort of sustained offense. But it did offer a taste of what could be a big opening for Nunes.

    Despite the fact that Nunes' best wins in the Octagon have all come via quick, brutal knockouts, the Brazilian's wrestling game is solid. She doesn't have the on-paper background of some of her peers, but her timing and explosiveness have translated to takedowns in most of the fights that drag on for any length of time. All this is complemented by her solid footwork, which forces opponents to the perimeter of the cage, where they can be pressed back and dragged down more easily.

    Cyborg likely won't end up being dominated in the wrestling department, but the bantamweight champion should be good for a few takedowns here. Even if she doesn't, the threat of them will be enough to keep Cyborg honest in the other phases of the fight.

    Edge: Nunes

Submissions

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    Cris Cyborg doesn't bother with submissions. 

    Officially, she is a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Andre Galvao and has, in the past, popped up at a number of grappling tournaments. There are plenty of videos of her rolling, and she is frequently spotted alongside top-level BJJ players, ranging from Gabi Garcia to Rubens "Cobrinha" Charles. She probably has some solid submission tools in her arsenal, but the numbers speak for themselves: 20 wins, 17 by knockout and 0 by submission.

    Nunes is essentially the same case. Despite winning the UFC title via rear-naked choke, the Lioness looks to end fights with punches far more often than not. If a wounded opponent turtles up and she happens to already be on them, she will sink in the hooks and start fishing, but that's more a matter of opportunity rather than intent.

    Either woman could submit the other, but if they do, it won't come from intense scrambles or hooking and shooting. It will be a choke hold applied to somebody who was rocked with punches, and those conditions could break in either direction.

    Edge: None

X-Factors

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    Usually, X-factors are something outside the cage.

    How will this fighter look competing at a new weight class? How will that one look after a long layoff? Will the shakeups to their coaching staff pay off? On down the list.

    This isn't one of those times. Both Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg are tried-and-true talents. With solid training camps, a reasonably active schedule and no concerns over how they will look for this fight, peak performance can be expected in both corners.

    The most interesting X-factor here is the lack of a physical or power advantage for either woman.

    Though Cyborg and Nunes are far more than throwback brutes, there's no question that they thrive when opponents are athletically overwhelmed. Whether it's outmuscling contenders when wrestling or blasting them with power punches, their sheer brawn has been a key part to their successes. Seeing how they adjust, and what extra layers they add to their games in anticipation of that should be a treat.

    Like so many other athletically gifted fighters, Nunes and Cyborg have almost been faulted for their strength by fans and certain pundits. Their technical skills are frequently dismissed as victories are chalked up to their size and reach advantages, leaving them on a "proving themselves" treadmill.

    That should end here, though. 

    Nunes has faced most of the bantamweight division's best pure athletes, but this is the first time she will be facing a definitively larger woman. Cyborg, meanwhile, will still own a size advantage but will finally be facing an opponent who can challenge her in terms of physicality, stopping power and experience.

    Seeing how both competitors adjust to this, and seeing what new wrinkles emerge in their game as a result, makes this a contest to watch closely.

    Edge: None

Prediction

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    It's hard to get over how good a fight this is shaping up to be. It just ticks every box.

    Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg are undisputed champions who are facing off for the right to be called the greatest woman in mixed martial arts history. They have a rapidly developing beef that is likely to intensify as the fight approaches. Best of all, this should just be a fun scrap to watch because it combines two sluggers with exciting, fan-friendly styles.

    This one should be intense from start to finish given both women's knockout power, but Cyborg should be looked at as the favorite. Early on, this one is going to be razor-close, with both slinging heavy leather and laying hard shots on one another. As it wears on, however, Cyborg's size advantage is going to pay dividends.

    Her punches will land harder, clean breaks will be more difficult to secure and takedowns will require extra effort. That's going to add up against Nunes, who will also be carrying an extra 10 pounds of cardio-sapping weight into this fight.

    Nunes is a strong starter, though, and if she can force Cyborg into a defensive shell early, it could set her up with an insurmountable lead. If she can't, look for Cyborg to match Nunes punch-for-punch in the first three rounds before taking over en route to a decision win.

    Prediction: Cris Cyborg def. Amanda Nunes by unanimous decision.

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