On Thursday, in her second-ever Bellator bout, the featherweight champion retained her title and earned a victory by submission in a dominant display against Arlene Blencowe.
The main event at Bellator 249 was less of a show and more of a statement. Cyborg (23-2, 18 KOs) needed less than two rounds to take care of Blencowe (13-8, 7 KOs) and walked away virtually untouched in her first title defense since leaving UFC.
Everything seemed to go according to plan. Cyborg began the bout by creating separation from Blencowe with a few leg kicks before rushing her against the fence and taking her down to the mat. Once the two began grappling, Cyborg's strength and stamina won out as a flurry of headshots sent her opponent reeling at the bell.
Round 2 started with a much faster pace as Cyborg unleashed multiple combinations of body kicks and headshots, allowing her to sweep the leg once again.
With Blencowe bloodied and too tired to defend any longer, Cyborg took the opportunity for a rear-naked choke that lasted ten seconds before Blencowe tapped out.
Bellator 249 Main Card Results
Cris Cyborg def. Arlene Blencowe via submission (rear naked choke) at 2:36 of Round 2
Leandro Higo def. Ricky Bandejas via submission (rear naked choke) at 2:32 of Round 2
Steve Mowry def. Shawn Teed via TKO (knees and punches) at 4:22 of Round 1
Saad Awad No Contest vs. Mandel Nallo at 1:44 of Round 1
At 35 years old, Cyborg entered Thursday's match as one of Bellator's biggest draws and looking to stay that way.
The former UFC star signed an undisclosed, multiyear deal Bellator President Scott Coker described as the largest in women's MMA history. That deal only begins to payoff if Cyborg remains at the top of her game. Her first fight post-UFC proved that was still the case as she defeated Julia Budd via technical knockout to win the Bellator Women's Featherweight World Championship.
For that contract to pay off, Bellator needs Cyborg to continue running through her opponents. That doesn't mean she isn't enjoying the change of pace under Coker.
“Scott Coker appreciates every fighter," Cyborg told Katie Taylor of the Associated Press. "You never see him blame fighters in the media, you just don’t. He does not try to damage the brand of the fighters, because this is a partnership. Here is the thing, if the fighters don’t fight, the event doesn’t happen."
After setting up a debut bout with Budd, Coker made a title defense against Blencowe happen nine months later.
Blencowe had won three straight Bellator matches heading into Thursday's title fight and provided a solid opponent at 145 pounds.
The loss may knock Blencowe out of any title shots for some time, but it helped Bellator's marquee women's fighter continue proving she's one of the best in the world. That's a win for the company overall.