UFC 198 featured the Octagon debut of the most dominant female in mixed martial arts history, the emergence of the newest heavyweight champion and a pair of outstanding title contenders.
It all took place in the wild atmosphere of a 45,000-capacity soccer stadium in Curitiba, Brazil. Let's get more in-depth on what really mattered this weekend in MMA.
Cris "Cyborg" Justino needs to be fighting in the UFC. End of story. Make it happen.
Here it is: Justino deserves to fight on the biggest stage and that is unquestionably the UFC. And wouldn't you know it, the UFC needs stars, which Justino is. With the UFC brand behind her, Justino could be much, much bigger than she is currently. This marriage makes too much sense to ignore, yet we waited years to see it come together and there's no guarantee it continues. As respectable of a promotion as Invicta FC is (where Justino holds the 145-pound championship), she's too big for that platform. She belongs in the Octagon.
Now, the unfortunate truth of the matter: It's complicated. Justino is hesitant to cut to 135 pounds. Fans will say, 'she weighed 139 for this catchweight, what's another three pounds to make the 136-pound bantamweight limit?' The answer is that another three pounds could be a lot. This sport is trending away from drastic weight cuts. They're dangerous. Could Justino make 135? Probably. Should she be asked to try? That's another story.
But at the same time, one can't fault the UFC for not wanting to book its 135-pound champion to a 140-pound catchweight fight against Justino. Whether it was Ronda Rousey for years or now Miesha Tate, if the champ loses, the UFC has watered down the significance of its bantamweight champion. And as much as we all would love to see consistent 140-pound catchweight fights between Justino and a non-champion like Holly Holm, that's not an ideal situation for Holm, whose No. 1 priority is chasing a 135-pound title.
So, what, ultimately do we make of all this? Justino wants to compete at 145 pounds. That's her natural weight class, where she feels physically best and has dominated for years. There's a good chance her next fight will be back with Invicta -- which is fine, I guess, and not the end of the world. The UFC doesn't seem close to creating a 145-pound division, as there just isn't enough talent to fill it out. The pieces to this puzzle don't go together at the moment.
But at the same time, I guess what I'm advocating for is that the UFC take those misaligned puzzle pieces and jam them together anyway. Have Justino defend her 145-pound Invicta title as a "special attraction" on a UFC card. Would that confuse some? Maybe. But honestly, who cares? If it means Justino, the best female fighter in the world, gets to compete under the bright spotlight she clearly deserves, then we can live with a little confusion.
Demian Maia and Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza deserve title shots, but their timing isn't great.
Maia was dominant against Matt Brown. If you want to bring up the punches he took in the third round, OK, go ahead. He did look awkward and scared to death of standing and trading with Brown. But don't get too caught up on it, because by the final bell, Brown had landed all of 10 total strikes in the entire fight, according to Fightmetric. Yes, Maia can be awkward to watch on the feet and he seems desperate for a takedown at times, but if the end result is Brown landing 10 strikes? That's a pretty good result.
And Souza -- there was something poetic about Souza embarrassing Belfort the way he did in Brazil -- the same country that TRT-era Belfort obliterated guys like Luke Rockhold, Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson, while we all wondered if the Brazilian commission was effectively monitoring his testosterone treatment. Souza looked fantastic, which is no surprise, given his sterling 6-1 UFC record.
Both of these Brazilians are deserving of a title shot, but both have obstacles in the way. Although Maia is 4-0 since the last time Tyron Woodley even stepped into the cage, it appears Woodley will receive the next welterweight title shot in late July. And Souza might have a road block in the form of Yoel Romero, whom he lost to in December.