Phil and David break down everything you need to know about Cyborg vs. Evinger for UFC 214 in Anaheim, and everything you don’t about Jack Johnson.
It’s Cris Cyborg vs Tonya Evinger at UFC 214 this July 29, 2017 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
One sentence summary
Phil: The nation of Holland waits with eager anticipation as beloved champion Germaine de Randamie… hey wait a minute…
David: Women’s featherweight prepares to hand over its Burger King crown to whoever is interesting in actively defending it.
Record: Cristiane Justino 17-1-1 NC | Tonya Evinger 19-5-1 NC
Odds: Cristiane Justino -1375 | Tonya Evinger +900
History / Introduction to both fighters
Phil: Cyborg came to the UFC on a Rousey hunt; to find and beat up the woman who had incessantly mocked her and taken her place as the face of women’s MMA. The UFC put Justino through multiple hoops, including trying to get her to commit to making 135 (about as likely as Gleison Tibau making featherweight), making her take a gruelling test cut to 140, and then dangling a featherweight belt in front of her before giving it to Holm and GdR when she told them she couldn’t make weight in time. This has led to a fairly bitter relationship between Cyborg and the brass, which is on the verge of collapsing into outright acrimony. However, here she is, finally competing for a UFC belt.
David: Cyborg’s story is morphing into all the worst features of Dana White’s attempt at signing Fedor for even worse reasons. Fedor was Dana’s “white whale” for an entire decade. But at least Fedor’s presence never threatened to sabotage a division. Through minimal (but not absolute) fault of her own. It’s certainly not Cyborg’s fault that de Randamie has taken her ball and left. Still, Cyborg is the division’s brightest symbol of pedigree and progress. This fight is not symbolic of the same thing.
Phil: Tonya Evinger is like a grappling-centric equivalent of turn-of-the-century boxer Jack Johnson- a hard living hardass who loves nothing more than fighting and women. Thus, when the UFC gave the call that Megan Anderson had pulled out of her title fight with Cyborg, Evinger shrugged, upped sticks from her Invicta W135 belt and came along to try her luck against WMMA’s most feared destroyer.
David: Evinger has been here with her knuckles clenched, and libido yearning since the mastodon. The first female fight ever sanctioned by California’s athletic commission starred Evinger, and she’s been starring in high octane fights ever since. Evinger hasn’t officially lost since Kim Jong-il died. That was when Sara McMann beat her by decision at Titan FC. She’s been competing against solid (but not groundbreaking) competition, but nothing like what will prepare her for Cyborg.
What’s at stake?
Phil: Weirdness. Cyborg has 2 fights remaining on her UFC contract, and as per Jonathan Snowden’s excellent piece, may not have a champion’s clause which compels her to remain with the organization. She is heavily favoured, of course, but whether she wins or loses the way that the UFC reacts to it seems like it will be key; do they want to preserve the relationship? Is this a temporary cash grab?
David: I don’t think Dana cares one or another about featherweight. Like a bad cap manager, I don’t think he’s thought that far ahead. Cyborg is a big name, and so he gets to make money off her fists, but the division itself seems destined for the scrapheap.
Where do they want it?
Phil: Cyborg is essentially a pressure fighter, although she physically overwhelms the majority of her opponents so dramatically that it tends to blur the boundaries somewhat. People tend to move back and recoil from her, and so she moves forward, and it can feel a bit more like physics than strategy.
Throughout her fight career she’s evolved from “classic Chute Boxe” (lit: charge forward and mess them up as quickly as possible with as many offensive tools as possible) to the more evolved version practiced by fighters like Thomas Almeida, where she’ll open up with a probing jab and a leg kick, then crash through with the right hand. Shorter, tighter combinations and more compact punches. Although few have tested it, her grappling has obviously improved greatly from her Gina Carano days, as she was able to rather easily smash Marloes Coenen from top position.
David: On the feet, where Cyborg is so much more advanced than anyone else. It’s kind of unfair – a description that admittedly plays into stereotypes and crass depictions of her physical appearance. But Cyborg really is “next level.” She’s technically proficient AND strong. Sort of like giving an eagle a mini sniper rifle attached to its break that fires upon specified neural impulses. Only Cyborg’s submission defense has ever been an issue, and even there she’s grown into her own. She is, <movietrailervoice>the perfect weapon!/>.
Phil: Evinger is a focused wrestler, flicking a leg kick and a jab to draw opponents into exchanges and then driving forward with a double leg. Once in wrestling exchanges, she’s a powerful and physical grappler, who is able to take out solid technicians like Pannie Kianzad and pure athletes like Cindy Dandois with equal aplomb. Her ability to rack up serious damage with ground and pound is particularly unique at W135, but she’s also an adept back taker and submission artist.
David: Pure athlete Cindy Dandois? You’re a funny guy Phil. That’s why I wish you were typing last. Evinger takes a very classical approach to fighting and wraps it in piss and vinegar, like a bacon wrap of fists and chokes. She’s not a high level striker or anything but she fights within her means, doesn’t invite trouble, but will greet trouble with a smile should the fight demand it. She’s an opportunist first and foremost, using her strength blitz opponents on the ground, or finding good punch entries to engage grappling mode.
Insight from past fights
Phil: Gotta be the Coenen fight. Here Cyborg showed that even if she has technical disadvantages in the grappling realm, her sheer physicality is just so overwhelming that it doesn’t really matter.
David: Physicality was one thing that allowed her to endure in that bout. But it was also her raw, Mark Hunt-esque toughness. She took one of the most precise, momentous, velocitous overhand rights I’ve ever seen a fighter eat flush on the jaw. And was unphased. Evinger won’t be able to crack Cyborg on the feet, but as Cyborg has shown in recent bouts, opponents can’t just avoid the feet either. Evinger may be tough, but she’s not invincible.
Phil: Short notice for Evinger, and the weight cut for Cyborg, as well as the general oppressive air of mistrust between Cyborg and the brass. This is a very high-stakes fight for her.
David: Evinger is used to short notice. She’s a high level TBA replacement.
Phil: No surprises. Evinger is someone who lives off her physicality, and that just isn’t going to fly against Cyborg. I expect Justino to be somewhat cautious in the early going, until she can figure out the timing and power of Evinger’s takedown attempts, but then she’ll turn it up. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino by TKO, round 2.
David: The problem with Evinger’s chances is that she likely assumed beating Cyborg is a matter of overcoming her physicality. But it’s a matter of overcoming her technique. Cris Cyborg by TKO, round 1.