Immediately following the co-main event between Patricky Freire and Jeleel Willis at Bellator 249 is a Women’s Featherweight Championship bout between arguably the greatest female fighter to ever live, Cris Cyborg, and her challenger, Arlene Blencowe.
Of course, everyone expects Cyborg to run right through her opponent, regardless of who it is, but Blencowe’s no joke, she’s really been putting the work in and has had some great performances recently.
After starting out her mixed martial arts career with a record of 1-3, with her only victory being a split decision and all three losses coming via submission, Blencowe needed to change something. Whatever change she made since has been working out very well for her.
She won her next fight via unanimous decision, before losing the next via split decision, bringing her record to 2-4.
However, Blencowe’s gone 11-3 since, which includes a perfect three straight victories coming into this fight. Those victories include a KO and TKO victory, followed by a unanimous decision victory over UFC veteran Leslie Smith.
Her last defeat was in December of 2017, where she challenged Julia Budd for her Bellator Women’s Featherweight Championship, coming up short via split decision (five rounds). Her last defeat before that was also to Budd, about 13 months prior, where she lost via majority decision (three rounds).
As you see, Blencowe is capable of having competitive fights with the best female fighters in the world, and we can only assume she’s grown into a more well rounded mixed martial artist in these last three years.
Cyborg needs no introduction, though I’m going to give you one anyway. After losing her first fight via submission (kneebar), Cyborg went on the most legendary tear of any female fighter to this day.
Amanda Nunes, and perhaps Valentina Shevchenko may surpass her run someday, but her streak spanned 20 wins, which included a 10-0 (1 NC) run in title fights. Her no contest stemmed from a failed drug test, but she knocked her opponent out just 16 seconds into that fight.
This run included winning the Strikeforce Women’s Featherweight Championship against legendary women’s fighter Gina Carano in just Cyborg’s ninth fight, having defended it two times, three if you want to add the no contest.
Cyborg left Strikeforce with a 10-1 (1 NC) record, and was given a title eliminator fight upon joining Invicta FC, where she secured a first-round TKO victory.
Her next fight, you guessed it, was for the Invicta FC Featherweight Championship, where she rematched Marloes Coenen.
Their first bout saw Coenen challenge Cyborg for her Strikeforce title, where she was TKO’d at 3:40 of round three. This time around, it took Cyborg four rounds to finish her, but she got it done at 4:10 of the round.
Cyborg then defended her Invicta FC title three times before finally coming over to the UFC. At this point, Cyborg was 15-1 (1 NC), and had finished every title fight she’d been in via knockout, which is pretty remarkable.
Upon joining the UFC, Cyborg was forced to compete at a catchweight of 140 lbs due to the UFC’s lack of a women’s featherweight division. So more or less, she was fighting bantamweights at 140 lbs. She won both catchweight bouts via TKO in rounds one and two, and the UFC was forced to make a belt for her.
Multiple-time world kickboxing champion Germaine de Randamie and multiple-time world boxing champion Holly Holm fought for the inaugural UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship, with de Randamie walking away the victor via unanimous decision.
We were then supposed to see de Randamie and Cyborg face one another for the belt, but de Randamie refused the fight and was stripped of her title considering.
This left Cyborg to face three-time Invicta FC Bantamweight Champion Tonya Evinger, who she TKO’d in round three to win her third major MMA title.
Cyborg defended her UFC title two times; against former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Holly Holm via unanimous decision, and former Invicta FC Bantamweight Champion Yana Kunitskaya via TKO in round one.
Cyborg was then KO’d by multiple-time UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, and now multiple-time UFC Women’s Featherweight Champion Amanda Nunes in just 51 seconds of their champion versus champion fight.
She came out far too reckless in this fight and it cost her. If she used strategy, that fight may have gone differently.
She had one more fight with the UFC, against the No. 1 featherweight contender Felicia Spencer, where she was awarded the unanimous decision victory.
Since then, Cyborg’s had a single fight, where she faced Julia Budd, Blencowe’s last two defeats, who she finished via TKO at 1:14 of round four to become the Bellator Women’s Featherweight Champion, her fourth major MMA title.
If she defends this belt successfully on Thursday, that’ll mean she’s defended every belt she’s ever won.
Blencowe’s no stranger to winning titles herself, as she became the Storm MMA Women’s Featherweight Championship in her ninth fight back in 2014, winning the fight via KO (knee to the body).
It’s great to see these two mid-thirties women still chasing aspirations of being great. Cyborg, 35, is already great, she was already very well established in the middle of her Strikeforce run, but she’s continued chasing and winning titles in other organizations.
The same can be said for Blencowe, 37, who tasted what it’s like to be a champion six short years ago and wants to feel that overwhelming joy again. She has a massive test in front of her, that’s for certain.
Cris Cyborg (22-2) 1 NC vs. Arlene Blencowe (13-7)
Though everyone’s picking Cyborg to win this fight, Blencowe is no joke, she is a worthy title challenger. As mentioned above, she had a rocky start to her mixed martial arts career, but it hasn’t been so rocky for her lately, as she’s had massive amounts of success in the last five years.
That doesn’t mean Blencowe isn’t out-matched, because she very well may be. For one, she’s considerably smaller than Cyborg, standing just 5’6” with a 66” reach.
However, she’s not a bantamweight, all 20 of her professional mixed martial arts fights have been at 145 lbs.
Cyborg stands 5’8” with a 68” reach, so that’ll be something Blencowe has to overcome. Just because she has a smaller frame doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a chance though. Chad Mendes, like her, was a featherweight with those exact same dimensions, and he’s the best 145 lb fighter ever to have not won a major title.
One thing that will help Blencowe is her striking experience and skillset, she had nine professional boxing fights between 2012 and 2015, just before starting her MMA career, with her most recent one being in 2018.
Though she went 4-5 in those nine fights, she has that experience of stand up only fights, and her hands have come along nicely considering.
Not to mention, two of those defeats came via split decision, and the records of the opponents she lost to in order are 4-1, 7-0, 10-0-3, 16-2, and 5-0.
Cyborg also has some stand up only fights on her resume, as she’s competed in kickboxing three times. She won her first via KO in 2006, she won her second via TKO in 2013, and lost her third via unanimous decision in 2014.
The woman she lost to is arguably the best female kickboxer in the world however. She was 30-0-3 fighting a 2-0 Cyborg, and she’s now 39-1-3 with her only defeat coming via split decision. That woman’s name is Jorina Baars, in case anyone wanted to look her, or their fight up.
The sheer power Cyborg possesses is too much for almost everyone she faces. 18 of her total 22 wins come via knockout, with the other four coming via decision, and she’s looking to add to that 82% knockout ratio on Thursday night.
Blencowe on the other hand has finished eight of her thirteen wins with seven knockouts, which is still a relatively high knockout ratio for women, more than half of her wins are via knockout method.
She’s also never been knocked out, or even finished via TKO. All seven of her defeats come via submission or decision.
Blencowe has a great jab, which may help aid her in keeping the distance. She also has good leg kicks and digs underhooks the second anyone tries to tie up with her. With Cyborg being a BJJ brown belt, she may have to be ready to do that, though it’s very likely this will be a pure striking battle.
How do you think Arlene Blencowe fairs against Cris Cyborg?