When sizing up the danger factor between Olympic medalists turned fighters Ronda Rousey and Kayla Harrison, Cris “Cyborg” Justino sees a more dangerous test in the former UFC champion than the latter PFL star.
In the early years of the 2010s, two women dominated the women’s MMA scene: Rousey and “Cyborg.” The pair’s careers ran parallel but never crossed with the “Rowdy” one being a champion at bantamweight, and Justino (24-2) a long-time conqueror at featherweight. It was a dream fight that never came to fruition.
Fast forward to the 2020s, and Rousey is a retired former fighter, and the 36-year-old Justino keeps chugging along as one of the best women’s featherweights in the sport, as Bellator’s current 145-pound champion. However, almost a decade removed from the height of the Rousey vs “Cyborg” debate, a similar topic has arisen as two-time Olympic gold medalist Kayla Harrison (11-0) has become a lightweight force and league champion in the PFL.
With the two women in separate organizations, a fight materializing seems unlikely, but that doesn’t mean the conversation is going anywhere.
The idea of this hypothetical cross-promotion bout was brought up in an interview Justino did recently on The MMA Hour. And it seems despite Rousey only winning a silver medal, compared to Harrison’s two Olympic golds, the Brazilian MMA great thinks the smaller and faster Rousey offered greater challenges than her fellow Olympic Judoka.
Cris Cyborg does not fear Harrison’s Judo
“I believe Ronda Rousey was more dangerous than Kayla. Her transitions were fast, her technique was fast, and I know [Kayla] got a gold medal in the Olympics, but I think it’s a different level about the speed, about the transitions for the submissions,” Justino said.
Like Rousey before her, Harrison has been utterly dominant in the sport using her world-class Judo skills. It has created an aura around her that makes the 31-year-old seem like an impossible-to-solve grappling puzzle. However, the former Strikeforce and Invicta FC featherweight champion doesn’t seem too be concerned about grappling with Harrison. As she believes the wrestling skills she has honed over a 16-year career is her MMA trump card.
“People say, ‘She’s going to take you down. I believe, in the fight, wrestling can beat judo, and if she takes me down I can [take her down], too. It’s an MMA fight. I think she should care more about the striking. Because if you see a couple of her fights at what 11-0, the girls fighting her are scared of the takedown and scared to punch for takedown,” said Justino.
Cyborg says Harrison is afraid to striker
“Cyborg” also believes a lack of confidence in her striking after 11 professional bouts is a significant weakness for the American if she fought a wrecking machine like Justino, with her 19 career knockouts.
“When you fight a judo girl, you can think about maybe you’re going to get taken down, it’s an MMA fight. You cannot be afraid of a takedown. She’s afraid to strike, too, when she fights the girls,” Justino said. “Example is when she fought Cindy Dandois. Cindy Dandois came from judo, she’s really confident in her striking, she’s supposed to use the striking to fight Dandois but she’s not confident. She just did a judo takedown.”
Justino last fought at Bellator 259. On that night in May, she defended her championship for a second time with a fifth-round technical knockout victory over UFC veteran Leslie Smith.
Following her TKO win over Genah Fabian at the PFL’s second playoff event of 2021, Harrison is set to compete in the league’s lightweight championship fight for a second straight year, when she faces Taylor Guardado at the PFL Championships on October 27.