In the main event of Bellator 238, Cris Cyborg was looking to become the Bellator featherweight champion as she was taking on Julia Budd.
It was Cyborg’s promotional debut, where a win could be the first fighter to win belts in Strikeforce, Invicta, UFC, and Bellator. She did just that as she TKO’d Julia Budd in the fourth round.
Now, following the win, many have wondered who will Cyborg’s first title defense be against. The Brazilian said she liked the idea of a Grand Prix, but with no talk of a tournament taking place, here are three potential opponents for Cris Cyborg’s first title defense.
Cat Zingano is a big name and a former UFC title challenger, where she was submitted by Ronda Rousey. Yet Zingano had success in the Las Vegas-based promotion with wins over the likes of Amanda Nunes, Miesha Tate, Raquel Pennington, and Marion Reneau.
Although Zingano’s last fight was a loss to Megan Anderson it was a weird loss given Anderson’s toenail cut Zingano’s eye which ended the fight. Since then, she signed with Bellator and has yet to make her promotional debut.
Scott Coker and Bellator should look to capitalize on a big name in Zingano and make her debut against Cris Cyborg. It would be the biggest fight the promotion could put on following Cyborg’s win over Julia Budd and even the champion made it known she was open to the fight.
“Zingano, she’s an amazing athlete,” Cyborg said on Ariel Helwani’s MMA show on Monday. “She beat Amanda Nunes. Gonna be a perfect match if it happens. … She’s going to be a great challenge because she beat Amanda Nunes.”
Cat Zingano has also spoken about that fight, so it makes a lot of sense for Zingano vs. Cyborg to happen sometime later this year.
Arlene Blencowe, like Julia Budd, has been a staple of the Bellator featherweight division and deserves another crack at the belt.
Blencowe has been with the promotion since 2015 and has gone 6-3, with two wins in other promotions in between. She has also beat the top contenders like Leslie Smith, Sinead Kavanagh, Janay Harding, and Amanda Bell. But, why she was not getting a title shot sooner was the fact she has lost to Julia Budd twice.
The Aussie is riding a three-fight winning streak and last fought in November so she should be ready to fight whenever Cyborg is. Coker also said Blencowe could be next so the promotion even likes the fight to be Cyborg’s first title defense.
The third option really comes down to Sinead Kavanagh or Leah McCourt, who is on a three-fight winning streak and fighting at Bellator Dublin in February. Yet, McCourt is still young and only has four professional fights which gives Kavanagh the edge to be Cyborg’s next opponent.
Kavanagh returned to the win column last time out with a TKO win over Olga Rubin who was coming off a title shot loss to Julia Budd. Kavanagh also had a majority decision loss to Leslie Smith which could have gone her way. She also has a win over Zarah Fairn dos Santos who is a UFC featherweight so her skillset is there.
The SBG Ireland fighter is most likely the third option but depending on timing, could very well get the first crack at Cyborg’s belt.
Who do you think Cris Cyborg will defend her belt against first?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 1/28/2020.