Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino earns her first UFC title with TKO of Tonya Evinger
Cris “Cyborg” Justino spread her arms apart Saturday night after finishing her latest victim.
The pose had dual meaning, part a celebration capping Justino’s ascension to UFC champion and a look of “what took you guys so long?” to give her a crack at the belt.
In a sharp, punishing performance, “Cyborg” stopped Tonya Evinger by third-round technical knockout to win the UFC’s vacant featherweight belt at Honda Center.
Justino (17-1) capped an onslaught of scoring blows on Evinger in the third with a hard knee to the head that dropped Evinger. Justino moved in to deliver finishing-touch punches and the referee stopped the fight 1 minute, 56 seconds in.
In the same arena where Venice’s Ronda Rousey became women’s bantamweight champion four years earlier, Justino finished her extended journey to her own title that was delayed by a slew of factors, including bickering with UFC leadership.
After winning the new featherweight belt in February, then-champion Germaine de Randamie effectively opted to surrender her belt rather than take on the dominant “Cyborg,” who trains in Orange County.
Justino flashed that dominance by landing a series of punches in the first two rounds that usually drop foes. Evinger, the game Invicta fight organization 135-pound champion, hung on as her hair became a tousled mess from the damaging blows.
Justino remained unmarked, systematically blasting Evinger with the shots, adding in hard knees and kicks, then finally sending Evinger to the canvas with a punch seconds before the finish arrived.
The action preceded the night’s main event, a light-heavyweight title rematch between champion Daniel Cormier (19-1) and former long-reigning champion Jon Jones (22-1), who defeated Cormier by unanimous decision in January 2015.
Former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler edged former lightweight title challenger Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, with all three judges awarding Lawler 29-28 scores in the unanimous-decision triumph.
Lawler, fighting for the first time since losing his belt to Tyron Woodley a year ago this weekend, sought to finish Cerrone early, throwing heavy fists in the opening minutes and landing a hard knee to the jaw.
Cerrone, marked under the left eye, weathered the attack and took down Lawler to slow the aggression, then came back to land scoring punching combinations to Lawler’s face in the second.
But Lawler, showing impressive defense on kicks, found Cerrone with a hard kick early in the third, then added an elbow and a short punch to set up the entertaining type of action expected from the two up-andcoming fighters.
Light-heavyweight Volkan Oezdemir impressively opened the pay-per-view portion of the card by knocking out No. 3-rated Jimi Manuwa of England in 42 seconds.
Third-ranked featherweight Ricardo Lamas exploited the suspect defense of prospect Jason Knight, hammering him with punches to drop him, then finishing him on the canvas at 2:52 of the first round.
L.A. featherweight Brian Ortega improved to 12-0 with a third-round submission victory (guillotine choke) over Brazil’s Renato Moicano.
Former bantamweight champion Renan Barao was rocked by third-round punches from No. 8-rated Aljamain Sterling in a 140-pound catch-weight fight, and Sterling (14-2) earned a victory by decision.
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