Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos is the most impressive female MMA striker I have ever seen, and she dominated Hitomi Akano in a 3rd round TKO victory on the return of female MMA to national TV on Showtime's Strikeforce on Saturday, April 11th, 2009. "Cyborg" showed combination punching power, and Akano displayed an incredible chin, which also means that she got hit a lot.
The opening seconds of the fight confirmed everything that I thought about "Cyborg" Santos. She is the most powerful, strongest, and devastating, striker that I have seen in female MMA. Santos came in 7 pounds overweight at the weigh-ins on Friday, but she claimed after the fight that she had a "girl problem," and this night would be the first, and last, time that she came in overweight to a fight. In spite of the weight differential, Santos actually looked 30 pounds stronger than Akano, and nothing would change that throughout the fight.
Seconds into the first round, "Cyborg" landed kicks and punches on Akano's face that snapped her head back, and caused Akano's bob-cut hairdo to fly like a cement truck just hit a salon. Santos literally threw Akano around, and then suplexed her to the mat for side control. Akano used this opportunity to go for an armbar, her signature submission move, but Santos was just too strong, as she got out of danger and then dropped bombs from both hands after posturing up in Akano's guard. Santos then forced Akano to stand up, where Akano attempted a kick, which was caught by Santos and followed by a strong right hand punch that landed right on Akano's mouth. After the round, a winded Akano slowly walked over to her corner where Josh Barnett did as much as he could during the break.
The start of the second round had Santos stalking Hitomi, landing a nice high right kick and some punches. Akano attempted a double leg takedown, but "Cyborg" shoved it off like Akano was a kid. Santos did use the situation to land a few snapping punches to the grounded Akano's head. After the two fighters were back on their feet, Akano landed a nice left jab, which angered Santos and caused a flurry of punches, followed by a Muay Thai clinch and several knees to the body. These appeared to take the rest of whatever wind was left in Akano, as she backed toward the cage with her arms down. Cristiane stepped to her, and Akano went for a jumping armbar attempt, which was met with a blistering left hand to the grill. This desperate move left "Cyborg" in Akano's guard, and the final 1:15 of the second round were all punches landed on Akano's face, which was pinned up against the cage. I must give Akano credit, after all that punishment, she got up and walked to her corner like it was just another day at the office.
Round three kicked off with another desperate submission attempt by Akano, as she went for a rolling leg lock, but missed Santos' leg. The crowd at the HP Pavilion, also known as the Shark Tank to hockey fans, booed loudly as the move looked a little silly as Akano was left laying on her back while Santos backed up and waited for her to stand up. When she did, it was all over. Santos rushed in with punches flying from all directions, and 4 vicious right hand punches, including a nasty uppercut, dropped Akano to the mat and the referee stopped the bout while "Cyborg" climbed the cage to celebrate.
Before, during, and after the fight the ringside cameras showed Gina Carano, and after the match Santos was asked if she wanted to fight her. Santos said that she wants the belt, and if Carano is who Strikeforce wants her to face, she will "take her down." I am a big fan of Carano for more than one reason, and the crowd at the HP Pavilion went nuts every time she appeared on the jumbotron, but I fear that she will get mauled by Santos. However, it will be the biggest fight in female MMA history, and the rumor is that this bout will take place in August.