On November 12, 2021, Bellator MMA returns to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, for Bellator 271: Cyborg vs. Kavanagh. In the main event of the evening, featherweight champion Cris Cyborg (24-2-0) defends her title against Sinead Kavanagh (7-4-0), who is currently ranked as the #5 Bellator Featherweight. After five years with the organization, Kavanagh will finally get her shot at the most decorated woman in mixed martial arts history.
Needs No Introduction
Since her debut with Bellator in January 2020, Cris Cyborg has captured and defended the Featherweight championship twice, most recently against Leslie Smith at Bellator 259. For over 15 years, Cyborg has been a dominant force in mixed martial arts, winning titles in four different promotions. Her striking prowess, matched with incredible power, has earned her stoppages against every fighter that has met her in the Bellator cage.
At Bellator 271, Cyborg steps into the cage with fellow boxer Sinead Kavanagh. Suffering some setbacks in her Bellator career, Kavanagh looks to make the most of her opportunity against Cyborg. Kavanagh, who went 2-4 to start her Bellator run, is on a two-fight win streak, finishing Olga Rubin at Bellator 234 and earning a unanimous decision over Katharina Lehner at Bellator Euro Series 9. Despite those victories coming over a year apart, Kavanagh will get the opportunity to dethrone the featherweight champ.
Nothing To Lose
Kavanagh has been passionate about boxing since she was a child. At eight years old, she walked into a gym asking to join, only to be told, “We don’t take girls.” Ten years later, the same man that chased her out of his gym became her boxing coach. Sinead had a tough upbringing. She lost her brother and sister in a car accident that resulted in her mother forming a drinking habit to cope with the tragedy. She gave birth to her son Leon while still in school. Leon’s father sadly passed away. Finding strength and passion in combat sports to endure her struggles at home, Sinead successfully competed in karate, kickboxing and boxing before transitioning to mixed martial arts. Six years after making her pro-MMA debut, she finds herself with a life-changing opportunity at Bellator 271. She plans to take full advantage of it. “Life is a rollercoaster. Enjoy the ups because the downs will follow.”
In a recent press conference leading up to her title bout, Kavanagh discussed her fight with Cyborg and how much the opportunity means. “My whole life is this fight. I’ve nothing to lose, and I have everything to gain.” Kavanagh believes there are holes in Cybor’s game that she can exploit, referencing her loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 232. Through 11 professional bouts, Sinead has shown excellent boxing skills. She is good on her feet, mixing up her strikes and bringing pressure. She has done very well establishing her jab, a task that is sure to be difficult as she gives up four inches in reach to Cyborg. Getting respect from Cyborg is crucial in the early stages of the fight. Should Kavanagh find success on the feet, she’s ready for Cyborg to try and take it to the ground. “She’s going to shoot, and that’s what I know she’s going to do. She’s going to become a wrestler really fast like the rest of them have done.”
Crunching The Numbers
Going back to her run-in with the UFC, Cris Cyborg is 9-1 in her last ten bouts, the lone loss coming against current UFC Featherweight champion Amanda Nunes. Of the nine bouts she’s won, seven have come by way of stoppage. Six via KO/TKO and one by submission via rear-naked choke, the first submission win of her career. The challenger is 4-4 in Bellator after beginning her career 3-0 in the now-defunct BAMMA promotion. Her Bellator run on paper may look unimpressive. Still, two of those losses came via split or majority decision, and Kavanagh has never been stopped in the cage. In 11 total fights, Kavanagh has finished four times inside the distance, three coming in the first round. Her most recent finish against Olga Rubin came late into the second round. While Kavanagh had some struggles with keeping her back off the cage, the constant pressure from her opponent eventually depleted Rubin’s gas tank, allowing Sinead to close the distance and get the stoppage with her boxing. While this is the first five-round fight of Sinead’s career, she has faith in her stamina. “I’ve never had a problem with doing three rounds. I’ve been training my ass off, so I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.”
How Does It End?
Kavanagh’s victory relies on her finding the right moment to strike. Sportsbooks, unsurprisingly, don’t believe that moment will come. As of this writing, Cris Cyborg is a -1600 favorite going into Bellator 271. Kavanagh is a +800 underdog, and the margin is likely to grow as we get closer to the opening bell. Cyborg has shown moments of struggle against proficient strikers. Even though she successfully defeated Gina Carano and Holly Holm, there were moments in those fights where Cyborg looked less than the unstoppable juggernaut we typically know her to be. Kavanagh has the boxing and the power to compete with Cyborg, but her power is not on the same level. She has done a great job mixing up her strikes and working the body of her opponents. If she can successfully change levels with her strikes and keep some distance, she will score points. Sinead has a puncher’s chance, but should she hurt Cyborg at any stage in the fight, you can expect the champ to shoot in for a takedown and get it to the ground or, at the very least against the cage. Cyborg is much more skilled on the ground than her challenger. If Cyborg opts to take it to the ground, there is likely little Kavanagh can do about it. This is where many are predicting the fight will end.
Prediction: Cris Cyborg via Round three TKO
Featured Image Credits to Bellator