Regardless of the circumstances that led to it, Germaine de Randamie will always be able to call herself a UFC champion.
De Randamie captured the inaugural UFC women’s featherweight title with hard-fought win over Holly Holm in February, taking full advantage of an unexpected opportunity to challenge for the UFC belt in her return to 145 pounds. De Randamie’s accomplishment made her the first Dutch UFC champion since the glory days of Bas Rutten, and her countryman never doubted that de Randamie had it in her.
“I saw this in her a long time ago,” Rutten said this week on The MMA Hour. “Fred Royers was her original coach, and he contacted me six years ago and he asked if she could come and train here, a few sessions with me. So she went over here and we trained a little bit, what she had to work on, because she’s a striker as well — a phenomenal striker — so I worked with her and then she went on.
“And I knew that, in the striking department — once you’re 47-0 and you’re in Holland, and you do it in Europe, it’s a different kind of level there, the striking, than it is overseas. It simply is. … The striking is just at a real high level because everybody is doing it. It’s almost like soccer. You’ve got gyms everywhere. Every week, there’s fights everywhere, in bars, in little sport gyms. Whatever it is. There’s a lot of Thai boxing, and because a lot of people do it, a lot of people are very good at it. So I knew that her striking was going to beat Holly Holm’s striking, although I’m very impressed with Holly Holm as well.”
A decorated striker with an undefeated kickboxing record of 37-0, de Randamie was a surprising choice to kick off the UFC women’s featherweight division opposite Holm. The 32-year-old had previously racked up a 5-2 record under the Strikeforce and UFC banners while mostly competing at bantamweight, however she took full advantage of her opportunity at UFC 208, edging out Holm in a controversial, foul-laden contest to pick up a unanimous decision victory and capture the UFC title.
In the aftermath of the bout, de Randamie called for a rematch against Holm to settle any lingering resentment about their first meeting. However, the far more likely next step for de Randamie remains a title defense against MMA’s longtime queen of 145 pounds, former Strikeforce and Invicta FC champion Cris Cyborg.
Freed from her troubles with USADA, Cyborg recently called out de Randamie for a showdown on July 29 at UFC 214. The 31-year-old Brazilian is widely considered to be the most dangerous female fighter on the planet and is in the midst of an exceptional 12-year undefeated run. Cyborg’s only blemish over that span came in another sport entirely — she lost a close decision to the Netherland’s own Jorina Baars in a Muay Thai contest in 2014. Nonetheless, Rutten pointed to Baars’ success as a model for de Randamie to emulate when she and Cyborg inevitably face off in the UFC Octagon.
“Jorina Baars, she’s from Holland, she beat Cyborg in Lion Fight. So yeah, I do think that [de Randamie] can hang with her,” Rutten said. “But I think once Cyborg gets ahold of her and she can throw her down, we’re going to have a big problem. [De Randamie] really wants to keep this fight standing against her, and keep the distance between them. You want to stay outside the distance just enough that you can counter, but do not go clinching with Cyborg. I think that’s a bad thing.”