By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Cris “Cyborg” Justino won the Bellator featherweight championship Saturday night, becoming the first fighter to claim title belts in four major MMA organizations with a fourth-round stoppage of Julia Budd at Bellator 238.
In her Bellator debut after seven bouts and three-plus years with the UFC, Justino (22-2) ended Budd’s eight-year winning streak and dethroned Bellator’s long-reigning 145-pound champion with brute style.
After surviving some rough early stretches and eventually asserting her physical dominance, Justino ended it with a flurry of kicks and punches on the fence. She dropped Budd for good with a blow to the body and finished on the ground before jumping onto the fence to celebrate with the crowd at the Forum south of downtown Los Angeles.
Fighting in the same arena where she had her biggest professional setback — a 51-second loss to UFC two-belt champion Amanda Nunes in December 2018 — the 34-year-old Cyborg showed she hasn’t lost the quick, heavy hands that made her the best fighter in women’s mixed martial arts for much of her career.
“It’s so amazing,” Cyborg said. “I lost my belt here at the Forum, and then I got another one.”
Justino was a champion in Strikeforce and Invicta before she finally moved to the UFC and swiftly became its first women’s featherweight champion in 2017. After losing her UFC title 13 months ago and leaving the promotion with acrimony last year, the Brazilian star signed with Bellator and got an immediate shot to become the first man or woman to hold titles in four major promotions.
Budd (13-3) had won 11 consecutive fights since Ronda Rousey beat her with an armbar back in 2011. The British Columbia native became Bellator’s first women’s featherweight champion in 2017 and defended the belt three times, but Cyborg was too much.
Budd actually dropped Cyborg with strikes midway through the opening round, but escaped the jam when Budd illegally threw a knee while Cyborg was downed.
After Cyborg landed better shots in a slower second round, Cyborg dropped Budd with a right hand midway through the third and controlled the rest of the round.
Justino signed with Bellator in September after her UFC contract ran out. She won six fights in the UFC and became the promotion’s first 145-pound women’s champion.
But her lone UFC loss was that spectacular thrashing from Nunes, who ended Justino’s 21-fight unbeaten streak since 2005. Nunes claimed Cyborg’s featherweight belt and made a pointed argument for her supremacy over Justino as the greatest fighter in women’s MMA history.
Justino reacted to her loss with humility and perspective, but her long-standing friction with UFC President Dana White never smoothed. One fight later, Cyborg left the UFC and signed with its biggest North American rival.
On the undercard, longtime UFC fighter Sergio Pettis made his Bellator debut in style with a first-round submission victory over bantamweight Alfred Khashakyan.
Pettis (19-5), the younger brother of former UFC champion Anthony Pettis, dropped Khashakyan with a right hand and brutalized him with punches on the ground before rendering him unconscious with a guillotine choke. Sergio Pettis hadn’t won a fight by stoppage since September 2013 in his final bout before his 14-fight UFC career began.
Featherweight Juan Archuleta beat Henry Corrales and a hostile crowd, earning a unanimous decision and then climbing onto the cage to make a two-handed obscene gesture at the Forum fans booing his fight for inactivity. Archuleta’s 18-fight winning streak ended last December with a decision loss to Patricio Friere.
In the co-main event, veteran Darrion Caldwell advanced in Bellator’s featherweight tournament by choking out previously unbeaten Adam Borics of Hungary in the first round. Caldwell celebrated with a backflip off the top of the 6-foot cage.
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