Gomes or Cyborg, who´s next for Aussie powerhouse Anderson?

On Saturday night inside the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri, Brazilian featherweight Ediane Gomes defeated Pam Sorenson via split decision over three gruelling rounds.

Invicta FC 23 was never tasked with finding a new contender for Megan Anderson’s featherweight title, but it did so.

Gomes was the first realistic championship-level opponent to win at 145 pounds in the Invicta cage since Anderson completed her ascension to Invicta gold in January. Contenders at 145 pounds have been hard to come by, especially as Anderson destroyed a bunch of them on her way to winning the title.

If Invicta is in control of Anderson’s immediate fighting future, a championship bout with Gomes is the only fight to make. The Brazilian returned to form impressively after two years without a fight.

The win was Gomes’ first since 2013 and improved her record to 11-4. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt was able to control Sorenson throughout most of the grappling exchanges, and more than hold her own on the feet. In truth, the split decision rendered by the judges was misleading. It was a mature performance in a fight that Gomes clearly won.

A fight with Anderson would provide the Australian with a unique challenge. Once earmarked for a title fight with Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, Gomes’ level of experience is almost unmatched in the developing division. She has shared the cage with UFC champions Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey, as well as Invicta FC bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger.

The question, however, is whether Invicta is in control of Anderson’s next booking. The fighter has campaigned hard for a much deserved UFC contract, with Cris Cyborg the preferred opponent.

It would be a compelling fight with all the right narratives in place. Anderson emerged from Cyborg’s shadow in 2016 once the Brazilian swapped the Invicta cage for the UFC’s octagon. Four stunning performances, each more impressive than the last, propelled the Australian to the top of the 145-pound division.

Only Bellator champion Julia Budd, and long-time featherweight number one Cris Cyborg sit above Anderson at 145 pounds. UFC champion Germaine de Randamie is nowhere to be found, nor does her record match up to that of the surging Gold Coast warrior.

Both Cyborg and Anderson have stressed that this is the fight they want next. Talk of a potential bout between Cyborg and Cat Zingano has done little to excite either the Brazilian or her fans. Understandably so.

Zingano previously fought as a flyweight and has not won a fight since 2014. The former title challenger has not fought at all in almost a year. The difference in size and level of competitive activity would make Zingano an impossible underdog.

More than that, Anderson deserves her big opportunity. The 27-year-old relocated to the United States following an educational defeat to Cindy Dandois in 2015. James Krause’s Glory MMA gym in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, has been good to Anderson, helping transform her from a raw prospect into a world class fighter and athlete.

Now she stands alone as the only legitimate contender to Cyborg’s stewardship of the featherweight division. Yet a formal contract offer from the UFC has not been forthcoming, raising questions regarding the future of the promotion’s 145-pound division.

Since introducing the title at UFC 208 earlier this year, not a single 145-pound fighter has been signed. Fans can only hope that Anderson’s weekend trip to Las Vegas, where she came face to face with Cyborg in another attempt to push the potential bout, catches the attention of UFC matchmakers.

It’s time to give the fighters and the fans what they want.

Stephen Rivers is a Wales based contributor for Fight News Australia.