IN THE OCTAGON

A.J. Hoffman: Cyborg headlines UFC 222

Cris Cyborg will headline UFC 222. MMAfighting.com

UFC 222 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and is headlined by the women’s featherweight championship match between Cris “Cyborg” Justino and Yana Kunitskaya. The card was supposed to also have Frank Edgar challenging for Max Holloway’s 145-pound title, but Holloway had to pull out with an injury. Here is a look ahead at the card:

The headliner features Cyborg looking to continue her run as the most dominant female in the sport today. She has had little resistance in the UFC. She faces Kunitskaya, who was the reigning Invicta champion. She is a talented grappler, but has not been in the cage with anyone who can do what Cyborg does. This fight was made to save the card after Holloway had to pull out, and the matchup definitely has the look of one that was thrown together in an emergency situation. Kunitskaya is normally a bantamweight, and doesn’t present much that Cyborg hasn’t seen. I would be surprised if we get a competitive matchup. 

The co-main event is significantly more interesting, with Frank Edgar taking on Brian Ortega for the chance to fight Holloway when he returns to health. Edgar is a well-known commodity. He is excellent everywhere, although I have always been most impressed with his boxing (his footwork in particular). Edgar is the bar you have to pass in order to be considered a championship caliber fighter. Many rising prospects have had their championship dreams derailed by Edgar. Ortega is a special talent though. His striking has improved dramatically since getting to the UFC, and there are few grapplers more dangerous than him. Ortega is extremely dangerous on bottom, throwing triangle and armbar attempts with great effectiveness. Ortega was able to survive the best that Cub Swanson could throw before catching him in a fight-ending triangle choke. This will be a great test to see if the hype behind Ortega is real. 

Sean O’Malley has a chance to stake his claim as one of the future stars in the UFC if he can get past Andre Soukhamthath. O’Malley, who showed up in Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. He performed well in his first UFC appearance, and is already getting a spot on the pay-per view. Soukhamthath is not a slouch. He is 1-2 since getting to the UFC, and both losses were by split decision. It’s hard to believe the UFC would put O’Malley in this spot on the card if they didn’t think this was a fight he should win. 

For the old school fans, there is a matchup of two veteran heavyweights. Stefan Struve is coming off a loss to Alexander Volkov, but is in his 18th fight in the UFC, and will not be an easy out. Andrei Arlovski, a former champion, comes off a win over Justin Albini after five straight losses. A loss for Arlovski could be the end, as his 40th birthday comes on Sunday. Both guys have questionable chins, and it could be a matter of which guy can land a big shot first.

The undercard has some interesting matchups, with C.B. Dolloway taking on Hector Lombard and former bantamweight title contender John Dodson taking on Pedro Munhoz. Mackenzie Dern, who is a brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion and a rising star in women’s MMA makes her UFC debut on the prelim card as well. 

Predictions

Cyborg by TKO

Ortega by DEC

O’Malley by DEC

Arlovski by KO

Vieira by DEC 

Dern by SUB

Dariush by TKO

Dodson by TKO

Lombard by KO

Pyle by DEC

Stamman by DEC

Johnson by DEC

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Houston drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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