UFC 219: Cyborg fight highlights a mildly interesting card

UFC 219: Cyborg fight highlights a mildly interesting card
Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm highlights UFC 219. MMAfighting.com

UFC 219 isn’t the best card the UFC has put on this year. In fact, on paper, it is probably nearer the bottom of the pay-per view power rankings. It does, however, have a few intriguing storylines that for me are enough to fork over my $60. 

The headliner features the most dominant women’s fighter of all time, Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos (18-1), taking on Holly Holm (11-3), who knows a thing or two about overcoming the most unlikely of odds. Cyborg has not lost since May of 2005, and has rarely even been challenged in her bouts. Since getting to the UFC, she has had three fights, and won by TKO all 3 times. Holm is best known for head kicking Ronda Rousey’s career into a downward spiral, but even she has not faced a force like Cyborg. Holm’s technical boxing is tough to match for any woman, but Cyborg has the brute strength and closing pressure that has proven to be too much for any of her peers to handle. If the fight goest to the ground, it is difficult to see Holm surviving long, but as long as they are on their feet Holm has a chance to land a fight-ending kick. A win for Cyborg here would solidify her as the most dominant female fighter in history, while a surprise win by Holm would give her a legacy as a true giant-killer. 

The co-main event marks the return of Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0), who is one of the most dominant fighters in the world, when he can make it into the cage. Khabib was supposed to fight Tony Ferguson for the interim title at UFC 209, but was hospitalized with complications during his weight cut. He hasn’t fought since, and has developed a reputation as injury prone that is serious enough that it could cost him a title shot. He gets Edson Barboza (19-4) here, who has won three straight since being submitted by Ferguson. Nurmagomedov will bring immediate and constant pressure, looking to use the same takedown recipe that Ferguson used to beat Barboza. Barboza will clearly want to stay on his feet, but as Michael Johnson and Abel Trujillo found, it is much easier said than done. 24 fighters have tried to land the kill shot on Khabib before being taken down and pummeled, and all 24 have failed. Barboza will look to be the first, but has a serious uphill climb. The winner of this fight is hoping to get a shot against Ferguson, and both fighters feel like they have something to prove, both against each other and against “El Cucuy”. 

The matchup between Cynthia Calvillo (6-0) and Carla Esparza (12-4) pits two grapplers against each other. Calvillo has worked her way into a high-level prospect, while Esparza has struggled in her UFC career after winning The Ultimate Fighter in season 20. This fight may be unspectacular, but the winner gets themselves into the conversation of strawweight contention. 

Carlos Condit (30-10) returns after a 16 month layoff that had people curious if he would ever fight again after he was pummeled soundly by Demian Maia. Neil Magny (19-6) is an intriguing opponent for his return, if for no other reason than it should make a stylistically interesting matchup. It is very difficult to know what we will get out of Condit here. He is only 33 years old, but has mostly been hidden away for the last year and a half, so it is hard to know where he is at physically and mentally. A win here instantly revives interest in him near the top of the welterweight division, while a loss may mark the last time we see Condit in the UFC cage. 

Mark Diakiese (12-1) had his shine knocked off by Drakkar Klose back in July. Diakiese was widely regarded as the top lightweight prospect in the world, but Klose, a fine prospect in his own right, was able to capitalize on his weakness and make it an ugly clinch fight. Daniel Hooker (14-7) doesn’t have a history of trying to make fights ugly. This is a good matchup for Diakiese to display his brilliant counter-striking and get his name back to the tip of people’s tongues. 

The undercard features Khalil Rountree, Myles Jury and Tim Elliott. 

Cyborg by TKO

Nurmagomedov by TKO

Calvillo by decision

Condit by KO

Diakiese by decision

Rountree by KO

Jury by decision

Smolka by knockout 

Vettori by decision

Elliott by submission

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They clearly know how this game is played. Composite Getty Image.

The biggest news from Astros spring training in West Palm Beach has been the arrival of muscle-packed third baseman Alex Bregman, who’s in the final year of his contract with free agency looming.

Facing a battalion of microphones, Bregman has been saying all the right things – all the right things that Astros fans are happy to hear.

“I feel like I’ve never been in better shape in my life.”

“I expect to have the best season I’ve ever had.”

“I absolutely love every single second here. Being able to put on this jersey is an absolute honor and a dream come true for me as a kid. When it comes to the contract, I just let Scott do that.”

"Scott" is Bregman’s cold-blooded agent Scott Boras who is known for taking his clients to free agency and playing hardball with owners. Bregman, who will be 30 at the end of the season, is expected to draw offers perhaps as rich as $250 million over seven or eight years.

When I watched Bregman talk about his love for Houston and how he’d love to stay an Astro, I was half looking for an earpiece like the Impractical Jokers wear, with Boras whispering to Bregman what to say.

At the same time, but not the same place, Astros general manager Dana Brown was gushing over the Astros third sacker.

“He’s locked in. He is a special talent.”

“I’m expecting he’s going to have a really good season. I’m excited.”

“He has the heartbeat of a champion.”

The way Bregman and Brown are talking … I’ve heard less flirty prom invitations.

Now cue the scary music from horror movies. When Bregman was asked, have the Astros approached you with any offer of an extension, he answered a simple “no.”

When pressed for a timetable on a Bregman extension, Brown admitted, “at some point we’ll put together an offer. But right now we’re not engaged in an offer.”

In other words, both sides are talking. But not to each other.

Spring training is in full swing. Often players say if they don’t have an extension by the start of the season, they’ll shut down contract talks. They don’t want to think about a contract when they’re in the batter’s box and the games count. We don’t know if that is Bregman’s position, but it’s Boras’ modus operandi. It’s looking more and more like hello free agent Alex Bregman.

If Bregman is looking for a long-term deal at $200 million-plus, that’s more than Astros have ever offered a player. It could be too costly for owner Jim Crane’s blood.

Where do you stand on the Astros-Bregman dilemma? If you were Jim Crane, what would you do?

Break the bank and pay the man? After all, Bregman is a key piece of the Astros lineup. He’s been a dependable, hard-nosed player, a bit of a lovable wise ass and a huge part of the Astros’ dynastic run since 2017. Last year Bregman played 161 games, batted .262 with 25 homers, 98 RBI and 103 runs scored. He was a Gold Glove finalist at third base. He’s well liked in the clubhouse and adored by Astros fans. He has his own line of condiments.

Or let Bregman walk and save the money to make a run at keeping Kyle Tucker? As old school sports writers would say, you can look it up. In 2019, his career year so far, he batted .296, belted 41 homers, drove in 112 runs and led the league with 119 walks. He finished second in MVP voting behind Mike Trout. He hasn’t made an All-Star Game since then. His numbers, while not in free fall, have dwindled the past four years. He still is an above average player, though. Some team looking to go deep in the postseason will offer him big bucks at season’s end.

If it were up to you, would that team be the Astros?

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