MIXED MARTIAL ARTS
UFC 219: Cyborg fight highlights a mildly interesting card
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