38 events down, 1 more to go.
UFC 219 marks the end of the UFC’s new owners first year in charge and in some ways, they will be glad to see the back of it.
A slow start to 2017 has seen the second half perk up but with behind-the-scene maestro’s Lorenzo Fertitta and Joe Silva leave the company, the UFC has struggled to hit the heights of 2016.
In the here and now, however, UFC 219 holds exciting and meaningful bouts throughout the main card with somewhat of a super fight in the headline berth as Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino defends her featherweight title for the first time against Holly Holm.
On the preliminary cards, there are a few fights to keep your eyes on but Myles Jury vs Rick Glenn should promise to be a very interesting contest.
Cris Cyborg (18-1, 1 NC) vs Holly Holm (11-3)
This is a hard fight to call due to Cyborg being an unknown quantity and Holly Holm being the toughest opponent of her career.
It’s apparent that Cyborg packs a mighty wallop but her pressure and set-ups for her power punches have brought her to the forefront of women’s MMA. To her career’s detriment, however, we’ve never been able to see just how good Justino is however due to a lack of quality opponents willing to face off against the Brazilian.
With Holly Holm, her ability to move and counter will be in direct battle with Cyborg’s stalking presence and whoever is able to implement their gameplan more successfully will undoubtedly come out victorious.
Whether Holm can keep away from the cage and avoid having the cage cut for 25 minutes is a big ask but I fancy that Holm can be the one to keep her range and ask questions of Cyborg’s gas tank once the fight goes past the halfway mark.
Pick: Holly Holm
Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0) vs Edson Barboza (19-4)
I feel this contest is dependent on Edson Barboza and his reaction to Nurmagomedov’s pressure.
Barboza has struggled in the past with his opponents constantly coming forward – see his bout with Tony Ferguson – but Barboza possesses the ability to change a fight in an instant due to his ridiculous athleticism and power.
The Brazilian does hold excellent takedown defence but Nurmagomedov is a different animal when it comes to getting his opponent to the mat. The Dagestan native can seemingly take anyone down at will and hold them there for as long as he sees fit.
Again, it’s a tough call due to Barboza’s overall improvements and his kicking game being as brilliant as it is but Nurmagomedov has proven in the past that long periods out of competition have little effect and his pressuring style has troubled the Brazilian in the past.
Pick: Khabib Nurmagomedov
Dan Hooker (14-7) vs Marc Diakiese (12-1)
Hooker, despite his record, is a very talented fighter and had Ross Pearson completely sussed out in his last outing.
Diakiese meanwhile struggled with Drakkar Klose’s wrestling but won’t face the same problem with the lanky Kiwi.
Hooker will pose a threat to Diakiese but with Diakiese having more time at ATT, the ‘Bonecrusher’ should have the right gameplan to find his spots on the feet and either land a big strike or do enough over the 15 minutes.
Pick: Marc Diakiese
Cynthia Calvillo (6-0) vs Carla Esparza (12-4)
Both of these women are very good at getting the fight to the mat so I expect them to cancel each other out and battle it out in a kickboxing match.
Esparza is probably the better in the clinch but Calvillo has showcased an impressive jab and had more success than expected against Joanne Calderwood on the feet.
If Calvillo can keep out of the clinch and avoid being pinned against the cage, I think Calvillo will find a consistent home for jabs and hooks.
Pick: Cynthia Calvillo
Carlos Condit (30-10) vs Neil Magny (19-6)
Carlos Condit is a more violent and better striking version of Neil Magny but with over a year out of competition and having been content with never fighting again, you have to wonder where he is at mentally.
Magny could use his wrestling to stifle Condit throughout but his defence is very suspect and he has become unstuck against the truly special fighters at welterweight.
I could see either man dominating inside a round or over the full 15 minutes but my sentimentality for ‘The Natural Born Killer’ is too much.
Pick: Carlos Condit
(Last Predictions: 1/4, Total: 102/168, 61% Success Rate)
(2016: 61% Success Rate)i