Two of the most notable female fighters in the UFC today go toe to toe for the UFC women’s featherweight title in the main event of the UFC’s final event of 2017.
Holly Holm will forever be known as the former boxing world champion who shocked the world by knocking out Ronda Rousey with a head-kick at UFC 193 in Australia, but her title reign didn’t last as long as many expected. Now she’s heading back into a title battle as she takes on the scariest, most destructive female mixed martial artist on the planet, Cristiane Justino, known to the world as Cris Cyborg.
The Main Event: Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm
Twenty fights. Eighteen wins. Sixteen wins by knockout. Cris Cyborg’s record speaks for itself. She’s a force of nature in the cage, and she’s swept aside each and every opponent she’s faced since losing her MMA debut back in 2005. Now that she’s in the UFC and fighting at her optimal fighting weight of 145 lbs, she’s potentially one of the most destructive, dominant champions in the UFC.
But to earn that accolade she needs to start racking up the title defenses, and her first defense since winning the title at UFC 214 earlier this year will see her take on a seasoned combat sports veteran who knows all about upsetting the odds and becoming a world champ.
Former UFC bantamweight champ Holly Holm dethroned Ronda Rousey in spectacular fashion at UFC 193, but then dropped the title to Miesha Tate on a dramatic night at UFC 196.
Back-to-back decision losses followed, as she was first defeated by Raquel Pennington, then by Germaine de Randamie in the inaugural featherweight title fight. Had Holm won that night, her meeting with Cyborg may already have happened.
But now the bout is on thanks to a spectacular knockout win over Bethe Correia, and Holm is looking to dethrone the woman widely considered the best female fighter on the planet.
|Cyborg vs. Holm||Win||Stoppage||TKO/KO||Submission||Decision|
|Odds retrieved on Dec. 29 from via BestFightOdds.com|
Keys to victory
Cyborg will look to push the pace, impose her will on Holm and blitz her with power punches. It’s a tactic that has served Cyborg well throughout her career, as she takes the opening seconds to assess her opponent’s style and movement before moving in for the kill.
But Holm has exceptional footwork — arguably the best in the three women’s divisions — and will look to use Cyborg’s aggression against her, using her kicks to keep Cyborg at range, then counter-striking the Brazilian as she steps into striking range. Holm brilliantly picked apart Rousey and did the same to Correia in her last outing, suggesting she’s found her mojo in the octagon once again.
Main Event Pick
Holm has the footwork to cause Cyborg problems, but her punching power might not be enough to dissuade Cyborg from marauding forward. Holm’s kicks will be crucial in controlling the range, and her counters off the back foot could, if implemented well, start to frustrate Cyborg if she looks to put the pressure on early.
But while Holm’s movement and counters could frustrate Cyborg, the champion’s power should be the decisive factor. Holm is the more polished striker, but Cyborg’s sheer power may very well prove too much for the former bantamweight champ.
Holm is durable and may not go quietly, but it’s hard to see her lasting all five rounds with a fighter as ruthless and powerful as Cyborg.
PICK: Cyborg by KO/TKO.
THE FIGHT CARD
Main Card (Live on PPV)
|Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino||Holly Holm||UFC Women’s Featherweight Title|
|Khabib Nurmagomedov||Edson Barboza||Lightweight bout|
|Dan Hooker||Marc Diakiese||Lightweight bout|
|Cynthia Calvillo||Carla Esparza||Women’s strawweight bout|
|Carlos Condit||Neil Magny||Welterweight bout|
Preliminary Card (Live on FS1)
|Khalil Rountree||Michal Oleksiejczuk||Light-heavyweight bout|
|Myles Jury||Rick Glenn||Featherweight bout|
|Marvin Vettori||Omari Akhmedov||Middleweight bout|
|Louis Smolka||Matheus Nicolau||Flyweight bout|
UFC Fight Pass Preliminary Bout
|Tim Elliott||Mark De La Rosa||Bantamweight bout|
The Men Most Likely…
…to unleash something spectacular: Marc Diakiese
British lightweight Marc “Bonecrusher” Diakiese is still early in his UFC career, and he may have lost his last outing (his first career defeat), but he remains one of the hottest young prospects in the UFC’s lightweight division.
The Brit has underrated wrestling, spectacular kicks and fight-ending punch power. Against a game, but inconsistent, opponent in Kiwi Dan Hooker, the stage would appear to be set for Diakiese to announce himself to a pay-per-view audience.
Diakiese is a man with a point to prove, and is available at +253 to win the bout by TKO/KO stoppage. That looks like a solid selection.
…to take home a post-fight bonus: Carlos Condit
If you cast your eye over a fight card and see Condit’s name on the docket, get ready for fireworks.
“The Natural Born Killer” has always been one of the most entertaining fighters in the UFC, with seven of his last 11 outings resulting in a post-fight bonus (Fight of the Night x5, Knockout of the Night x2).
Against fellow veteran Neil Magny, there’s a fair chance we’ll see another all-action Condit performance against a willing, durable dance partner.
Condit is a +266 shot to win the fight by KO/TKO, which represents decent value for a man who has won five of his last six victories by that method.
…to give the judges the night off: Khabib Nurmagomedov and Edson Barboza
The lightweight co-main event battle between Russian battering ram Nurmagomedov and lethal striker Barboza will deliver a clash of styles that looks set to deliver a finish, regardless of who wins.
Barboza owns some of the most spectacular finishes in the UFC, while the undefeated Nurmagomedov has just plowed through the opposition in a manner rarely seen at the top level of MMA.
The only way Barboza wins is to knock Nurmagomedov out, while Nurmagomedov won’t be content with a ground-out decision win — he wants to make a statement to pitch himself into a title fight in early 2018.
So taking the -125 on offer from William Hill on the fight not making it to the scorecards seems like a wise choice.