UFC 232 Betting Preview: Cyborg vs. Nunes, Plus Undercard Bets
USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: (left) Amanda Nunes, Cris Cyborg.
- Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (-265) and Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes (+210) close out 2018 for the women’s divisions in a champion versus champion bout.
- Michael Chiesa (-185) vs. Carlos Condit (+150) and Chad Mendes (-155) vs. Alex Volkanovski (+125) provide betting opportunities on the undercard of UFC 232: Jones vs. Gustafsson 2.
Betting odds: Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes
- Cris Cyborg -265
- Amanda Nunes +210
- Time: Approx. 11:30 p.m. ET
- Channel: UFC Pay-Per-View
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The co-main event of UFC 232: Jones vs. Gustafsson 2 features the biggest female superfight in UFC history. UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion (135 lbs.)
Amanda Nunes is moving up a weight class to challenge Cris “Cyborg” Justino for the UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship (145-pound limit). Cyborg (20-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) is favored to retain her title against Nunes (16-4 MMA, 9-1 UFC).
A comprehensive breakdown of the rematch between Jones vs. Gustafsson can be found here.
Cyborg vs. Nunes
Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino
Cristiane Justino, an MMA veteran of 13-plus years and undefeated in her past 20 bouts, is known to fans by a much more appropriate name: Cyborg.
The most dominant female in the history of MMA has proven to be every bit the destroyer that Ronda Rousey was built up to be, as Cyborg has reeled off twenty consecutive victories since losing her professional debut. She went on a warpath through EliteXC, Strikeforce, Invicta FC, and eventually the UFC.
In the UFC, Cyborg is 5-0 with four stoppages via strikes. She captured the vacant UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship in her third UFC bout and has successfully defended it against Holly Holm and Yana Kunitskaya.
Pressure striking is the basis of Cyborg’s game. She combines her superior athleticism with Muay Thai-style strikes to overwhelm her opponents. Cyborg attacks in every phase of the game — whether she’s punching in the pocket, throwing kicks at range, or landing knees to the body in the clinch — and never allows her opponent to get comfortable.
During her UFC tenure, the most notable improvements to Cyborg’s game have been her boxing fundamentals. Under the tutelage of Jason Parillo, Cyborg has developed improved head movement and footwork, allowing her to be even more effective with her most devastating weapon: her hands.
Most fighters who steamroll their opponents the way Cyborg has eventually crumble when they run into an opponent they can’t quickly put away. Cyborg hasn’t fallen apart when faced with adversity, though, she’s excelled. Cyborg has displayed remarkable poise and cardio. She doesn’t overexert herself when hunting her opponents and remains calm and technical when put in bad situations (however infrequently they occur).
Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes
The first eight years of Amanda Nunes’s career was a tale of two outcomes: the Lioness either finished her opponent in the early going or fell apart as the fight went on.
This blitzing style worked wonders for Nunes, as she secured the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship and essentially retired the “old guard” of the bantamweight division with back-to-back first-round finishes of Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey.
However, Nunes has reconfigured her approach since joining American Top Team. In her past two bouts, successful title defenses against Valentina Shevchenko and Raquel Pennington, we’ve seen a much more measured approach.
Nunes came out with a much lower-output striking game in her title fight with Valentina Shevchenko. Instead of throwing every shot with the intent to hurt her opponent, Nunes was focused primarily on non-committal strikes: pawing jabs and tapping leg kicks.
While this strategy barely worked against Shevchenko — she retained her title via an incredibly close split decision — it proved to be very successful against Raquel Pennington. Against a clearly over-matched opponent, Nunes was able to comfortably lay into her strikes and eventually finished Pennington in the fifth and final round.
On the surface, Cyborg and Nunes are of the same archetype. These women are superior athletes who overwhelm their opponents with high-volume pressure striking. In their combined 15 UFC bouts, 11 have resulted in stoppage victories.
Cyborg (red) | Nunes (blue) via UFC.com
Cyborg and Nunes both land an impressive amount of significant strikes per minute. However, Cyborg lands at a rate 50% higher than Nunes (6.81 vs. 4.54), which is especially troubling for the bantamweight champion considering Nunes is the one that struggles to maintain her pace.
Cyborg is also a more accurate striker than Nunes (58% vs. 51%) and better defensively. Both fighters absorb 3.21 significant strikes per minute, but Cyborg successfully defends 24% more of the strikes thrown against her compared to Nunes.
The X-Factors: Adversity and Cardio
In a matchup where both fighters are used to bulldozing their opponents, its important to look at how they react when they encounter adversity.
Cyborg has encountered minimal resistance in her MMA career. The closest she’s come to being in trouble was being ineffectually held against the cage by Holm. Still, Cyborg wound up out-landing Holm in every round during her unanimous decision victory, and she was able to remain calm and utilized technique to escape rather than brute strength during these less-than-ideal positions.
Grapplers Yana Kunitskaya and Tonya Evinger both gave everything they had to take Cyborg down, but the Brazilian made it back to her feet none the worse for wear every time she hit the mat.
Cyborg had to go out of her sport to encounter any trouble in the striking department. In 2014 she fought world champion Jorina Baars in a Muay Thai bout. The larger and much more experienced Baars knocked Cyborg down in the first round, but the mixed martial artist refused to be discouraged and was in the fight until the final bell.
Nunes, on the other hand, has crumbled when faced with adversity. In her first two UFC fights that made it past the first round, she was finished in the third round by Cat Zingano and scored a unanimous decision over Valentina Shevchenko. In the Shevchenko fight, Nunes dominated for the first two rounds but ran out of gas in third and was forced to survive until the final bell.
Nunes’ recent subdued approach is likely borne out of concern for her cardio. Cardio is an Achilles’ heel for Nunes but is one of Cyborg’s biggest strengths.
Looking at the past five bouts for both fighters, the difference in significant strikes landed/minute as the fight goes on is staggering. Nunes has superior output in the opening frame, but her production drops 64% in round two and another 43% in round three. Nunes gets a second wind in round four but its worth noting that she’s only been to the fourth round with her retooled, less powerful striking game.
Cyborg slows down as the rounds go on, but her decline is much slighter. It’s also very impressive that in the lone fifth round of her UFC career, Cyborg landed nearly 8.0 significant strikes per minute — twice the output that Nunes produces in the fifth.
Physically, both fighters are the same height (5-foot-8) and Nunes has a one inch reach advantage (69-inch vs. 68-inch). The eye test tells a different story. I expect Cyborg to be the stronger fighter in the cage, as she has been the superior athlete against the best 135 & 145 pounders in the world while Nunes has struggled against the current 125-pound champion (Shevchenko).
Odds and Prediction
Interestingly enough, the odds on both fighters are among the most favorable of their recent careers. As a -265 favorite, Cyborg has an implied 73% chance of winning. Nunes, the +210 underdog, has been given a 32% chance of victory by the oddsmakers.
Personally, I think these odds should be wider. A line in the neighborhood of -400 on Cyborg makes more sense to me. Nunes relies on being the superior athlete inside of the Octagon and she will not have that advantage against Cyborg.
Couple that with Cyborg’s superior cardio and technical advantages on the feet and I just don’t see a reasonable path to victory for Nunes.
THE PICK: Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (-265).
“Maverick” Michael Chiesa (-185) vs. “The Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (+150)
Moving up to welterweight, Micheal Chiesa (13-4 MMA, 7-4 UFC) is looking to rebound after two consecutive losses at lightweight (including a weight cut gone awry in his most recent bout). Chiesa is a rangy, janky striker that doggedly pursues the takedown. From there, he hunts for the rear naked choke (RNC): Five of Chiesa’s seven wins in the UFC have come via RNC.
A longtime fan favorite, Carlos Condit (30-12 MMA, 7-8 UFC) is in the twilight of his MMA career. The WEC and UFC vet has been fighting since 2002 and is currently on a four-fight losing streak. He hasn’t won since May 2015 and is on a 2-7 run dating back to 2012.
Chiesa’s success is predicated on his ability to get the takedown. He attempts 7.36 takedowns per 15 minutes. The biggest knock against Condit has long been his lackluster takedown defense. “The Natural Born Killer” defends just 37% of takedowns.
Condit is crafty on bottom, but has become increasingly shop-worn over his UFC tenure and has been submitted in two of his past three fights. The odds are exactly where I expect them to be.
THE PICK: Michael Chiesa (-185)
Chad “Money” Mendes (-155) vs. Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski (+125)
Title fights aside, the bout on the card with the highest stakes is the featherweight clash between Chad Mendes vs. Alex Volkanovski.
Mendes (18-4 MMA, 9-4 UFC) returned from suspension early this year with a bang, knocking out Myles Jury in under three minutes. A stout, hyper-athletic wrestle-boxer, Mendes has been among the elite of the featherweight division for years. Mendes’s losses have come to UFC legends Jose Aldo, Conor McGregor, and Frankie Edgar, and he’s blitzed through everybody else.
Mendes is the perhaps the best incarnation of the “wrestler with an overhand right” archetype. He has an explosive blast double-leg takedown and knockout power in his hands. Meanwhile, Volkanovski (18-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) is the brightest prospect in the UFC’s featherweight division.
He’s a highly-active wrestler with great-decision making. Volkanovski can maintain his pace for a full 15 minutes. In his UFC career, “The Great” has either overwhelmed his opponent with strikes or taken a clear decision.
Mendes (red) | Volkanovski (blue) via UFC.com
I think the story of this fight will be Volkanovski’s wrestling (or lack thereof). Thus far, “The Great” has been able to have his way with every opponent he’s encountered in the UFC.
He’ll have his hands full with Mendes, who has never been taken down in the UFC despite going up against high-caliber wrestlers like Ricardo Lamas, Frankie Edgar, Clay Guida, and Darren Elkins. Volkanovski has been taken down in three of his five UFC fights, including against the aforementioned Elkins.
If the fight is kept standing, Volkanovski hasn’t displayed the depth of technique on the feet necessary to hang with Mendes. Mendes has fast hands that pack a wallop. I expect Mendes to hurt Volkanovski on the feet and either finish him with strikes or keep him at bay for the duration of the bout.
THE PICK: Chad Mendes (-155)
Stats via UFC.com & FightMetric.com.
Odds via BestFightOdds.com & ScoresandOdds.com.