The UFC is back in Vegas for UFC 222 this Sunday at the T-Mobile Arena. Current Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg, who is looking to extend her unbeaten streak to 20 against former Invicta FC Champion Yana Kunitskaya, headlines the event. The heavily backed favourite Cyborg is arguably the most dominant fighter in Women’s MMA History and is set to defend her title for the 2nd time in the UFC. Her opponent, who holds a professional record of 10-3, is currently sitting at $9 and is one of the biggest underdogs in UFC history. The last time the odds were stretched this far in a women’s title fight was Ronda Rousey vs Holly Holm.
The co-main event of the night sees number 2 ranked featherweight Frankie Edgar take on rising star Brian “T-City” Ortega. At different stages of their respective careers, but both riding win streaks, this bout has the makings of an all-time great and is one not to miss. As per usual The Wolf breaks down the full Main Card, along with bet predictions and his multi!
Cat Zingano vs Ketlen Vieira The first bout of the main card sees top ranked bantamweight contenders face when Cat Zingano battles Ketlen Vieira. The matchup is key for the future of the 135 division and the winner could see a title shot, one or two bouts away. Cat “Alpha” Zingano has been a perennial contender for nearly 5 years and brings an exciting an aggressive style for her opponents. Coming off back-to-back losses and 3 fights in 4 years. Zingano will be looking to make up for lost time and with a win over current champion Amanda Nunes under her belt. A victory here promises a number 1 contender fight up next. Cat fights at a high pace inside the octagon and is a dangerous matchup for any women she squares up against. Her victories over Nunes and Tate are two prime examples of the violence Zingano brings to the octagon and is constantly putting herself in harm’s way for victory.
This is the key to victory for Ketlen Vieira, who is 9-0 in her MMA career and the betting favourite currently sitting at $1.66. Vieira has looked composed in her three UFC bouts so far and seems to be getting better with each performance. Her submission victory over Sara McMann, is a prime example of the game plan Vieira employs. She is happy to sit back and let her opponent make the mistake while she capitalises. In the Rousey fight that lasted only 14 seconds, fans saw Zingano’s aggressiveness come back to bite her as she was quickly submitted by the former champion.
This bout is a classic matchup of aggression vs control and the longer the fight goes on the more it favours Vieira. With that said, the Wolf likes the betting underdog in this one and favours Zingano to comeback in a big way. 1st round KO. Best: Under Total Rounds Value: Zingano KO Round 1
Stefan Struve vs Andrei Arlovski The second bout on the main card showcases two veteran heavyweights in the twilight of their careers. Number 10 ranked HW Stefan “The Skyscraper” Struve is set to do battle with MMA legend and number 11-ranked Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski. An interesting stylistic matchup sees the aggressive Arlvoski look to takedown the 7 foot Struve.
Stefan Struve holds an MMA record of 28-9 and is only 30 years of age but is extremely experienced inside the Octagon. Holding wins over Big Nog, Antonio Silva and current champion Stipe Miocic, Struve is a well-versed fighter and can finish the fight standing or on the ground. Outside of his impressive reach and size, Struve has an incredible chin and has been known to absorb shots from some of the best in the world. Look for the Dutch native to avoid the onslaught early of the Pitbull and take it into the later rounds where he has the conditioning and grappling advantage.
A veteran of 24 UFC fights, Andrei Arlovski has been through it all inside the Octagon. From the glory days of UFC 51 back in ’05 when he won his first title, or a return after 6 years away from the UFC against Antonio Silva. Arlovski who holds a record 26-15-1 has experienced all of the emotions that go along with being a fighter and has been nothing but entertaining along the way. His victories of Tim Sylvia, Travis Browne and Devin Cole are prime examples of the high action style the Pitbull possesses. The fans only remember recent performances and with a record of 1-5 over his last six bouts, many are ready to write the legend off into retirement at UFC 222.
The Wolf is wary of this bout and deems it the hardest to pick of the night. Both men have been inconsistent throughout their careers and therefore backing either with confidence is tough. Best: Stefan Struve WIN ($1.52) Value: Struve by Decision
Sean O’Malley vs Andre Soukhamthath This is a bantamweight bout providing the biggest opportunity for both fighters young careers. O’Malley who was recently picked in Dana White’s Looking for a fight Contender Series, was a standout on the show and brought a wave of momentum into the UFC. With a perfect professional record of 9-0, O’Malley has risen through the ranks quickly and a win on Sunday would be the biggest of his career to date. Possessing an aggressive style and KO ability, O’Malley has shown a clear ability difference between himself and his competition so far. With a victory over Andre on Sunday, a future exciting bout with top contenders such as Thomas Almeida, Rob Font or Aljamain Sterling could be in his near future.
Andre Soukhamthath is coming off the biggest win in his career and his first inside the UFC against Luke Sanders, back in December. Impressive that night, Soukham holds an MMA record of 12-5 and Sundays fight is easily the biggest of his career. Possessing a striking dominant fight style, The Asian Sensation will not fear the younger O’Malley when he looks to end the hype train as it sets to take off. The TKO of Sanders was the first dominant performance of his UFC career and is a perfect building block for another strong outing Sunday. A victory over O’Malley catapults him into the top 15 and more importantly will attract the attention of the MMA public. The Wolf likes the highly touted O’Malley in this one, vicious KO 1st or 2nd round. Best: O’Malley WIN ($2.05) Value: O’Malley KO Round 1
Frankie Edgar vs Brian Ortega The co-main event sees UFC fan favourite Frankie “The Answer” Edgar take on late replacement and undefeated featherweight Brain “T-city” Ortega. The bout was originally scheduled as Holloway v Edgar, but a late leg injury to the champion threw that plan out and the fans will now see a 3 round non-title fight.
Frankie Edgar, who has been a top contender in both the 155 & 145-pound divisions, is constantly in title talks and every fight he takes is always high-pressure and garners plenty of attention. With a 145 title still in his sights, a victory against Ortega guarantees him another shot at a fresh opponent in Holloway. The future Hall of Famer Edgar, has complied one of the best resumes in the UFC and has beat the best of the best in the lighter divisions. From his wars with Gray Maynard and Benson Henderson, to his beat downs of Chad Mendes, BJ Penn & Yair Rodriguez. Edgar is never far from a great performance and has been one of the most consistent UFC fighters over the past 10 years. Possessing a pressure based style; Edgar is well versed with his hands and is a notoriously good wrestler and grappler. His most recent fight against Rodriguez back at UFC 210, was a prime example of the offensive pressure Edgar brings, rendering Yair defenceless to any and all attacks. Frankie must be careful if he uses this tactic against Ortega, who is one of the best grapplers in the UFC today.
Brian “T-City” Ortega has burst onto the UFC scene over the past few years with a world-class Jiu-Jitsu game and ever improving stand-up. Holding an undefeated record of 13-0-1, Ortega has been flawless throughout his UFC career, finishing all six of his opponents in devastating fashion. His finishes of Clay Guida and Cub Swanson are prime examples of the killer instinct he possess and is a scary proposition for any fighter at 145 pounds. The Swanson fight was his biggest showing to date and the finishing choke needs to be watched, to be believed. Ortega submitted the black belt Swanson, in mid-air adjusting his grip and pressure in the process. A victory for the underdog Ortega against Edgar would be enormous for his career and would well and truly place him as one of, if not the scariest prospect in the entire UFC.
A very intriguing co-main event will be a must watch, with the styles of both fighters a big story in this one. The winner is guaranteed a title shot against Holloway and The Wolf likes “The Answer” Frankie Edgar, to prove too good and overwhelming in this one. Decision victory to Edgar. Best: Edgar WIN ($1.55) Value: Edgar by Decision ($1.80)
Cris Cyborg vs Yana Kunitskaya The Main Event of the evening is a featherweight bout in the UFCs 145 pound women division. Defending champion and MMA phenom Cris Cyborg is set to defend her belt for the second time against UFC debutant and former Invicta champion, Yana Kunitskaya.
Cris Cyborg who is considered by many to be the best female fighter of all time, has dominated nearly every single opponent en-route to an impressive 19-1-1 record. Her four UFC performances have been spectacular with Cyborg maybe losing a round to Holm but dominating the majority of her fights. Her beatdown of common opponent Tonya Evinger is evidence of the level difference between her and the next best. Her UFC debut was postponed for a long time due to her issues with weight and finding suitable opponents. With the newly introduced 145 pound division beginning to take full effect, fight fans are bearing witness to the true force of nature that Cyborg is. With ruthless victories over Lisa Lansberg and Leslie Smith complementing her UFC career, Cyborgs $1.06 price tag is well and truly deserved.
Her opponent, Yana Kunitskaya is a part of a new breed of MMA style coming out of Russia and taking the MMA world by storm. Coming off the biggest victory of her career and first world title against Raquel Pa’aluhi, Yana is known for her well-rounded skill set and ability to absorb punishment. She will need that in spades against Cyborg, who only shares one common opponent with Kunitskaya and that was Tanya Evinger. Evinger submitted Yana 2 fights ago and contributed heavily to her $9 price tag.
The UFC is great, because of many reasons with its unpredictability being at the forefront. As previously mentioned the last time a title fight was this one-sided was Rousey v Holm and we all know the result that night. The Wolf will not count Yana out and expects a good showing from the Russian, but Cyborg is too big, too strong and too technical. She should be able to get her out of there by the 3rd. Expect another beat down at the hands of Cyborg. Best: Cyborg by KO Value: Cyborg Round 2 KO