Fight fans it’s fight week, as UFC 222: Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya goes down from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada this Saturday. As always, that means it’s time for three of MMANews’ finest to bring you their expert analysis and predictions for the main card of this Saturday’s big event.
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UFC 222 was an interesting ride, as the show started off with Max Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar for the UFC Featherweight Championship as the main event. After an injury sidelined Holloway, and rumors of Conor McGregor offering to step-in on short-notice fell through, the headline position ended up getting filled by UFC Women’s Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg, as she defends her title against Team Jackson / Winkeljohn prospect Yana Kunitskaya.
Edgar will remain in a high-profile fight on the card, however, as highly-touted undefeated contender Brian “T-City” Ortega replaces Holloway against the former UFC Lightweight Champion in the co-main event of Saturday’s pay-per-view card. Also on the card is a battle of Heavyweights between Andrei Arlovski and Stefan Struve, as well as Cat Zingano vs. Ketlen Vieira and Sean O’Malley vs. Andre Soukhamthath.
MMANews.com staff writers Matt Boone, Fernando Quiles Jr. and Ian Carey will be giving their picks for this installment of our Staff Predictions Roundtable. Check out their analysis and predictions for Saturday’s main card fights below.
- Cris Cyborg (c) vs. Yana Kunitskaya (Women’s Featherweights)
- Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega (Featherweights)
- Sean O’Malley vs. Andre Soukhamthath (Bantamweights)
- Stefan Struve vs. Andrei Arlovski (Heavyweights)
- Cat Zingano vs. Ketlen Vieira (Women’s Bantamweights)
UFC 222 STAFF PREDICTIONS
Cris Cyborg (19-1, 1 NC) vs. Yana Kunitskaya (10-3, 1 NC)
Matt Boone: Rocket scientists need-not-apply when predicting the outcome of the main event of this Saturday’s UFC pay-per-view. Cris Cyborg defends her UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship against Team Jackson / Winkeljohn fighter and Holly Holm teammate Yana Kunitskaya. Cyborg is coming off of one of the longest streaks of female beheadings in the history of recorded earth. Meanwhile, Kunitskaya is coming off of a one-fight win streak after going 0-1, with 1 no contest in two fights against Tonya Evinger, the last woman that Cyborg decapitated. Odds makers have Cyborg an enormous -1650 favorite (nearly 17-to-1) over Kunitskaya, who comes in as the biggest betting underdog on the card by far at +950. We’ll go with Cris Cyborg via brutal murder inside five. (Prediction: Cris Cyborg)
Fernando Quiles Jr.: Cris Cyborg was in for her toughest challenge in quite some time when she met Holly Holm back in December. While Holm found some success early, she was ultimately battered and lost via unanimous decision. Not even Holm’s best could serve as a true threat to Cyborg’s title. Yana Kunitskaya is no slouch, but I just don’t see her being able to take things to the next level. With her flaws exposed against Tonya Evinger, I believe Kunitskaya will have a great deal of trouble handling Cyborg’s grappling let alone the stand-up. (Cris Cyborg)
Ian Carey: I used to feel genuinely terrified for Cyborg’s opponents. That feeling has subsided in recent bouts, however. There will come a time and place when someone finally beats Cyborg but that day is not Saturday and Yana Kunitskaya is not the fighter who will do it. Cyborg via TKO. (Prediction: Cris Cyborg)
CONSENSUS: Cris Cyborg (3-0)
Frankie Edgar (22-5, 1 NC) vs. Brian Ortega (13-0, 1 NC)
Matt: Brian T-City Ortega is a very talented and promising prospect. There’s no question about it. Is he worth the amount of hype UFC has invested in him? We’ll find out this Saturday night in Las Vegas. Ortega brings his perfect MMA record and nearly flawless Gracie Jiu-Jitsu skills into the Octagon against the truth machine in Frankie “The Answer” Egar. In his last outing, the former UFC Lightweight Champion crushed another fighter UFC was trying to build into the next big thing, Yair Rodriguez. And he smashed him, for the record. Odds makers have Edgar a slight favorite over Ortega, and I would have to agree. Ortega isn’t quite Francis Ngannou, as there’s nothing obviously missing from his overall game, but something tells me UFC started the full-throttle push of T-City a little earlier than they should’ve. I’ve got Frankie Edgar winning this weekend. (Prediction: Frankie Edgar)
Fernando: It’s sink or swim for Brian Ortega. If he can submit Frankie Edgar the way he has done to his previous opponents, there is no doubt about his contender status. I don’t think he can get it done, however. Edgar’s grappling is on another level. I can’t see Edgar sleeping and falling into a choke while shooting in. I think he takes down Ortega early and often and maintains control for the win. (Prediction: Frankie Edgar)
Ian: Frankie Edgar doesn’t give his opponents many opportunities and that will frustrate Ortega. Edgar has never been finished and Ortega is a finisher. Ortega is not going to be able to do to Frankie what he has done to all his opponents thus far and while it’s impossible to know how he’ll react to that, becoming frustrated seems likely. Edgar via decision. (Prediction: Frankie Edgar)
CONSENSUS: Frankie Edgar (3-0)
Sean O’Malley (9-0) vs. Andre Soukhamthath (12-5)
Matt: Sean O’Malley is a solid rookie prospect in the UFC, sporting an undefeated record and notoriety gained from Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. He meets 1-2 UFC veteran Andre Soukhamthath in the bridge match between the two opening bouts and two main events on the main card. The odds makers have this one as the closet fight on the card, with O’Malley coming in a slight underdog at +100 and Soukhamthath a favorite at -120. I’d take the slight risk on O’Malley pulling off the upset. (Prediction: Sean O’Malley)
Fernando: This is a good test for Sean O’Malley. He’s got talent, but he showed his inexperience against Terrion Ware in his last outing. O’Malley earned a unanimous decision, but he spent a good portion of his energy in the first round and had to dig deep late to pull out a win. Soukhamthath also likes to be flashy with his striking. I’ll give the edge to him due to his edge in experience. (Prediction: Andre Soukhamthath)
Ian: The “Asian Sensation” looked comfortable in his last fight against Luke Sanders. He looked really patient and confident. I worry O’Malley will want to put on a show and Soukhamthath will find an opening. Despite this feeling, I’m still going to take O’Malley via TKO. I’ll also predict the fight will later be overturned after O’Malley tests positive for elevated marijuana metabolites, however. (Prediction: Sean O’Malley)
CONSENSUS: Sean O’Malley (2-1)
Stefan Struve (28-9) vs. Andrei Arlovski (26-15, 1 NC)
Matt: In the second main card bout of the evening, a seven foot veteran battles a former UFC Heavyweight Champion, as Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve and Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski meet inside the Octagon in an interesting pairing. Struve comes into the fight with a 3-2 record in his last five fights, while Arlovski is coming off of one win that snapped a five-fight losing streak. The odds makers have Struve a favorite at -180, with Arlovski coming in as a +155 underdog. A loss for Arlovski would probably spell the end of his UFC career. With Struve having the submission advantage and Arlovski having a suspect chin, I’m going with the Skyscraper. (Prediction: Stefan Struve)
Fernando: This bout would be easy to pick if not for Stefan Struve’s inconsistency. Andrei Arlovski is well past his prime. These days he’s hesitant to throw because of his history with knockout losses. Struve’s problem is the opposite. Sometimes he gets too careless and doesn’t create distance despite his reach. For this bout, I believe Struve will be more active and Arlovski will be in defensive mode. I like Struve here. (Prediction: Stefan Struve)
Ian: Two good strikers with susceptible chins. Every time I think Struve is going to break out and become the next big heavyweight contender, he lets me down. His last loss to Alexander Volkov was gut-wrenching if you were pulling for him. It’s so easy to get your momentum cut off when trying to climb the heavyweight division and Struve (30) needs to reset and start trying to climb again. Arlovski, who had lost 5 in a row leading up to his win over Junior Albini in the fall, knows all about having to do that. I think Struve gets to Arlovski first and ends it quick. (Prediction: Stefan Struve)
CONSENSUS: Stefan Struve (3-0)
Cat Zingano (9-2) vs. Ketlen Vieira (9-0)
Matt: After going undefeated in her first nine pro MMA bouts, Cat Zingano comes into this one riding the first two-fight losing streak in her career. She infamously lost to Ronda Rousey in only 14 seconds back in February of 2015 and has only fought once since then, losing to TUF winner Julianna Pena via unanimous decision at UFC 200. Zingano will meet undefeated contender Ketlen Vieira, who comes into this fight off of an impressive submission victory over Sara McMann. The odds makers have Vieira a favorite at -190 and Zingano an underdog at +165, but I would steer clear on putting any money on this fight. This could go either way. I’ll pick Cat Zingano to return to her winning ways. (Cat Zingano)
Fernando: This is a good way to get the main card started. Cat Zingano spent all of 2017 on the shelf. Meanwhile, Ketlen Vieira made a name for herself with wins over Ashlee Evans-Smith and Sara McMann. I’m not yet convinced that Vieira is the next best thing, but Zingano’s inactivity is a question mark. I’m gonna lean towards Zingano here due to the stiff level of competition she has faced and beaten. (Cat Zingano)
Ian: This is a bout between two fighters at different stages of their careers. Zingano is 35, hasn’t fought in 20 months, and hasn’t won a fight in 3.5 years. Granted, the last time Zingano won a fight it was over bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes. On the other hand, Vieira is 26, undefeated, and looking to get to the top of the division as fast as possible. I like Vieira to take this one either via submission or decision (Ketlen Vieira)
CONSENSUS: Cat Zingano (2-1)
What do you think of the above analysis for UFC 222? Do you agree or disagree with the predictions? Let us know by sounding off in the Comments section below. Join us via Twitter @mmanews_com on Saturday evening for live UFC 222 results coverage!