The UFC returns for its last pay-per-view offering in 2017, as UFC 219 takes place Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The main event will feature Cris Cyborg defending the women’s featherweight championship against former women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm. In the co-main event, in lightweight action, Khabib Nurmagomedov battles Edson Barboza.
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Who walks out of Sin City the women’s featherweight champion? Sporting News MMA contributors E. Spencer Kyte and Steven Muehlhausen give us their pick.
UFC 218 predictions
Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm for UFC women’s featherweight title
Kyte: Could Holm shock the world for a second time in a little over two years? Absolutely — she has the footwork, crisp counters and powerful kicks necessary to find space, sting Cyborg and potentially pull off the upset win. Will she shock the world for a second time in a little over two years? I don’t think so.
Look, part of what allowed her to pick apart Ronda Rousey and win the bantamweight title at UFC 193 was that Rousey was poorly coached and had no idea how to fight an opponent who wasn’t happy to stand in front of her or that she could submit once they locked up on the ground. That’s not to take anything away from Holm’s performance, either — she did everything right and fought a masterful fight that night, but it certainly helped that Rousey was befuddled when they went to the ground and Holm was able to avoid the armbar and get back to her feet.
She also had no idea how to keep her head off the center line and avoid eating big left hands down the pipe.
Cyborg won’t make any of those same mistakes. For starters, she’s far more experienced and savvy than Rousey and has become a more patient, methodical fighter over the past couple of years. Secondly, she has Jason Parillo in her corner, and you know he’s run her through all kinds of scenarios against an opponent who likes to work counters from the outside and stay mobile. Lastly, Cyborg has crushing power, a diverse offensive arsenal and a keen understanding of how to use all her tools inside the cage.
I think this one will go longer than most of Cyborg’s previous bouts, but in the end her pressure and output will be too much and Holm will fall.
Prediction: Cris Cyborg
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Muehlhausen: Spencer, we don’t agree often on fight predictions. And this time is no different. What you said at the beginning is exactly how Holm will win. Cyborg’s never faced anyone in MMA with the skills Holm possesses. Even though she hasn’t resorted to her old ways of rushing in after connecting on a punch in recent fights, this is the biggest fight of Cyborg’s career, and old habits are hard to break.
She’s never been in such a high-pressure situation, while Holm has been here before. The experience of fighting Rousey helps Holm tremendously at UFC 219. The moment won’t get too big and she’ll know what to do, as Cyborg has an in-your-face style like Rousey.
Cardio will play a bigger role than expected. Cyborg’s only been in one fight that’s gone past the third round — when she defeated Marloes Coenen by fourth-round stoppage in July 2013. Holm has been in four fights that have gone five rounds, so it won’t be an issue for her. With the muscle mass Cyborg carries and with how hard she throws each shot, she’ll tire early. Combine all of those factors and Cyborg will get sloppy throwing her punches, Holm will do exactly what she did to Rousey and she’ll pull off two of the biggest upsets in MMA history.
Prediction: Holly Holm
UFC 218 undercard predictions
|Nurmagomedov vs. Barboza||Nurmagomedov||Nurmagomedov|
|Diakiese vs. Hooker||Diakiese||Diakiese|
|Calvillo vs. Esparza||Esparza||Calvillo|
|Condit vs. Magny||Magny||Condit|
|Oleksiejczuk vs. Rountree||Rountree||Rountree|
|Glenn vs. Jury||Glenn||Glenn|
|Akhmedov vs. Vettori||Vettori||Vettori|
|Nicolau vs. Smolka||Nicolau||Smolka|
|De La Rosa vs. Elliot||Elliot||Elliot|
Steven Muehlhausen is an MMA and boxing writer and contributor for Sporting News. You can listen to his podcast, “The Fight Junkies” here. You can email him at email@example.com and can find him on Twitter @SMuehlhausenMMA.