UFC 222 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya
‘Cyborg’ agreed to this featherweight title defense against the former Invicta FC bantamweight champion Kunitskaya on just a few weeks notice, but though that may be something of a concern from a weight-cutting perspective, the champion is the type of fighter that’s always in shape.
Still, the karate and muay thai based Kunitskaya will be looking to push a good pace here on the feet, using her solid cardio in an attempt to tire out Cyborg and take her into deeper waters in the later rounds.
Its a big ask though as Cyborg is more imposing physically, hits harder and is more aggressive – though it should be noted she’s also become more composed and strategic too these days, which will help her balance her energy reserves.
Kunitskaya could threaten with submissions if given the chance, but Cyborg should generally be the stronger, more dominant fighter on the mat and overall this feels like a fight that she should have the upperhand in, leading to a third round TKO stoppage.
Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino to win by decision.
Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega
This should be a terrific fight that will give some indication as to just how high Ortega’s ceiling is as he attempts to continue his rise to the top of the featherweight ranks against the current No.1 contender, Edgar.
Still on top of his game at 36-years-old, Edgar’s only losses at 145lbs have come by decision against Jose Aldo, with his highly polished, well-rounded skill-set proving too tough of a nut to crack for the rest of the division up until this point.
Striking wise he’s tricky to deal with as he’s constantly moving and darts in and out with short, swift offensive flurries that don’t often have a whole lot behind them, but are accurate, consistent, and don’t give his opponent’s much time to respond in kind, which can open up a large gap in terms of strikes landed.
Ortega likes to keep busy too and has developed his striking nicely, opting for a boxing-based approach, but overall I feel Edgar’s footwork and experience will give him the edge in this regard.
Edgar is also a very good wrestler too and a key strength is ability to transition effortlessly from striking to grappling, while its worth noting that he’s never been submitted in his MMA career.
If anyone can threaten him in that regard it’s Ortega, whose strong suit is undoubtedly his high-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and he can wrap up submission in remarkably quick fashion.
Ortega is undoubtedly a serious threat here, but I do still favor Edgar to once again show why he’s been at the top-end of the sport for so long as he holds his own on the mat and lands more strikes on the feet to win out on the scorecards.
Frankie Edgar to win by decision.
Sean O’Malley vs. Andre Soukhamthath
With his forward-pressing, offensive approach and flashy striking style, O’Malley is fun to watch and he has proven to be a finisher so far in his career too.
Soukhamthath is also a dangerous striker coming from a muay thai base and he’ll be looking to counter O’Malley, who can be reckless at times and leave holes in his defense that could be exploited.
Nevertheless, I do lean towards O’Malley here as he should be the more active fighter and his unpredictability and movement will be more important than his power here as he notches up a decision victory.
Sean O’Malley to win by decision.
Stefan Struve vs. Andrei Arlovski
At 39-years-old, Arlovski is very much in the twilight years of his career, but despite being almost a decade younger than him, Struve has also been in the wars over the years too.
As always, Struve will have the height and reach advantage here, but though he’s got a little better over the years, he strill struggles to fully use his physical advantages effectively by using his long limbs to keep opponents at bay.
That could be a real problem against Arlovski, who can still cover ground quickly and remains a good technical boxer with knockout power in his hands.
Struve is perhaps at his most dangerous on the mat looking for submissions, but I think he’ll be looking to knock out Arlovski here, and that’s certainly a distinct possibility. Still, I have a feeling that ‘The Pitbull’ will be able to get into range to find Struve’s chin in this fight and that will lead him to a second round TKO stoppage.
Andrei Arlovski to win by TKO in Rd2.
Cat Zingano vs. Ketlen Vieira
This fight would be viewed differently if it wasn’t for the fact that Zingano hasn’t fought since July of 2016 and hasn’t managed to compete more than once a year since 2010.
Those facts raise serious questions about how Zingano will cope on Saturday night, despite the fact that on her day she is a very good fighter indeed, with her grappling in particular being a strong point, though she can strike too.
However, Vieira can match her in most regards and in addition to being 10-years her junior has also been more active in the cage and works at a high tempo, which could test Zingano if she does have any signs of ring rust heading into this bout after a long layoff.
This should be a close, competitive fight, but it’s hard to be confident about what Zingano is going to bring to the table here, so though she may have her moments, I think it will be Vieira who proves to be the more consistently effective fighter on the feet and mat here over the course of three rounds to get the nod from the judges.
Ketlen Vieira to win by decision.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Mackenzie Dern vs. Ashley Yoder
Beneil Dariush vs. Alexander Hernandez
John Dodson vs. Pedro Munhoz
C.B. Dollaway vs. Hector Lombard
Prelims (UFC Fight Pass)
Mike Pyle vs. Zak Ottow
Bryan Caraway vs. Cody Stamann
Jordan Johnson vs. Adam Milstead