UFC 219 goes down in Las Vegas tomorrow night and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm
‘Cyborg’ will face one of the toughest tests of her career on Saturday night against former bantamweight champion Holm in the main event of UFC 219.
Holm has a wealth of striking experience to draw on, but it’s not hard to imagine that her cautious style, which relies on using her speed and athleticism to pick her moments to dart in-and-out with short flurries of strikes, will be more accentuated tomorrow night than ever before.
That’s because ‘Cyborg’ is the bigger, stronger, harder-hitting fighter here, so Holm can’t afford to get into any extended striking exchanges, and will have to hope that making the Brazilian star chase her around the Octagon will tire her out and make the later rounds a less daunting prospect.
Cardio is a concern for ‘Cyborg’ given her size and power, but she is generally well conditioned and is as tough as nails, so short of getting caught by one of Holm’s head kicks, she’s going to keep driving forward for as long as her legs will carry her.
A big advantage for ‘Cyborg’ will be her wrestling and ground and pound. While she can certainly trouble Holm on the feet too, I think her best chance for a finish lies with bringing the former boxer to the mat and then dropping bombs upon her until the referee steps in.
I expect ‘Cyborg’ will try to compete with Holm standing first, but her opponent’s movement will prove to be frustrating, leading to the ground and pound option becoming more appealing, with an end result of a TKO stoppage in the third round.
Cris ‘Cyborg’ to win by TKO in Rd3.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Edson Barboza
This is a clear-cut example of a high-level striker vs grappler match-up that has major implications for the top end of the lightweight division.
Given how completely and utterly dominant of a wrestler Nurmagomedov is, he’s an exceptionally tough match-up for anyone in the division, and as a thoroughbred striker, Barboza certainly falls into that category.
We have seen signs in recent fights that Nurmagomedov can be troubled on the feet though, and Barboza is the type of explosive striker who can capitalize on that, so the Russian star will have to be exceptionally careful when moving in for takedowns that Barboza doesn’t catch him with a well-timed knee, for instance.
Barboza’s opportunities to do that may be limited though as Nurmagomedov is happy to just move into clinch range and repeatedly slam his opponents to the mat rather than going for the more traditional single and double-leg entries.
Barboza has proven many times that he’s capable of moments of magic in the Octagon, but I do feel this is going to be a long night for him as Nurmagomedov consistently takes him down and mauls him for the full three rounds to earn a decisive decision victory.
Khabib Nurmagomedov to win by decision.
Cynthia Calvillo vs. Carla Esparza
This is an interesting challenge for Calvillo, who has had an excellent 2017 campaign, winning four fights in a row in her first year in the UFC, while also being singled out by Dana White as a potential future star.
Esparza is a former strawweight champion with a good wrestling game though, so this will be Calvillo’s toughest test yet.
Calvillo’s striking is a work-in-progress, but there have been definite signs of progress over the course of the year and Esparza’s own stand-up isn’t likely to overwhelm her.
On the other hand, Esparza does have a solid takedown game and will be looking to implement that wherever possible.
Calvillo thrives on the mat though with her Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and her agility, scrambling and offensive approach with submissions make her a serious threat that should cause Esparza problems throughout the fight, though I think she might just survive to the end of the fight.
Cynthia Calvillo to win by decision.
Carlos Condit vs. Neil Magny
Magny has been a remarkably consistent campaigner over the past few years in the UFC, with a 12-5 record that includes wins over the likes of Kelvin Gastelum, Johny Hendricks and Hector Lombard.
With that in mind, this is a tricky fight for Condit given that he’s been out for a year-and-a-half, was experiencing a somewhat patchy run of results prior to that and has openly admitted to considering retirement in recent times.
Nevertheless, Condit has always been a well conditioned athlete and so I wouldn’t expect to see too much in the way of ring rust here, and his versatile, dangerous striking game has the potential to be a real headache for the more ‘meat-and-potatoes’ style offense that Magny serves up.
Magny may find takedown opportunies, but Condit is a swift scrambler and will be hard to contain, so overall I feel that this is a fight ‘The Natural Born Killer’ can emerge from victorious, either by way of a late stoppage, or perhaps more likely given his long layoff, on the scorecards.
Carlos Condit to win by decision.
Dan Hooker vs. Marc Diakiese
With a fight between John Lineker and Jimmie Rivera being scrapped earlier this week, Hooker and Diakiese get a chance to impress on the UFC 219 main card.
Diakiese is the type of fighter that’s likely to thrive under the bright lights with his highlight-reel friendly, eye-catching assortment of flashy striking techniques.
He was caught out last time due to his opponent exploiting his weaknesses beyond the striking game, but Hooker will likely play to his strengths by engaging in the stand-up battle, and that could very well lead to fireworks as Diakese emerges with a second round TKO victory.
Marc Diakese to win by TKO in Rd2.
Khalil Rountree vs. Michał Oleksiejczuk
Myles Jury vs. Rick Glenn
Louis Smolka vs. Matheus Nicolau
Tim Elliott vs. Mark De La Rosa
Marvin Vettori vs. Omari Akhmedov