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UFC 219 predictions

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Well, the last UFC event of 2017 is just hours away. And although many expected this end-of-the-year card to carry a little more pop, it still has a solid lineup of fights. In the headlining slot, Cris Cyborg defends her women’s UFC featherweight title against former bantamweight champ Holly Holm. This fantastic women’s superfight is accompanied by other great bookings, as Khabib Nurmagomedov makes his first 2017 Octagon appearance against top lightweight contender Edson Barboza, Carlos Condit makes a long-awaited return against Neil Magny, and top strawweights Cynthia Calvillo and Carla Esparza battle in an important bout for the division.

What: UFC 219

Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.

When: Saturday, Dec. 30. The lone UFC Fight Pass preliminary fight begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, the four-fight FOX Sports 1 preliminary card begins at 8 p.m. ET, and the five-fight main card begins at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view.


Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm

This is arguably the biggest fight in women’s MMA history.

Cris Cyborg has dominated the women’s featherweight division for years, and there hasn’t really been anyone in recent times that has even given her much trouble. Cyborg has vicious striking. Her standup is varied and powerful. The Brazilian doesn’t need to land clean strikes to hurt her opponents. Her ground game hasn’t really been tested, but that won’t be something she’ll need to be concerned about when facing Holly Holm.

Holm showed some improved wrestling/grappling in her fight against Germaine de Randamie, but not enough to pose a problem against Cyborg. Holm is very calculated with her strikes, and like Cyborg, uses a varied attack. Holm also has great footwork and movement, which is key for this bout.

I think the odds for this fight should be a lot closer than what they are. Holm has a legit chance at winning this bout. Most of Cyborg’s recent opponents have been sitting ducks, as they didn’t have the footwork or movement needed to stir away from Cyborg’s power. Holm moves often, can be hard to hit, and she’s also pretty durable.

I feel like there could be an upset here. Yet, it’s hard to imagine a fight where Cyborg doesn’t get her hand raised at the end. I feel like this will be a close fight where Cyborg will be forced to dig deep. I see both fighters having good moments, but with Cyborg ultimately doing enough to earn the decision.

Pick: Cyborg

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Edson Barboza

Normally, this would be a title eliminator bout, but with the current landscape of the UFC’s lightweight division, you just never know how far away someone actually is from fighting for the belt.

Khabib Nurmagomedov hasn’t fought since November of 2016, where he dominated Michael Johnson before submitting him with a kimura. Nurmagomedov was scheduled to fight Tony Ferguson last March for the interim lightweight belt, but that fight was canceled, as Nurmagomedov fell ill from his cut to 155 pounds. Now, “The Eagle” will have a chance to remind people he’s the real deal at 155 pounds.

Nurmagomedov is a powerhouse for the weight class, and likely the most dominant grappler in MMA. Nurmagomedov’s takedowns and top control have been key to his success in MMA. Nurmagomedov doesn’t pose much of a threat on the feet, but that hasn’t been an issue, as none of his opponents have been able to stop his sambo game.

Edson Barboza is one of the scariest strikers in the UFC roster. Barboza has clean muay thai technique and lightning-quick strikes. The Brazilian fighter also possesses a pretty solid takedown defense. But will Barboza’s takedown defense be enough to stop Numagomedov’s takedowns? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

I think the key to beating Numagovedov is having crafty jiu-jitsu to survive on the ground, and dangerous standup to cause damage during that small window that the fight is on the feet. I think Barboza only completes half of that equation. I see Barboza landing some good shots, but eventually getting taken down by Numagovedov, where he’ll be at a clear disadvantage.

Pick: Nurmagomedov

Dan Hooker vs. Marc Diakiese

This is an interesting fight that can go either way.

Dan Hooker is a tall, lanky fighter that can fight almost anywhere the fight goes. Hooker has good striking and utilizes his reach very well, sticking behind straight punches. Hooker also has sneaky submissions and a slick ground game but he’s not very dominant which could hurt him against Marc Diakiese.

Diakiese is a very athletic fighter that has shown tons of raw talent in his short career. The 24-year-old fighter is very explosive and unpredictable. Diakiese has proven to be a dangerous striker, and in his most recent fight, he showed he is very proficient on the ground and can score takedowns of his own.

Part of me sees Hooker being the more technical guy and fighting a smarter fight. The other sees Diakiese overwhelming Hooker with his power, physical strength, and unpredictability. Tough fight to call, but I see Hooker winning a decision.

Pick: Hooker

Cynthia Calvillo vs. Carla Esparza

This bout is not getting much attention, but I find it to be a great booking and one that makes sense for the strawweight division.

Cynthia Calvillo is an undefeated prospect that’s now 3-0 in the UFC. Calvillo is extremely scrappy, but recently showed the world she can fight a lot more composed with her win over Joanne Calderwood. Calvillo has a great ground game with a good ability to win scrambles. The Team Alpha Male product is not great on the feet, but she can definitely hold her own.

Carla Esparza is a seasoned vet that has held UFC gold in the past. Esparza has excellent grappling that’s wrestling based. Esparza has very good takedowns and she does a great job at setting them up. Like Calvillo, Esparza doesn’t possess the best striking in the division, but she can score points on the feet against decent strikers.

I think this fight could be very fun, and could lend it self for some great grappling exchanges. Calvillo has the better submissions here, and she’s more of a threat on the ground than Esparza. However, Esparza has the better control and the superior wrestling. I see Esparza controlling Calvillo on the ground to a win a decision. I don’t think Calvillo poses much of a threat to Esparza on the feet, and I find Esparza to be a superior grappler.

Pick: Esparza

Carlos Condit vs. Neil Magny

“The Natural Born Killer” finally returns to the Octagon and he is coming back during a very interesting time in the UFC’s welterweight division.

It’s been over a year since we’ve seen Condit fight, and the last time he set foot in the cage, he didn’t look too sharp. I wonder what version of Condit we will be getting here. I have a feeling this break has been good for his career, and I expect to see a vintage Condit. That means we’ll see a gritty fighter with great striking technique and a diverse attack. Condit doesn’t have the best takedown defense, but once on the ground he can hold his own against competent grapplers.

His opponent, Neil Magny, is no joke. Magny always shows up to fight and he’s pretty consistent with his performances. Magny shares many attributes with Condit. Magny has good fight IQ, has very good striking and movement, and fights with constant pressure, never really taking his foot off the gas.

Like I said, I expect to see a vintage version of Condit and I believe that should be enough to get passed the very game Magny. I find Condit to be too seasoned and too skilled to drop a decision agains Magny. I also don’t see Condit getting finished in this fight.

Pick: Condit

Undercard:

Khalil Rountree def. Michal Oleksiejczuk

Myles Jury def. Rick Glenn

Marvin Vettori def. Omari Akhmedov

Louis Smolka def. Matheus Nicolau

Tim Elliott def. Mark De La Rosa

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