UFC 222

Cyborg x Kunitskaya

Picks, Parlays, and Predictions

Card Subject to Change

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PICKS

Cyborg x Kunitskaya
Ortega x Edgar
Soukhamthath x O’Malley
Arlovski x Struve
Zingano x Vieira
Dern x Yoder
Dariush x Hernandez
Dodson x Munhoz
Dollaway x Lombard
Ottow x Pyle
Caraway x Stamann

PARLAYS

“Educated Guess” EDITION
Ortega (+155)
Soukhamthath (-130)
Arlovski (+180)
Dern (-311)
$2.22 to win $34.84
“CYA" EDITION
Edgar (-185)
Soukhamthath (-130)
Arlovski (+180)
Zingano(+130)
$2.22 to win $36.75

PREDICTIONS

Featherweight Filler

Cris Cyborg x Yana Kunitskaya for the Women’s Featherweight Championship

There are only two things we can count on in the modern UFC: interim championships and Cris Cyborg man-handling bantamweights for the women’s featherweight title. Here we go again.

Fresh off of a victory over Holly Holm, Cyborg has truly cleaned out her entire division.  Well, she’s cleaned out most of the women’s 135 division. The actual 145 division is completely empty outside of the champ. The weight class doesn’t even have official rankings. After four appearances, Cyborg has yet to fight a full-time featherweight contender in the UFC. I’m not going to bother singer her praises (again and again) until she faces someone who is actually competitive at 145 pounds.

Originally, there were talks of women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes stepping up to fight Cris. Of course that doesn’t solve the issue of fighting smaller opponents, but at least we’d have ourselves a “champion vs champion” match. Instead, the UFC has decided to pluck another random face from Invicta FC. Make no mistake, this PPV is absolutely not worth the sticker price. After the original main event dropped out, this was a quick patch-up job from the promotion that seems much more like a side-show and much less like a main event.

Yana Kunitskaya, the incumbent 135-pound champ of Invicta FC, is apparently the best we can get. It gets worse from here. Kunitskaya only has the Invicta belt because the former champ, Tonya Evinger, was called up to face Cyborg on the enormous UFC 214 card last July. Against Cyborg, Evinger got absolutely dominated for twelve minutes until she eventually succumbed to strikes. It was tough to watch. Before getting the call to the UFC, Evinger had previously fought Kunitskaya twice and the pair went 1-1. Unfortunately, Kunitskaya’s win was eventually overturned in response to a reffing error. Don’t worry, I won’t get into it.

My point is, I’m not sure why the UFC thinks someone who is 10-3 across different amateur divisions has any business going up against the infamous Brazilian brute. I know MMA math doesn’t work, but if Holly and Evinger couldn’t get the job done – what is Yana bringing to the table? Barring a miracle submission or wayward haymaker, Cyborg is more than capable of devouring Kunitskaya whole. At this point, I’m rooting against the champ based on principle. The Russian’s recent move to the Jackson-Wink academy, where Holly Holm trains, will be her biggest strength on Saturday. I’m hoping she’s at least moderately competitive with Cyborg but I’m not expecting much.

Legends tell of a true featherweight female contender. Megan Anderson, they call her. Efforts to book her against Cyborg continually fail to materialize. Some say it’s because she’s waiting in the darkness, plotting her every move. Others say she’s hiding in a kangaroo pouch in Australia. Whatever the case, the UFC needs to find her and pair her up against another contender instead of feeding her directly to Cyborg. Try building the featherweight division with actual featherweight fighters instead of booking one-off matches against a, practically unbeatable, mutant champion. I won’t hold my breath.

 

Frankie Edgar x Brian Ortega as a decent co-main event

A legitimate featherweight number one contender fight? Get out of town. Of course, featherweight champion Max Holloway was initially set to defend the title against Frankie Edgar, but this is the perfect replacement. Ortega is undefeated in the UFC and Saturday night’s winner is more than deserving of a shot at the belt.

If you’ve watched the UFC with any regularity within the last ten years, you know exactly who Frankie Edgar is. The former lightweight champion has also been a top five flyweight since 2013, failing twice to steal the belt from former 135 champion Jose Aldo. With Aldo out of the title picture,  Edgar has an easy case for contendership. “The Answer” is impossibly tough and has never been stopped in any of his 28 fights. He’s come close to being finished, we’ve seen him on ice skates for almost an entire round, but nobody can seal the deal. Forward pressure and a relentless pace are his biggest weapons. If you get backed up by his punches, he’ll take you down. If you don’t fight to keep him in guard, he’ll advance position. If you’re not two steps ahead, he’ll beat you. Knockout, submission, decision, he can do it all. If you want to beat Frankie, you need to know how to wrestle and you need to have cardio. His five losses and one draw have all come from the same three fighters. It takes a special person to beat him.

Southern California’s Brian Ortega has had two “Fight of the Night” performances in his last two outings. As mentioned, he’s undefeated in the UFC, but not against USADA. Ortega popped positive for an anabolic steroid in 2014, which makes him hard to root for. Luckily, he’s so good at jiu-jitsu that the majority have decided to gloss over the failed test. There’s really nothing normal about this guy, so I get it. Besides looking like he’s part gargoyle, his half-cholo, half-aloof-surfer-in-a-gi vibe is hard to place. What really matters is that all of his fights have been entertaining. With six fights in the UFC, Ortega has delivered six spectacular finishes. It’s a good thing he’s never seen the judges, too, because he gets beat up way more than his record might indicate.

As it’s been said before, Frankie Edgar is the UFC’s Rocky: down but never out. While we’ve seen Ortega show flashes of slick boxing and crack Clay Guida’s skull with a devastating knee, I don’t see him figuring out “The Answer” on the feet. When the fight hits the mat is when things get tricky. Edgar isn’t exactly a power puncher and while he can definitely hold his own, time after time, he’s shown a proclivity for wrestling. Mixing between those two disciplines is where the former champ shines, after all. The problem is Rocky didn’t have to worry about jiu-jitsu.

If a whale had a neck, Brian Ortega could crush it. The man chokes out almost everyone that gets put in front of him. Probably the result of a lifetime’s worth of grappling experience and a totally legit strength-training regimine. Grappling and physicality will be the two areas where Edgar can find himself in trouble. He may be able to continually nullify Ortega’s offense, but if Frankie gets lazy with a single takedown, he can put himself in danger. If Frankie had trouble with Ben Henderson, Brian “T-City” Ortega has the ability to bring all that and more.

I’m making the bold prediction and siding with the underdog. Even though Ortega seems comfortable getting punched and losing rounds and Edgar does nothing but throw punches and win rounds, I can’t help but side with So Cal. Ortega has a captivating ability to finish fights and even though he’s fighting on four weeks notice, I think he goes out there and capitalizes on any opportunity given to him. It seems ridiculous to think Frankie is going to get caught, but we know the details of his offense and I can see Ortega timing the inevitable takedown.  Of course, the odds are this will be the pivotal moment in Ortega’s career where a crafty veteran shows him he can’t coast against top contenders. Whatever. The story line I’m going with is the talented up-and-comer proves his rank among the elite by finishing the unfinishable. Either way, I’m excited.

 

BONUS FOR BEGINNERS:

An easy way to start dissecting a fight’s outcome is to think of it as a game of rock, paper, scissors. Striking is rock, paper is wrestling, and scissors are jiu-jitsu. You can do the rest of the math yourself. It may be dumb and dated, but it’s surprisingly effective.