UFC 219 is set to take place in Las Vegas on December 30th. Typically, the UFC’s December event is earmarked as the big end-of-year show with a card that’s stacked from top to bottom. However, the current menu for UFC 219 lacks a little sizzle.
The main event has Cris Cyborg defending her featherweight title against another ferocious puncher in Holly Holm. On paper, it might seem one-sided, but remember the last time we doubted Holm in perceived mismatch title fight?
It’s a great matchup, to be sure. Yet, there are concerns it won’t sell pay-per-views. So now, rumors are swirling about last-minute additions to the card, including Nate Diaz in some capacity. A trilogy fight with Conor McGregor was the dream, but that won’t be happening as McGregor is dealing with some fallout from his Bellator fiasco and punching out a drug cartel associate. Oops.
Those transgressions will keep the Irishman out of the UFC octagon for an extended period of time, if not permanently.
As for Diaz, he apparently has been offered everything but the moon. But the Stockton native is demanding a celestial body, by which I mean bags and bags of money, before he steps inside an Octagon again.
While one or two more bouts could be added to give the card some extra pugilistic goodness, it looks like the main event is set, and I’m ok with that. What fans really need at this point are quality fights, not just big names. And in addition to Cyborg/Holm, we’re also going to see Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Edson Barboza, a huge fight that could give us another lightweight contender. The weigh-in may be just as dramatic as the fight given Nurmagomedov struggles to make 155.
While we wait for more spice to be added, let’s stir the existing pot and break down the main and co-main events of the evening for your betting needs.
Cris Cyborg (-325) vs. Holly Holm (+250) – Women’s Featherweight Championship
This might not have that big, main event feel to it, but it shouldn’t be shrugged off. Anytime you get a chance to see two high-precision strikers like Cris Cyborg (18-1) and Holly Holm (11-3), fight fans should brace for the spectacular.
Besides, this is a matchup that might not be as one-sided as the bookies want you to believe.
“Styles make fights,” is the mantra and as much as Cyborg is a dominant machine, remember the last time we doubted “The Preacher’s Daughter?” She shocked the world by smashing Ronda Rousey. Unfortunately for Holm, that thrust into the spotlight might have come too quickly and a three-fight-losing streak followed.
A change of scenery, i.e. moving up to featherweight, appears to be what Holm needed. Less weight to cut does the body good.
After kicking Bethe Correia’s head into next week back in June, the UFC granted Holm a title shot. Even if it might be a tad undeserved, you can understand why: (a) the matchmakers like the marquee names involved and (b) it has the potential to be a great standup war.
Or it could be another one-sided affair.
Let this sink in for a moment. Cyborg hasn’t lost a fight since 2005. Out of the 19 fights she has been a part of, she has won 16 of them via KO/TKO. She is regarded as one of the greatest female athletes on planet Earth and one of scariest fighters to have ever entered a cage or ring. She has a Mike Tyson-esque aura about her and many of her opponents lose before they ever enter the cage.
Mental warfare is only one part of it. According to Fight Metric, Cyborg averages a ridiculous 7.83 significant strikes landed per minute with a striking accuracy of 51%. That means she throws bombs and doesn’t stop. It’s rare that any of her fights get out of the first or second round, and even if the fight does go into deeper waters, Cyborg has recently shown great patience and the ability to pick her spots.
In a fight like this, Cyborg won’t have to worry about being taken down. Holm sticks to what made her one of the best welterweight boxing champions in the world. But she also has a kickboxing background that allows her to use kicks to set up her precise striking. Although her strikes per minute (3.00) is not as high as Cyborg, she does like to throw well-timed counter punches which is something the champ will have to remember.
Holm has a slight reach advantage in this fight and will look to keep Cyborg on the outside with the jab and some well-placed body kicks. For Holm to survive, she needs to be patient and not get into a brawl. She needs to get this fight into deep waters and try to pick Cyborg apart. Being a southpaw could be a major factor, but if she can’t stop Cyborg advancing, it won’t matter which hand she uses when she’s swatting at stars while looking straight up at the lights.
Cyborg deserves to be the favorite, but it is tempting to take Holm at +250. Is there value there? Could “The Preacher’s Daughter” create another MMA miracle? It would be quite the legacy to leave if that were to happen.
But one stat that makes me shy away from that bet is Holm’s strikes absorbed per minute (2.53). She has been known, even in boxing, to have trouble against big power punchers because she’s always waiting to counter. If you wait to get hit by Cyborg, it’s night-night.
Winner: Cris Cyborg (-325) via KO/TKO
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Edson Barboza
Odds currently not available
Currently, Conor McGregor holds the lightweight division title and, due to his inactivity, Tony Ferguson currently holds the interim belt. But let’s add a few more players to the mix shall we?
The undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0), who originally had a fight lined up with Ferguson until he had to pull out due to a botched weight cut, is looking for another chance to try to win some gold. First, he needs to focus on a tough Edson Barboza (19-4) who is on a three-fight winning streak.
If “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov can stay healthy between now and December 30th — and hopefully lose the weight in a healthy and professional fashion — Barboza shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the 29-year-old Russian.
Both these warriors love to strike with SLpM (strikes landed per minute) ratings almost at 4.00. But it’s Barboza’s striking that should be feared the most.
The 31-year-old Brazilian has a highlight reel of stunning knockouts, including that classic wheel kick KO over Terry Etim back in 2012. He loves to throw deadly kicks to the body and legs while mixing in some extremely powerful right hands.
Nurmagomedov may not have as much power or flashy kicks, but he uses his strikes to set up the takedown. The former sambo world champion loves to smother his opponents, getting them to the mat and unleashing all hell with vicious ground-and-pound. With a takedown average of 6.15 per 15 minutes and a takedown accuracy of 48%, Nurmagomedov is relentless with his pressure and has a gas tank that doesn’t ever seem to get to empty.
Barboza has had trouble in the past with being taken to the mat and now he has to get into the octagon with a sambo/wrestling champion? If this fight goes down, the safe money is on Nurmagomedov for the win. However, look at the prop bets in regards to over/under on rounds or method of victory to find some potentially better value.
Winner: Khabib Nurmagomedov via stoppage (TKO or submission)