UFC 219 - In Depth Breakdown
Date: Sunday 31st December, 3am (UK)
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Venue: T-Mobile Arena
Cris Cyborg vs Holly Holm
Cris Cyborg makes the first defence of her UFC featherweight title in what has to be the toughest assignment of her career so far in Holly Holm. This is really the only fight the UFC could make as the new division is virtually empty with Germaine de Randamie passing on the opportunity to fight Cyborg. Although Holm is moving back up from bantamweight, many believe she has the best chance of toppling one of the most dominant female fighters of all time.
Cyborg is 18-1 (1 NC) in her career and despite losing her first fight she has obliterated all of her opponents with 16 knockouts displaying her brutal power and strength. She relies on these attributes to intimidate and run through her victims but now under the tutelage of Jason Parillo she has evolved from an out and out brawler to one with lethal technique with Parillo referring to Cyborg as the Mike Tyson of MMA.
Holm bounced back spectacularly from three straight losses with a glorious question mark kick knockout over Bethe Correia but will still be a heavy underdog going into this fight. However, on paper she poses the biggest threat to Cyborg. She is calm, composed and a potent counter striker which is the best approach to take against someone who presses forward with a size and power advantage.
Holm also has championship pedigree as a multiple time Boxing champion and importantly as a UFC champion. She claimed the belt from another fighter who many felt couldn’t be beat in Ronda Rousey. Regarding this fight, her agile footwork and movement will be crucial to avoiding the power strikes and clinch attempts of Cyborg who has nasty Muay Thai, delivering damage whenever she gets near her opponents.
So together with her coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, they will apply a meticulous game plan as usual to combat the beast but so will Cyborg’s camp as they know Holm is her biggest threat. This will be such an intriguing match-up between the pressure and power of Cyborg and the technique and athleticism of Holm.
The fight promises to be closer than the stats suggest as Holm has had four more UFC fights – all against elite competition. Cyborg is the more accomplished grappler but both ladies will opt to stand and trade with the key stats being Holm’s striking defence and Cyborg’s accuracy.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Edson Barboza
Khabib Nurmagomedov makes his much anticipated return to the octagon after botching his weight cut and falling ill hours before his interim championship bout with Tony Ferguson at UFC 209. He has now recovered and hopefully healthy enough to compete at UFC 219 and square off against the number 4 ranked Edson Barboza.
Fight fans have been deprived of seeing Nurmagomedov fight due weight issues and serious injuries throughout his career which is a real shame as he possesses some of the strongest skillsets in MMA and is unbeaten which is incredibly rare at this level.
His grappling is simply on a different level - he possesses mutant strength, allowing him to ragdoll opponents with world class Sambo and suffocate them with destructive ground and pound. However, if there is anyone that has the weapons to stifle the Russian’s takedowns it’s Barboza.
One of the most electrifying and devastating strikers in MMA, Barboza’s kicking techniques are so fast and so powerful that Nurmagomedov has no choice but to be careful when shooting in for a takedown. The human highlight reel displays these skills in most of his fights being the only fighter to finish two fights via leg kicks and who can forget his wheel kick against Terry Etim and the flying knee in his last fight against Beneil Dariush.
However, these skills are useless if he cannot avoid the inevitable takedown attempts from the demon from Dagestan. Barboza’s grappling has improved drastically since training with Ricardo Almeida’s team and his takedown defence will be pivotal to any success. The Brazilian’s best form of defence will have to be attack. If he is hesitant to throw his blistering kicks in fear of being taken down he will be a sitting duck.
So, to cause the upset and inflict the Russian’s first loss, Barboza has to be aggressive. One mistake against Nurmagomedov and you’ll be on your back in pain – however, one mistake on the feet against Barboza can land you in hospital.
Nurmagomedov edges the striking stats because the majority of his punches have been inflicted while on top-position on the ground whereas Barboza’s strikes have been inflicted from a distance and will be his only chance of victory.
Dan Hooker vs Marc Diakiese
This bout between two young and promising lightweights has been pushed up into the main card after bantamweight Jimmie Rivera has been left without an opponent days before UFC 219. You have to feel sorry for Rivera who was preparing for the biggest fight of his life against Dominick Cruz who pulled out with a broken arm and then days out, John Lineker was rushed to hospital with a tooth infection. Talks of Marlon Moraes also fell through this week meaning Rivera has put his Christmas and honeymoon on hold for nothing.
Anyway, this fight between Dan Hooker and Marc Diakiese is more than worthy of being on the main card and has every chance of being the ‘fight of the night’. They are both very exciting fighters who relentlessly hunt the finish in all their fights.
Hooker has struggled to string two wins together in his last six fights but in between losses to stellar competition he has pulled off exceptional finishes – a head kick knockout to Hatsu Hioki, a guillotine choke to Mark Eddiva and a spectacular flying knee knockout to Ross Pearson in his last fight.
Not to be outdone, Diakiese is a true showstopper himself. The former Bamma lightweight champion amazes fans with his striking displays, showing off his Capoeira skills mixed in with devastating Muay Thai and Kickboxing. He was really starting to make noise after winning his first three UFC fights and extending his unbeaten record to 12-0, however, he narrowly lost a decision to Drakkar Klose in in last fight who gave a tutorial in how to beat Diakiese.
Klose weathered the early storm of attacks from Diakiese and went on to grind out a win and this is exactly what Hooker needs to do. They are both very strong grapplers but Diakiese boasts a speed and power advantage on the feet which will be a huge threat to the New Zealander in the first round.
Cynthia Calvillo vs Carla Esparza
Cynthia Calvillo has emerged under the radar in the strawweight division but is a huge talent and an impressive win over the former champion Carla Esparza at UFC 219 will put everyone on notice.
Calvillo is a promising product from Team Alpha Male and you can tell she has reaped the rewards of training with such a high-level camp. She is very well-rounded with phenomenal grappling skills which will be tested to say the least by Esparza.
Esparza won the strawweight title after winning ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ in 2014 which crowned the first champion of the new division. She was the favourite going into the tournament and rightly so as she eased her way to the finale and finished the current champion, Rose Namajunas, with a rear-naked choke. She has enjoyed success through leveraging her strong wrestling with power and technique to control her opponents. However, she was exposed on the feet against Joanna Jedrzejczyk which happens to most fighters but Esparza’a weakness has been highlighted.
So, although Calvillo is a strong grappler she will be wise to keep the fight standing, presuming Esparza will let her. Their grappling is the key stat here and the obvious route to victory for Esparza but the evolution and progression of Calvillo each time she steps inside the cage could surprise a lot of fans on the night.
Carlos Condit vs Neil Magny
‘The Natural Born Killer’ returns to the octagon after 16 months, much to the excitement of the fans as he hopes to revisit the win column against Neil Magny.
Condit’s thrilling fighting style has been missed but a break was much needed after losing five of his last seven fights which included brutal encounters with the very best welterweights in the world including Georges St. Pierre, Johny Hendricks, Tyron Woodley, Robbie Lawler and Demian Maia.
The UFC would be forgiven for handing Condit a soft return but not the case and Condit wouldn’t have it any other way. Magny has hugely impressive wins over the likes of Kelvin Gastelum, Hector Lombard and Johny Hendricks and possesses attributes to threaten any welterweight.
Standing at 6’3” with an 80-inch reach, he holds the advantage over all of his UFC welterweight foes and will be a key factor in this fight. Condit is as seasoned as they come and has proven he can out-strike some of the best fighters in the world with fluid combinations of punches and kicks thrown from all angles. Magny will have to utilize his reach advantage and conduct the fight as ‘The Natural Born Killer’ can finish from anywhere.