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UFC 219 Preview: Ending 2017 with a bang

By - Dec 30, 2017

By Weston DeWitt

The UFC was given a seismic matchup of epic proportions to close out 2016, when Ronda Rousey made her return to the octagon against bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes.


It didn’t take long for Nunes, as she knocked out Rousey in 48 seconds, leaving the UFC world in shock and disbelief. One year later, the MMA leader returns to the mecca of the fight land in Las Vegas for UFC 219, looking to re-create the fireworks left over from UFC 207.


The PPV’s main event on Saturday night will feature two of the most dangerous women known to combat sports, as Cris Cyborg looks to defend her featherweight championship belt against Holly Holm.


Before the main event, the PPV card kicks off of the return of the man they call “The Natural Born Killer” in Carlos Condit.


Condit, 33, comes into Saturday night having lost five of his last seven fights, most recently to Demian Maia in 2016. The former interim welterweight champion has always been a fan favorite in the eyes of the public with his lethal knockout power. In 40 of his professional fights, he possesses a 50 percent knockout percentage and only six of his fights have gone to a decision.


Not fighting in more than two years could potentially be a factor that works against Condit in this fight, as he faces a man who fought just three months ago.


Neil Magny fell to Rafael dos Anjos to a submission (arm-triangle choke) back in September at UFC 215, bringing his record to 19-6. The No. 12 ranked welterweight will have a five-inch reach advantage in this bout and his grappling game will be a tough challenge for Condit.


In the next bout, two top-10 strawweights will be looking to take one step closer to knocking on Rose Namajunas’s doorstep for the strap. 


No. 6 Cynthia Calvillo and No. 9 Carla Esparza will scrap it out in one of the most even matchups across the board on the card.


Calvillo came into the UFC in March of this year and submitted Amanda Cooper at UFC 209. She then took care of business one month later at UFC 210 when she submited Pearl Gonzalez. Then most recently, the 30-year old took out Joanne Calderwood in July, bringing her to Saturday night where she faces off against a top-10 opponent for the first time.


There is no question this will be Calvillo’s toughest test of her career. She will have a one-inch reach advantage over the UFC’s first every strawweight champion in Esparza.


The woman they call the “Cookie Monster” has the experience that might be a big factor for her in this fight. Esperza won the inaugural strawweight belt at the Ultimate Fighter Finale back in 2014 against none other than the current champion, Rose Namajunas. Since then, she has gone 2-2 and wants to make a statement on Saturday night.


The next bout was originally scheduled to be former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz battling it out with Jimmie Rivera. But Cruz was forced to withdraw from the bout in November after breaking his arm, forcing John Lineker to step in. But on Sunday, Lineker pulled out after a tooth infection that required immediate surgery. The UFC was unable to find a matchup for Rivera and he was also pulled from the card.


But after all the contemplation, two featherweight up-and-comers, Dan Hooker and Marc Diakiese, will step in and battle it out.


For Diakiese, Saturday night brings about the opportunity to get back to his winning ways after he suffered his first professional loss at the Ultimate Fighter Redemption Finale in July against Drakker Klose. His 50 percent knockout ratio could be a handful for Hooker, as he comes into the match with a record of 3-3 in his last six fights.


In the co-main event of the evening, high stakes in the lightweight division will come to fruition as it marks the return of one of the UFC’s most dangerous men.


Khabib Nurmagomedov will go to war with Edson Barboza, with the winner more than likely getting a crack at Conor McGregor or Tony Ferguson for the lightweight strap.


The last time we saw Nurmagomedov was back at UFC 205 in New York City when he dismantled Michael Johnson. Due to weight cut issues, Nurmagomedov was forced to withdraw from a scheduled fight with Ferguson in March.


The undefeated Russian superstar carries an even ratio of finished results with 33 percent in KO’s, submissions and decisions. He has made the case to be the most dominate and consistent fighter in the UFC since his arrival in 2012. Nurmagomedov is known as a ground game specialist and has a takedown average of 6.15 every 15 minutes.


The judo black belt will be facing a man who has a unique skillset that just may hand Nurmagomedov his first loss.


Barboza is on a three fight win streak, with his most recent coming in March against Beneil Dariush on a flying knee kick. The Brazilian will have a five-inch reach advantage, which may come into play for Barboza. He happens to have the second most knockdowns in lightweight history with nine. Nurmagomedov has yet to be KO’d in his career, but the ground game will be a huge deciding factor when picking a winner for this fight.


Last but not least, the final UFC fight of 2017 features Cris Cyborg looking to defend her featherweight belt against Holly Holm.


Holm, 36, has won multiple titles in boxing and she also has arguably the biggest upset win in the UFC’s history under her belt. She defeated Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 with her iconic leg kick, sending the media into frenzy and flipping her world upside down in the process.


She lost her first title defense to Miesha Tate at UFC 197, forcing her to go back to the drawing board. 


She then proceeded to lose her next two fights. One of which was the inaugural featherweight title to Germaine de Randamie, who then withdrew her belt because of her unwillingness to fight Cyborg. Having reached a low point in her MMA career, Holm took a fight with former bantamweight title challenger, Bethe Correia, in June.


After two rounds with little to no action, the iconic “Ronda Rousey leg kick” made it’s return. She finished Correia and got back to her winning ways.


“It was good to get a win back under my belt,” said Holm at last week’s media conference call. “Cyborg is a different fighter than Bethe was. I knew I was capable of (getting the win) and I want to keep on that. The three losses took a toll on me. It’s not that my losses were (dominating losses), they were all their own situations and I let them be learning experiences to better myself to come for what’s in my future.”


In addition to her years of experience in the boxing ring, Holm has the largest proportion of distance strikes in women’s bantamweight history (88.8%).


Holm will look to shock the world once again as she faces whom many consider to be the greatest women’s mixed martial artist of all-time.


“A win would definitely be a huge thing for my career and my legacy,” she said. “Right now, even with a win, I would want to push forward and succeed after this fight. Each fight is not the defining fight, it’s the whole career (for me).”


The woman standing in her way is Cris Cyborg.


The 32-year old champion has a takedown defense of 95 percent and has a significant strike average of 8.86 landed per minute. The UFC average for most fighters is 3.02.


Cyborg came to the UFC in 2016 after winning featherweight belts in Invicta FC and Strikeforce. She had two impressive wins over Leslie Smith and Lina Lansberg, putting her name well on the map. That set up a title shot against Tonya Evinger at UFC 214 back in July. She won convincingly and UFC President Dana White has since been looking to get her an opponent that is willing to step in front of her.


With a win over Cyborg, many around the UFC and MMA community have been saying that Holly Holm could be labeled as the greatest female fighter of all time. Both fighters have put that conversation the rest throughout the week leading up to Saturday night and will settle the score in octagon, which promises to have endless action.


“I think this fight is going to be great,” said Cyborg. “I think Holly has good experience. It’s hard to say if this is my hardest fight. I have done a lot of things in my career but I think it’ll be a nice fight and I will show more of my game.”


“She’s always been really aggressive in her fights and she’s a strong opponent,” said Holm. “That can be an intimidating kind of fight. She might come aggressive and then she might not, we are going to be ready for either one. I’m ready to perform what we have been working on. We have been training to be ready for any situations.”


*photo from USA Today Sports 



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