UFC 222 tips: Best bets for Cyborg v Kunitskaya
We give our boosted pick for the main event in Las Vegas, plus predictions for three other bouts on the main card.
Cris Cyborg v Yana Kunitskaya
This is one of the most lopsided main events in UFC history, with Cyborg currently a favourite against debutant Kunitskaya.
The women’s featherweight champion is coming off her toughest fight in a long time against Holly Holm in December, where she went the distance for the first time in 14 bouts.
Saturday night’s fight against Kunitskaya should be less of a challenge.
The Russian won her last fight against Raquel Pa’aluhi in August but lost the one before that to Tonya Evinger, who Cyborg knocked out last July.
Cyborg’s won 19 fights with one no-contest since losing her professional debut in 2005, and she’s ended 12 of those in round one.
She’ll walk through Kunitskaya, but it might take a little longer than usual to do so, given that her last three bouts have all gone past the first round.
Frankie Edgar v Brian Ortega
Whoever wins this fight is guaranteed the next shot at featherweight champion Max Holloway.
Edgar would have been fighting for the belt at this event had Holloway not been forced to pull out with an injury, and credit to him for taking on this challenge against a budding star in Ortega.
The 27-year-old Californian is undefeated with 13 wins and a no contest in his 14-fight career, and he’s ended every one of his six UFC bouts either by submission or knockout.
A jiu-jitsu genius with seven submission victories, Ortega’s skill off his back can pose real problems for Edgar, who likes to ground and pound from the top.
Ultimately, though, Edgar’s vast experience should be enough to see him through in this three-round bout.
The 36-year-old maintains a relentless pace even at this stage of his career, and his ability to take his opponent’s back should keep him out of Ortega’s guard, where the younger man is most dangerous.
Jose Aldo is the only fighter to beat Edgar in eight fights since 2013, and that shouldn’t change here, as the American will negate Ortaga’s biggest strength and take a decision victory.
Sean O’Malley v Andre Soukhamthath
O’Malley, a 23-year-old bantamweight, emerged in the UFC with a first-round KO against Alfred Khashakyan on the Tuesday Night Contender Series and a decision over Terrion Ware in December.
The American has won all nine of his professional bouts to date, and matches up well against kickboxer Soukhamthath.
‘The Asian Sensation’ has a decent record of 12 wins and five defeats, but he’s lost two of three in the UFC.
Soukhamthath tends to plod forwards in straight lines, and that will play right into the hands of a creative striker like O’Malley, who should use his unorthodox style to score his seventh stoppage victory.
Stefan Struve v Andrei Arlovski
Arlovski’s UFC career looked like it was winding down before he outpointed the inexperienced Junior Albini in November for his first win in six fights.
He now faces 30-year-old veteran Struve, who’s won three of his last seven bouts and lost to Alexander Volkov last time out in September.
Arlovski’s a big puncher, but he might struggle to connect against the 7ft-tall Dutchman, who holds an eight-inch height advantage in this contest.
Struve is the superior wrestler of the pair and is great on the mat, with 17 submission wins to date, but a decision win is the likeliest outcome for the Dutchman, given that Arlovski has only tapped out once in 42 fights.