UFC 219 will be held this Saturday night (Sunday morning in Australia) and will be the promotion's last event of the year. While injuries have hurt the card's star power, we are still getting the highly anticipated return of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Cyborg defending her 145 belt against one of the only fighters in the division who has a chance of beating her. Read on for our UFC betting tips for the biggest fights on the UFC 219 card.
Cris ‘Cyborg’ Santos will look to defend her title for the first time after winning the vacant belt in a one-sided demolition of the game, but severely outgunned Tonya Evinger. Cyborg is the most terrifying woman to ever compete in MMA. She has won her last 18 fights, mostly by TKO and hasn’t even been taken to decision since 2008. Not only does she have the strength and power of most men her weight, under the watchful eye of coach Jason Parillo she has become a technically excellent boxer. She moves very well around the octagon setting up strikes with angles, feints and head movement. She is equally adept being the aggressor or falling into the counterpunching role. She is also devastating in the clinch, incredibly strong she locks opponents in place and punishes them. On top of that she has near impenetrable takedown defence and a BJJ brown belt, but I don’t foresee a scenario where Holm tries to take this to the ground.
Holly Holm gets a second chance to shock the world. She was the first to beat Ronda Rousey in one of the biggest upsets in MMA history and now she is handed an equally impossible task against the mercurial Cyborg. Holm is a multiple time boxing world champion and briefly held the UFC batamnweight title after that victory over Rousey. She is looking to become the first women to hold belts in multiple divisions. Holm is obviously a very technically proficient boxer. She throws most punches well and is excellent at controlling distance. Prior to her boxing career, Holm was a high level kickboxer and her kicking has so far been her most dangerous weapon in the octagon. She is also trained by two of the sharpest minds in the game, Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn and I’m looking forward to seeing what gameplan they will come up with to try and stifle Cyborg.
Prediction: This should be an intriguing striking match between female MMA’s best technical striker and female MMA’s most devastating power puncher. Cyborg is used to having massive physical advantages over her opponents, but this will be one of the first times in her career she will be coming up against a comparable athlete. Holm is defensively excellent and her movement is such that I can’t see her getting backed up into the cage and getting caught by Cyborg’s wild flurries. But throughout both her MMA and boxing she has shown off a very shaky chin, so she doesn’t want to put that to the test against Cyborg. I expect Holm to come in with a very defensive game plan, staying out of range and trying to pick off Cyborg with counters. Therefore I think the rounds will be close. But Cyborg’s forward movement and power will eventually show and if she doesn’t get a late finish, I see her winning a clear, but close decision. Cris Cyborg Santos by 49-46 decision.
The co-main event is one of the most hotly anticipated fights of the year. Not only is it the return of the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov, but also a fascinating stylistic match-up. Edson Barboza is one of the most devastating strikers in the division and his opponent, Nurmagomedov is arguably the most dominant wrestler the sport has ever seen. Nurmagomedov has amassed an incredible 24-0 record, including 8 straight UFC victories. But even those numbers don’t do his dominance justice, each of his fights have been one way beatings and no opponent has even taken a round off him. Trained by both his martial artist father and the Dagestani military, Nurmagomedov is an ‘international master of combat Sambo’ and a black belt Judoka. His gameplan is very simple, grab hold of your opponent and throw him around the octagon for 15 minutes or until they break. His striking is very rudimentary, but it only serves to allow him to close the distance and start landing suplexes. On the ground he has really strong top control, but he often allows opponents to get to their feet, just he can spectacularly put them back on the mat. He doesn’t actively chase submissions and tends to only lock them in once his opponent's will is broken. The caveat to Nurmagomedov is that he has only fought twice since April 2014 and has suffered a cavalcade of devastating injuries in that time. This will also be his first fight since last November, so there are no guarantees he will be getting a Nurmagomedov anywhere near his best.
Edson Barboza is a high level Brazilian striker with black belts in Taekwondo and Muay Thai. He is responsible for some of the UFC most violent moments, including the promotion's first wheel kick KO against Terry Etim and a flying knee KO in his last outing against Beneil Dariush. Barboza has won his last three including impressive wins over former champion Anthony Pettis and two time title challenger Gilbert Melendez. Prior to that he also looked excellent in a back and forth fight that he eventually lost to now #1 contender Tony Ferguson. Barboza is one of the most athletic fighters in the division. That combined with his excellent technique make for a powerful and explosive striker. He has an incredible array of kicks and while he prefers to strike from outside punching distance, he is also a strong boxer. On the feet, Barboza also has excellent movement, always circling and rarely getting countered. Barboza doesn’t have a traditional wrestling background, but he has only been taken down a handful of times in his UFC career, largely due to his control of distance and athletic prowess. On the mat he has a BJJ brown belt, but I expect that to do him little good against the steamroller that is Nurmagomedov. The mark on Barboza has always been questions over his chin and the fact he reacts poorly to getting tagged. Over the past few years he has greatly improved his defence under Mark Henry, but there is no doubt Nurmagomedov is going to land a lot of strikes once this fight inevitably hits the mat.
Prediction: This will come down to who can control where the fight takes place. If Nurmagomedov can close the distance and get a rear waist lock it’s going to be round over for Barboza. All the athleticism in the world is no good against someone as technically proficient as Nurmagomedov. However Michael Johnson showed that Nurmagomedov is susceptible on the feet and if Barboza can keep him at kicking distance he will have a lot of success. I like Nurmagomedov a lot in this spot. We are getting juicy odds due to the time off, but I don’t think his team at AKA will have him any less than 100%. I expect Nurmagomedov to do as Nurmagomedov does, and earn a dominate victory. Khabib Nurmagomedov by second TKO.
The first fight of the main card features yet another hotly anticipated return to the octagon. Carlos Condit is one of the most uniquely violent, and therefore most popular, fighters in the welterweight division. Condit has twice fought for the welterweight title, where he took champions GSP and Robbie Lawler to enthralling five round decisions. He is a technically excellent Muay Thai striker who can damage opponents with all 8 points. He is at his best when pushing forward and throwing counters. His striking defence is questionable and is particularly susceptible to counters, but his incredible chin helps to negate that. He has very little takedown offence or defense, but has an incredibly dangerous guard and submission potential. His greatest assest is his gas tank, Condit will be pushing forward from bell to bell. He did look awful in his last outing, but his opponent Demian Maia has a tendency to do that.
Neil ‘The Gazelle’ Magny is one of the more unassuming fighters on the UFC roster. At 6’3 he is also one of the tallest and often looks awkward in the octagon. But he is surprisingly effective at using his reach advantage. He is adept at keeping fighters at the end of his jab, moving backwards or forwards. But his usual path to victory doesn’t involve much more than that. He moves well around the octagon scoring points with jabs and avoiding takedowns or power shots on his way to decisions.
Prediction: This should play out almost exclusively on the feet and there is a massive gulf in striking ability here. Condit is the technically better, higher output and more dangerous striker. Magny perfectly fits the role of the welterweight gate keeper; he beats lower level competition, but consistently loses when taking the step up. If Condit has any aspirations to earn another title shot he needs to make short work of Magny and I expect him to do just that with a late TKO stoppage. Carlos Condit by 3rd TKO.
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