The UFC returns to its spiritual home of Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC 222.
A late notice headliner and an intriguing debut make up two of my three picks. 5Dimes, as always, provides the odds.
Yoder v Dern:
It isn’t on the main card, but I’ve been wanting to write about Mackenzie Dern for a long time. A novice in MMA she may well be, but a beast on the mats she definitely is. Dern is a multiple time World Champion in BJJ in Gi and NoGi, a three-time World Cup winner and former ADCC gold medallist. In five professional bouts so far, her biggest opponent is the scale. Dern has missed weight twice, a mishap that probably cost her a shot in the UFC a year ago.
Welcoming Dern to the octagon is 0-2 fighter, Ashley Yoder. Yoder has been on the receiving end of two decision losses to Angela Hill and Justine Kish and will be aware that another loss will likely see her return to Invicta. If this is true, the she has been thrown to the proverbial lions in a make or break contest.
While Yoder does possess a solid submission game, 80% of her wins have come via arm bar, she simply doesn’t come close to Dern. As a former World Champion, you can expect Dern to get this to the mat and attack each limb in turn, before taking the back, the neck and the match.
Recommendation: Mackenzie Dern Inside the Distance – 2 units at -156 (4/6) @ 5Dimes
Edgar v Ortega:
Frankie Edgar is a guy who just misses all the breaks. As the former champion at 155lbs he lost his title to Benson Henderson by the narrowest of margins, losing the rematch by an even narrower one. He was desperately unlucky against Jose Aldo in their first bout, although that rematch was more decisively lost. He missed out on another title shot due to injury at UFC 218 and when finally granted his overdue shot at UFC 222, Holloway was forced to withdraw. To stay active, he has accepted a fight against an opponent with everything to gain and precious little to lose.
Brian Ortega has risen from relative obscurity to the cusp of a title shot in a little under four years with the UFC. Undefeated as a pro he has chalked up many statement victories, most recently when defeating Cub Swanson, a perennial top five ranked fighter. The fight with Swanson echoed my thoughts about this fight; Ortega had everything to gain a little to lose. When he submitted Swanson, he took his place in the top five and made himself the name on everyone’s lips.
Ortega has capitalised on some notoriously poor fight IQ in amassing those wins, many in fights he was losing, but he has a solid guillotine choke that is near impossible to escape. How this works with Edgar is key; Edgar doesn’t have poor fight IQ. He gets hit, a lot, but he still has his wits about him and should be smart enough to avoid the guillotine attempt. I’m going to take a flier on Ortega though, he is young and, on a roll, and although Edgar is still a top contender he is now 36, which in Featherweight terms is ancient and this may very well be that time where the past catches up with him.
Recommendation: Brian Ortega – 1 unit at +150 (6/4) @ 5Dimes
Cyborg v Kunitskaya:
Despite a tonne of hype to the contrary, Cris Cyborg has proven herself time and time again as the most vicious, most violent and most brutal fighter in the history of MMA. There was a time when I felt that Ronda Rousey would gain the win, but I now look back on those days with humour. To put it bluntly, Cyborg would smash Rousey into the middle of next week, and the week after. She is so scary that Germain de Randamie chose to be stripped rather than fight her.
Yana Kunitskaya makes her debut for the UFC in an equally enviable, yet unenviable position. It is extremely rare for a relative unknown to be granted a title shot, more so one coming off a loss, but to headline against the most feared woman in the history of WMMA, its either a stroke of genius or madness. Kunitskaya beat the reigning Invicta champion, Tonya Evinger, before it was later ruled a No Contest. That decision returned the belt to Evinger, who won the rematch by rear naked choke.
At any other time, and on any other card this match would not be made. Kunitskaya is a late addition to save the PPV after Max Holloway was forced to withdraw from a fight with Frankie Edgar. She feels like a sacrificial lamb, open to slaughter due to extreme violence and bloodletting. It would be one of the top 5 biggest upsets in MMA history if Cyborg were to lose. I don’t see it happening and she will run through her opponent inside the distance. Its such a mismatch that the betting lines barely offer any value whatsoever.
Recommendation: Cris Cyborg Inside the Distance – 6 units at -600 (1/6) @ 5Dimes