Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya
Cyborg steps in to defend her 145lb title on just a few weeks notice here against former Invicta FC bantamweight champion Yana Kunitskaya, who makes her promotional debut in the main event.
Moving up in weight to fight Cyborg is a daunting task at any time, but even more so when the 28-year-old Russian hasn’t even had a chance to get a feel for life in the UFC yet.
Though she doesn’t have a vast amount of high level experience, Kunitskaya has 14 fights under her belt and she’s well versed in striking, having a background in both karate and muay thai, with seven of her career victories coming by way of strikes.
Nonetheless, it’s going to be a tough task to get the better of Cyborg, who is the naturally bigger, more powerful striker and has become more refined from a technical and strategic perspective under the tutelage of Jason Parillo.
Cyborg should also have the advantage when it comes to grappling and her ground and pound can be ruthless, though she will have to be mindful that the Russian does pose a submission threat.
Kunitskaya is well conditioned, so attempting to avoid getting into a fire-fight and push this fight into the later rounds would be her best hope to emerge victorious here, but I think the much more likely outcome is that Cyborg puts a hurting on the newcomer and finds a TKO finish before the fight reaches the championship rounds.
Prediction: Cris Cyborg wins by TKO in round 3 @ $9 – BET NOW
Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega
It’s a testament to how good Edgar is that at 36-years-old and having fought for 11 years in the UFC that the former lightweight champion is currently the No.1 contender at featherweight.
Edgar has never been a power puncher, but he utilizes speed, footwork and technique to great effect to dart in with point-scoring punches and then escape relatively unscathed, and his excellent cardio means that he never has a problem pushing a high tempo for five full rounds.
Beyond that, part of the reason for ’The Answer’s’ longevity at the top end of the sport is that he can smoothly transition through all aspects of the game, with his grappling being another strong suit, whether its with position control on top, in the scramble or defending submissions – as evidenced by the fact he’s never been stopped by submission (or strikes for that matter) in his 28-fight career to date.
It was a bold move by Edgar to agree to fight Ortega on relatively short notice though as he’s an exceptionally dangerous fighter who has proven himself to be a threat on the feet with finishes against the likes of Clay Guida and Thiago Tavares, though it’s his submission prowess that’s really had people buzzing.
Ortega moves effortlessly on the mat and when he goes for his favorite finishes like the triangle choke that led to his ‘T City’ nickname or the guillotine choke, he wraps them up in such a lightning quick fashion and from unexpected angles that it leaves many of his opponent’s powerless to do anything about it.
Against most fighters that would be enough, but Edgar is extremely savvy and I think he can survive on the mat if he has to against Ortega, though I believe that it will be his striking that will win the day here, landing the higher volume of strikes and proving to be an elusive target en-route to a decision victory.
Prediction: Frankie Edgar wins by decision @ $1.83 – BET NOW
Sean O’Malley vs. Andre Soukhamthath
O’Malley is a fighter who the UFC have been trying to push since breaking through on Dana White’s ‘Lookin’ For A Fight’ series and he’ll have a chance to showcase his skills on Saturday night against ‘The Asian Sensation’ Soukamthath.
The 23-year-old O’Malley is an energetic, aggressive fighter who can be a bit reckless at times and likes to pull of flashy and unpredictable strikes, but its not all for show as he can be very effective on the attack, with five clean KO’s and one TKO on his 9-0 resume so far.
Soukhamthath is also a finisher on the feet though, with his muay thai background clearly evident with knees and elbows being among the weapons he’s used to finish eight of his 12 victories inside the distance.
This is a tricky fight for O’Malley against a seasoned opponent in Soukhamthath and I think he might struggle to get the finish here, but I think his movement, volume of strikes and overall activity will benefit him here to edge out a win on the scorecards.
Prediction: Sean O’Malley to win by decision @ $3.60 – BET NOW
Stefan Struve vs. Andrei Arlovski
It’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top in this heavyweight clash, with both fighters having vulnerabilities that could see them being hung out to dry in this match-up.
Struve holds a number of advantages in that as is often the case he’ll be the much bigger, taller, rangier fighter and at 30-years-old he’s 9-years younger than his opponent, whose certainly showing plenty of wear and tear from his many battles in the cage.
That being said, Struve has been fighting for a long time, with no less than 37 fights to his name, and he’s taken a lot of punishment in his UFC career, being stopped six times by strikes, including some brutal knockouts, so while Arlovski’s chin may be fragile, the ‘Skyscraper’s’ has deteriorated too.
A big problem for Struve is that he’s never quite figured out how to use his physical assets to fight effectively from range and keep his opponent’s at bay. That could be a real problem against Arlovski, as he is a skilled boxer who still moves quickly and hits hard.
Struve is more effective on the mat, with his long limbs providing a significant submission threat, but he does often prefer to strike on the feet and I think he’ll be looking to find Arlovski’s chin.
I’ll take a risk and say that costs him dearly as ‘The Pitbull’ closes the distance effectively and finds a home for his strikes, leading to him finding a finish inside the distance, though in all honesty it would be no surprise to see the shopworn Arlovski being the one that gets starched here.
Prediction: Andrei Arlovski wins by TKO in Rd2 @ $12 – BET NOW
Cat Zingano vs. Ketlen Vieira
This is a tricky match-up to predict with any great certainty due to the 36-year-old Zingano’s long period of inactivity as she hasn’t been seen in the Octagon since a loss to Julianna Pena in July of 2016 and has never mustered more than a single fight in any year since 2010.
At her best, Zingano is a very good fighter who can hold her own striking, but excels as a grappler. She’s aggressive, strong for the weight class and is hard to deal with when she gets on top, with hard ground and pound and good submissions.
Historically, Zingano tends to get better the longer the fight goes, although it remains to be seen if she still has the energy reserves to do so at this stage in her career, particularly given her lack of cage time lately, and its concerning that she did fade last time out against Pena.
On the other hand, the undefeated Vieira is 10-years younger than Zingano and is just starting to make her mark in the sport, with a win over Sara McMann last time out showing that she’s got what it takes to hang with more established players in the top 10.
Similarly to Zingano, Vieira is a physical fighter who is capable in all aspects of the game and will keep a good pace on the feet, but is most impressive on the mat, with submissions being her best chance of finding a finish.
If Zingano had been more active then I would have been tempted to pick her here, but its hard to know where she is physically and mentally right now and so I lean more towards the ever-improving Vieira to be able to more consistently stick to a high-tempo approach on the feet and mat for the full three rounds and emerge with a decision win.
Prediction: Ketlen Vieira to win by decision @ $2.40 – BET NOW
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