It’s the last event of a relatively down year for MMA as UFC 219 airs on PPV Saturday night from Las Vegas, NV.
Cris Cyborg defends her featherweight title against former bantamweight champion Holly Holm in the main event. This will be Cyborg's first title defense in a division that is relatively contenderless as there's only 2-3 women in the actual division.
In the co-main, it’s a likely title eliminator situation as the unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov returns after a long layoff to face Edson Barboza in a battle of top five lightweight contenders. Nurmagomedov was supposed to face Tony Ferguson for the interim belt earlier this year, but the enigmatic Russian failed to make weight and the fight went to Keith Lee instead. He's been off for more than a year and will try to keep his streak going against the longtime contender Barboza who was last seen knocking out Beneil Dariush in March.
Outside of the top two matches, this card is relatively thin for a PPV. Jimmie Rivera was originally scheduled to face former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and later John Lineker but when Lineker dropped out due to a tooth infection, there wasn’t enough notice to find Rivera an opponent so that fight was scrapped despite the efforts to get Marlon Moraes to take the bout.
Former WEC welterweight champion Carlos Condit will meet Neil Magny in a welterweight fight that will kick off the main card, while the unbeaten Cynthia Calvillo will try to keep that zero in the loss column when she faces the first ever UFC strawweight champion, Carla Esparza.
Rounding out our panel picks is a featherweight fight on the FS1 prelims where former TUF lightweight competitor Myles Jury will attempt to pick up his second straight win since moving down a weight class as he meets former WSOF champion Rick Glenn. The latter is coming off a one-sided beatdown of rising contender Gavin Tucker in his last fight.
If you're new here, our panel picks are listed below and alongside the fighter's names are their worldwide FightMatrix rankings, as well as BestFightOdds.com betting odds. The panelist's 2017 records is in parentheses, and we also have panel consensus picks as well as a line where we show how the betting favorites did:
- Dave Meltzer (54-26; .675) -- Wrestling Observer publisher
- John Pollock (54-26; .675) – POST Wrestling co-founder
- Favorites (54-26; .675)
- Consensus Picks (50-29; .633)
- Tom Lawlor (27-16; .628) – Co-host of Filthy Four Daily; pro wrestling undercard fighter; UFC enhancement talent currently suspended due to wellness violation
- Steve Juon (50-30; .625) -- MMA Mania writer, Angry Marks publisher
- Josh Nason (50-30; .625) -- Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out, WrestlingObserver.com assistant editor
- Mike Sempervive (50-30; .625) -- Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
- Mike Sawyer (49-31; .613) -- Tough Talk MMA publisher
- David Bixenspan (48-32; .600) – Deadspin pro wrestling columnist; Between the Sheets podcast host
- Ryan Frederick (46-34; .575) -- WrestlingObserver.com UFC writer
- Front Row Brian (43-37; .538) -- MMA newsbreaker, beloved internet personality, podcast host
- Paul Fontaine (41-39; .513) -- MMADraws.com publisher, WrestlingObserver.com writer
> UFC Women's Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg (18-1) vs Holly Holm (11-3)
Cyborg is fighting for the fourth time in the UFC and has knocked out all three of her previous opponents, including Tony Evinger in her last bout to win the title that had been vacated by Germaine de Randamie. She is facing a woman who will most likely be the most skilled striker she’s ever seen in former bantamweight champion Holm.
Holm rebounded from a three-fight losing streak, the first three losses of her career, to defeat former title challenger Bethe Correia with a question mark kick that capped off an otherwise dull fight. If she can withstand with the brutal attack of the champion, her best hope is that Cyborg tires out and Holm is able to catch her late in the fight in similar fashion.
The oddsmakers seem to think that Holm has a better chance of pulling off the upset than any of Cyborg’s previous UFC opponents as she is usually anywhere from a -700 to -1000 favorite. The odds are much closer this time around.
- Cyborg #1; -320 betting favorite: Sawyer, Juon, Frederick, Pollock, Bix, Nason, Dave
- Holm #5; +315 betting underdog: FRB, Lawlor, Fontaine, Sempervive
> Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0) vs Edson Barboza (19-4)
This makes for a very interesting style matchup here as Nurmagomedov is known for taking his opponents down at will and smothering his way to victory. It’s not terribly exciting but it’s effective as evidenced by his long unblemished record. Barboza, meanwhile, is one of the most dynamic strikers in the division, capable of a knockout at any time. He’s an almost even-money bet to pick up a post show bonus award as he’s racked up eight of them in 17 UFC fights as opposed to none for his opponent.
With divisional kingpin Conor McGregor seemingly holding the belt hostage, the winner here will almost certainly get interim champion Tony Ferguson sometime in 2018.
- Nurmagomedov #6; -265 betting favorite: Sawyer, FRB, Frederick, Juon, Pollock, Sempervive, Nason
- Barboza #4; +260 betting underdog: Lawlor, Fontaine, Bix, Dave
> Cynthia Calvillo (6-0) vs Carla Esparza (12-4)
Calvillo has taken the UFC by storm as the Team Alpha Male product debuted early this year with just three fights on her resume. She had the rare distinction of appearing on the main card of two straight UFC PPVs, winning both of her fights by submission. She followed that up with a decision over veteran Joanne Calderwood in July and will fight for the fifth time in 2017 (she also fought on a regional show in January) against former champion Esparza.
Esparza, who was also a champion in Invicta, won the TUF 20 tournament to claim the women's strawweight title. She lost her first title defense to Joanna Jedrzejczyk but has rebounded to win two of three since then. She does hold a victory over current champion Rose Namajunas so a win here could get her close to a rematch with "Thug Rose".
- Calvillo #13; -210 betting favorite: Sawyer, FRB, Frederick, Lawlor, Fontaine, Bix, Sempervive, Nason, Dave
- Esparza #8; +245 betting underdog: Juon, Pollock
Carlos Condit (30-10) vs Neil Magny (19-6)
When we last saw Condit 17 months ago, the former title challenger was submitted in the first round by Demian Maia and many felt it might be the last time we’d see him in the Octagon. After that long time off, he returns tonight and will hope to avoid his third straight loss against longtime contender Magny. Although he’d faced very tough competition, Condit only has one victory in almost five years and badly needs a W here.
Magny’s history is such that he usually beats the guys ranked behind him and loses to those ahead of him, so he’s been stuck in the bottom half of the top 10 rankings for a couple of years now. He’s also lost two of his last three, but a victory here would be the biggest of his long career and might finally move him into the top five of a tough division.
- Condit NR; -152 betting favorite: FRB, Frederick, Lawlor, Pollock, Bix, Sempervive, Nason, Dave
- Magny #13; +155 betting underdog: Sawyer, Juon, Fontaine
> Myles Jury (16-2) vs Rick Glenn (20-4-1)
Jury returned from a 16-month absence and KO’d Mike De La Torre in the first round earlier this year to snap a two-fight losing streak. The one-time lightweight may be even better than his impressive record shows as his only two losses have come at the hands of Charles Oliveira and Donald Cerrone. He doesn’t immediately spring to the mind when you think of title challengers, but that record is hard to ignore and increased activity will only help his cause.
Glenn has picked up two straight since losing a short notice fight in his UFC debut against the much larger Evan Dunham at lightweight. He’s actually won five straight in the weight class since losing his WSOF title to Lance Palmer in 2014. He couldn’t have looked better in his last fight, destroying the previous unbeaten Gavin Tucker in a bout that got the very rare 30-24 score including one round that was scored 10-7. This fight could steal the show.
- Jury #17; -185 betting favorite: Sawyer, Juon, Frederick, Lawlor, Fontaine, Nason, Dave
- Glenn #41; +198 betting underdog: FRB, Pollock, Bix, Sempervive
The rest of the card:
> Daniel Hooker (14-7) vs Marc Diakese (12-1)
- Hooker #50; +174 betting underdog
- Diakese #112; -178 betting favorite
> Khalil Rountree (6-2) vs Michal Oleksiejczuk (12-2)
- Rountree #49; -300 betting favorite
- Oleksiejczuk #97; +285 betting underdog
> Omari Akhmedov (17-4) vs Marvin Vettori (12-3)MIDDLEWEIGHTS
- Akhmedov #76 at welterweight; +186 betting underdog
- Vettori #55; -205 betting favorite
> Louis Smolka (11-4) vs Matheus Nicolau (12-1-1) FLYWEIGHTS
- Smolka #27; +255 betting underdog
- Nicolau NR; -214 betting favorite
> Tim Elliott (14-8-1) vs Mark De La Rosa (9-0) BANTAMWEIGHTS
- Elliott #9 at flyweight; -200 betting favorite
- De La Rosa #108; +185 betting underdog
- Action begins with the Fight Pass prelim at 7:30 PM EST and moves over to FS 1 at 8 PM EST. The main card airs on PPV at 10 PM EST, and yours truly will have play by play coverage of the show.
- Josh Nason spoke with fellow panel member John Pollock about UFC 219, the launch of his new website and other pro wrestling and MMA topics on the latest edition of Josh Nason's Punch Out.