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Our questions about UFC 222: Cyborg vs. her latest victim

UFC wraps up a 24 event in 26 week schedule tonight in Las Vegas with UFC 222, headlined by their female featherweight slayer Cyborg Justino, a co-main event that really should be five rounds, and two young fighters ready to become the next big thing in the company.

Helping me answer a few questions about this show are the able and true Ryan Frederick and Paul Fontaine who also has a picks column up at his own site.

First, The Card

  • Women’s Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya
  • Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega
  • Sean O’Malley vs. Andre Soukhamthath
  • Stefan Struve vs. Andrei Arlovski
  • Cat Zingano vs. Ketlen Vieira
  • Mackenzie Dern vs. Ashley Yoder
  • Beneil Dariush vs. Alexander Hernandez
  • John Dodson vs. Pedro Munhoz
  • CB Dolloway vs. Hector Lombard
  • Mike Pyle vs. Zak Ottow
  • Bryan Caraway vs. Cody Stamann
  • Jordan Johnson vs. Adam Milstead

What fight(s) are you most looking forward to?

Paul: Edgar vs. Ortega for sure. Edgar has never been stopped in his long career and Ortega has never been beaten, period, so something’s gotta give there. And, the winner gets featherweight champion Max Holloway, who has the longest winning streak in the UFC.

Ryan: Edgar vs. Ortega is the real main event. It’s a huge test for the undefeated Ortega as Edgar is one of the best of all-time. Ortega has beaten opponents he wasn’t expected to beat, and Edgar is another one in that line. Ortega also doesn’t have five rounds to be patient, so he has to go for it early as Edgar is one of the best three round fighters there is. On a good card, this is the big highlight for me.

Josh: Yep, Ortega-Edgar. I would have liked to see UFC experiment a bit with making that a five-rounder because it deserves to be. Yeah, it’s a non-title co-main, but the fighters and all of us deserve to see that play out over 25 minutes.

Any fights being overlooked?

Ryan: Zingano vs. Vieira is being overlooked. Zingano was the last woman to defeat Amanda Nunes, and also the only one to defeat her in the UFC, and she did it by finish. The ups-and-downs of Zingano have been well documented, so it’s good to see her back in action. Vieira is undefeated and has two UFC wins, but over fading opponents. It’s a test for her, and one for Cat to see if she is ready to return to top form.

Josh: I don’t know if it’s being overlooked because he’s getting a bit more pub this week, but I am really interested in what UFC is doing with Sean O’Malley. It’s clear they really like something here, which typically means fans turn against it. Bantamweight is in a strange place right now at the top so a guy like O’Malley is a nice distraction as we figure things out.

Paul: Zingano vs Vieira is a #1 contender’s bout for sure and not many people are talking about it. They should be because Vieira is unbeaten and a fight between her and Nunes could be big in Brazil. Also, Bryan Caraway vs. Cody Stamann is in a weird spot. Caraway is one of the most recognizable names in the division and Stamann has both a sparkling record and long winning streak.

Any featured fights/”pushed” fighters not doing it for you?

Josh: I’m going to go against Paul and Ryan a bit on the Zingano-Viera fight. I’m glad Zingano is back but with her absence, I don’t think she should be getting a title shot with a win. Personal issues aside, she has never fought more than once in a calendar year since 2010. 2010! She’s 2-2 in her four UFC fights and has lost two in a row. The division is weak, but her getting a title shot after a win here seems wrong to me.

Paul: The main event is a joke as UFC has no fighters in the women’s featherweight division except for Cyborg. The Invicta bantamweight title seems to be the defacto #1 contender spot for the UFC featherweight title which is ridiculous if you think about it for just ten seconds. Cyborg destroyed Tonya Evinger and Evinger had little trouble dispatching of Kunitskaya. Kunitskaya barely squeaked out a win over journeywoman fighter Raquel Pa’ahlua in her last fight.

Ryan: I don’t even want to waste my time on the main event as I don’t expect it to be competitive at all. I’ll look at the heavyweight bout between Struve and Arlovski. I’m just glad it’s not the co-main event as it once was, and I don’t even think it belongs on the main card. Both have seen their best days behind them, and it could be an ugly and boring fight. Of course, there’s always a chance of a spectacular finish as both of their chins have seen better days.

What’s the big intrigue with this show for you?

Paul: Whether or not the buyrate for UFC 219 (Cyborg vs Holm) was due to Holm, Cyborg, or a combination of the two. If Cyborg is actually a PPV draw on her own, this show should do north of 300,000 buys. If not, we’re probably looking at 200,000 or less. UFC is obviously hoping for the former and if so, we’ll get more bantamweights lining up to get slaughtered by Cyborg for the foreseeable future.

Ryan: Despite the loss of Max Holloway and what was one of the most anticipated fights in the UFC, the company not only managed to salvage the card, but it got an upgrade. There’s plenty for everyone on this show, and I hope it’s enough to get people to buy the event. It’s a big test for Cyborg to see if she’s a pay-per-view draw on her own. The jury is out on that one. This actually should be a great event.

Josh: If Ortega-Edgar is a fun/great fight, that’s momentum UFC can ride into the next Holloway title defense. Ortega is a blue-eyed star in the making and Edgar is such a classic grizzled veteran who has had bad luck that you really can’t lose either way. I’m also interested to see how Dern and O’Malley fare as UFC would love for them to be drawing cards for them this year.

At the end of the year, what will make this show matter looking back at it?

Paul: Aside from the main event, there are at least two other fights on the card that should produce immediate title challengers (Edgar-Ortega and Zingano-Vieira). In addition, Struve could work his way into title contention if he were to score an impressive win over former champ Arlovski. People forget that Struve holds a win over current champ Stipe Miocic. O’Malley, who gets a main card fight here, is someone the UFC is hoping can be a star in the not to distant future.

Josh: We’ll look back at this card favorably if we get a great #1 contender for Holloway and if O’Malley and Dern have standout performances that get their 2018 off to a great start. I assume Cyborg will win by massacre, so whether she wins in one round or three, her standing is still solid.

Ryan: It should determine some contenders coming out of a few fights, and there’s a huge push of young talent on this card. The UFC is pushing both O’Malley and Dern, who is making her UFC debut. They have something with Dern if she shows she is capable of competing with more experienced opponents, and if she has no trouble concerning previous weight issues. If all goes well, Dern has the makings of becoming a huge UFC star.

Who wins?

  • Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya

Cyborg: Nason, Paul, Ryan

  • Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega

Ortega: Nason, Paul, Ryan

  • Cat Zingano vs. Ketlen Vieira

Vieira: Nason, Paul
Zingano: Ryan

  • Mackenzie Dern vs. Ashley Yoder

Dern: Nason, Paul, Ryan

  • CB Dollaway vs. Hector Lombard

Dollaway: Paul
Lombard: Ryan, Nason

Follow along with our live coverage tonight.