March 2, 2018 - Source: Isaac Brekken/Getty Images North America
UFC 222 has come and gone and the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada was once again the site of another glorious event. Reportedly sporting a 1.3 Million dollar gate, it’s fitting that in the UFC’s 25th year a new record for a UFC PPV is broken, and it comes in no other place than Sin City. Yes UFC 222 will carry the dubious distinction of having the most Split Decision victories on one card with 5. Coincidently it also marked the return of the notorious judge Adelaide Byrd. Pure coincidence I’m sure. However, this card was an uprising of the youth. Stars are born and legends fall, but the Queen of MMA still reigns supreme. Follow me as I play matchmaker and recap the main card for UFC 222.
Chris Cyborg def Yana Kunitskaya via 1st Round TKO
I think it’s officially time to put Cyborg in the same class as a Mike Tyson. This was a championship fight but there was only gonna be one winner. Give credit to Yana, she entered as one of the biggest underdogs in UFC history and tried her best, but she was hit early and often. In classic Cyborg style she comes out guns blazing, tagging the challenger immediately. After some tense moments of grappling, Cyborg disengages and proceeds to smash Kunitskaya’s face in. Not really a contest, and once again not really a true 145 contender, and just 3 weeks after her victory over Holly Holm, the search for Cyborg’s equal continues.
Winner: The Cyborg-Nunes discussion has been heating up. With Nunes calling out Cyborg and Cyborg calling out Nunes, it seems for the first time Cyborg and Dana White are on the same page, a super fight is in order. The tricky detail to this however, is the small factor of Raquel Pennington having been granted a title shot at UFC 224 against Nunes. HOWEVER, we all know that when it comes to the UFC, nothing is 100%. If Pennington does get her shot next, look for a Megan Anderson-Cyborg showdown.
Loser: You got to hand it to Yana, she had all the cards stacked against her, and I mean ALL the cards. Now that this chapter is over with, she can focus all her attention on 135. A third fight with Tonya Evinger could be in order, however a Top 10 opponent is more likely. Bethe Corriea is looking to rebound after a rough outing last year, and seems like a good opponent for Kunitskaya to make her Bantamweight debut against.
Brian Ortega def Frankie Edgar via 1st Round TKO
Sometimes the risk just isn’t worth the reward and Frankie Edgar learned that the hard way. The blood and guts warrior was stopped for the first time in his career with an Ngannou-esk uppercut delivered by the now number one contender Brian Ortega. “T-City” showed us that his skill set has come full circle. Calm and collected, and when the time came for the finish he was clinical. Not enough can be said about Ortega’s stunning resume, and it all culminates into a title shot against one of the P4P best in Max Holloway.
Winner: Brian Ortega is undefeated and in prime form for a shot at the 145 crown, but a “Blessed” fighter in his own right stands in the way. Holloway tweeted out that UFC 226 looks like the place and time for this epic fight to take place, and I for one can’t wait.
Loser: This has to be a tough pill to swallow for Edgar. What was once an already long road back to the title just got even longer. His coach Mark Henry vowed Edgar would be back, and two names that come to mind for his return are Jeremy Stephens, and Darren Elkins. A rematch with Stephens, who is itching for a title shot of his own, would put Edgar right back in line for the gold. As for Elkins, he’s blazed out a 6 fight win streak and is an intriguing matchup. Either way Frankie will have to find some Answer’s of his own to get back in the hunt.
Sean O’Malley def Andre Soukhamthath via Unanimous Decision
Welcome to the “Sugar Show” indeed. An absolutely sensational performance for the young 21 year old. Smooth, stylish, flashy, and down right entertaining, there are not enough words to describe this performance for “Sugar” Sean O’Malley. Faced with a game opponent in Soukhamthath, O’Malley made him look ordinary. A flurry in the first round left the “Asian Sensation” lost, then in the second almost stops him with numerous submission attempts. Even with what appeared to be a broken foot O’Malley was still dangerous. Struggling to finish the fight O’Malley toughed it out picking up his 2nd UFC win, and we were also treated to one of the more unique post-fight interviews of all-time.
Winner: The UFC have a star on their hands with O’Malley, and with him picking up an injury that looks like it might put him out long-term, it’s the perfect opportunity to dish out the “McGregor treatment”. Slow and steady should be the game plan. Give him lower end talents with name power and strap a rocket to him, after all he’s only 21. A good next fight for O’Malley would be Alpha Male fighter Teruto Ishihara, both fighters are charismatic, both fighters now have a ton of followers, it makes sense.
Loser: Soukhamthath was the spoiler against Sanders, but he came up short in this one. Nothing to be ashamed of, just a lack of awareness really did him in at the end of the fight. Giving him another chance against another prospect would be good for all party’s involved, a fight with Aiemann Zahabi would be a solid matchup.
Andrei Arlovski def Stefan Struve via Unanimous Decision
Two ranked Heavyweights, both with a history of violence, one would expect fireworks. What we got wasn’t that. A fight filled with fence grabbing, eye pokes, and “soft” and “hard” warnings the aftertaste was a little disappointing. You’ve got to hand it to Arlovski for being able to propel his name back in the Top 10 of the Heavyweight division, but this victory left a lot to be desired. He and Struve went back and forth in what was mainly a grappling showcase, but a win is a win, and for the former Heavyweight champ that’s good enough.
Winner: For Arlovski this is back-to-back wins, and in this whirlwind of a division that’s huge. A switch of camps seems to have the Belarussian back in business. Armed with new found confidence in his grappling game, and desire to become the champ once again, a matchup two decades in the making makes sense. Next up, Mark Hunt.
Loser: Cormier mentioned it many a time on commentary but I’ll say it again. Does Struve realize he’s 7 feet tall? A gatekeeper into the Top 10, Struve has had his ups and downs in the UFC, but this loss should be an eye opener. Losing to an older, less physically gifted fighter HAS to be the wake up call to change something. If I was in Struve’s camp I would sit him down and make him watch Semmy Schilt. I think an opponent outside the Top 15 would be wise for Struve, maybe a Mark Godbeer or a Walt Harris.
Ketlen Vieira def Kat Zingano via Split Decision
This was always going to be a tough fight for Zingano. Coming of a near 2-year layoff, facing a young streaking fighter with a smothering top game and an ever improving skill-set standing up, and it showed. A tricky fight to score, Vieira was dominant when it came to the ground, maintaining position for most of the fight, but while standing, Zingano gave her a run for her money with quick flurries and an unbending will to win. Ultimately however, the better fighter won. The Damien Maia of the Women’s 135 division, Vieira, was aggressive right from the get go, as she was at the weigh-ins, picking up a curious split decision victory over the veteran.
Winner: It’s clear as day that Ketlen Vieira belongs at the top of the heap in the Women’s 135 division, picking up another signature win. It was impressive, it was in some ways dominant, and was a clear message to the rest of the top 5 that she has arrived. Riding a 4 fight win streak in the UFC, and 10-0 as a professional, the road is still foggy for the Brazilian. With Pena putting her career on hold to focus on her pregnancy, Holm coming off a loss to the 145 pound champ Cyborg, Germaine de Randamie still sleeping out in the dog house, and with uncle Dana wanting to hold up the division for a Nunes-Cyborg super fight. It’s unclear whether or not Pennington will be getting a shot. It may be wise for Vieira to wait and see how this plays out, but my money is on a Pennington-Vieira title eliminator.
Loser: Zingano has now lost 3 in a row, and is at the age of 35. If retirement isn’t on her mind yet, it should be. There isn’t much left for Zingano to achieve in the sport, and with 2 losses against fighters in the Top 5 of the division, fighting another young up-and-comer such as a Lucie Pudilova may be what’s best for business.