Former women’s Bantamweight champion Holly Holm will get another shot at joining the elite group of dual champions this Saturday (Dec. 30, 2017) when she challenges Cris “Cyborg” for the Featherweight strap in UFC 219’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In addition, Khabib Nurmagomedov squares off with Edson Barboza in what should be a Lightweight title eliminator and Cynthia Calvillo attempts to continue her rise against former champ Carla Esparza.
That’s not all.
FOX Sports 1 will host four “Prelims” undercard bouts before the PPV main card begins (check out the Fight Pass portion here), though, so let’s get investigatin:’
205 lbs.: Khalil Rountree vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk
Despite getting a second chance after his first loss, Khalil Rountree (6-2) fell short on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 23 thanks to Andrew Sanchez grappling him into the dirt at the Finale. His struggles continued in his subsequent loss to Tyson Pedro, but brutal knockouts of Daniel Jolly and Paul Craig have put him back on the map at 205 pounds.
All four of his professional knockout victories have come in the first round.
Michal Oleksiejczuk (12-2) racked up nine consecutive victories in his native Poland before answering the call to face Ion Cutelaba at UFC 217. Unfortunately for “The Hummer” and his fans, Cutelaba ran afoul of United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) at the last minute and was forced to withdraw.
He replaces the injured Gokhan Saki on short notice.
Oleksiejczuk dodged a bullet when Cutelaba got nabbed. Unfortunately for him, he’s running into what might be an even nastier one. Though Rountree can’t match Cutelaba’s furious pace, he’s slicker than the Moldovan and packs even more single-shot power.
Rountree’s ability to handle strong wrestlers remains in doubt, but against the hittable and one-dimensional Oleksiejczuk, the style match up here favors him to an insane degree. He adds another one to his highlight reel via first-round blowout.
Prediction: Rountree via first-round knockout
155 lbs.: Dan Hooker vs. Marc Diakiese
Dan Hooker (14-6) began his UFC career at Featherweight, where he went 3-3 with three stoppage victories. Following his loss to Jason Knight, he moved back to Lightweight and made an immediate impression with a knee knockout of Ross Pearson in his native Auckland.
He stands two inches taller than Marc Diakiese (12-1) and will have two inches of reach.
“Bonecrusher” looked solid in his wins over Lukasz Sajewski and Frankie Perez, but it was his one-punch obliteration of Teemu Packalen that put the young Brit on the map. It so impressed the public that he entered his fight with Drakkar Klose as a major favorite, but ultimately lost a competitive decision after Klose battered his lead leg.
Half of his wins have come by knockout, including three in less than one minute.
Hooker is relentless, strong and deceptively slick. He’s also rather slow, incredibly easy to hit, and mediocre on the mat (not to mention that he has been competing against Featherweight competition for a while). Diakiese’s the better athlete by a massive margin and, while still too undisciplined on the feet, has such an edge in speed and power that it might not make a difference.
If the striking does wind up going Hooker’s way, Diakiese is a strong takedown artist who can at the very least keep Hooker down for long stretches and keep him guessing the rest of the time. Hooker can probably take his best shots, but that just means the beating will last longer. 30-27s across the board for Diakiese.
Prediction: Diakiese via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Myles Jury vs. Rick Glenn
Myles Jury (16-2) — who lost to Al Iaquinta on TUF 15 — scored six straight UFC victories before running headlong into Donald Cerrone and Charles Oliveira, the latter of whom spoiled his Featherweight debut. He went on to miss the entirety of 2016, though he made up for lost time with a one-round thrashing of Mike De La Torre at UFC 210.
He has stopped 10 opponents in less than three minutes apiece.
Rick Glenn (20-4) moved up in weight to face Evan Dunham on short notice and, though he struggled against his larger foe, went home with a “Fight of the Night” bonus to ease his pain. “The Gladiator” went on to edge Phillipe Nover before truly announcing his entry into the 145-pound ranks by handing Gavin Tucker the beating of a lifetime at UFC 215.
He is one inch taller than Jury, but will give up three inches of reach.
Glenn’s pace and power can overwhelm a good chunk of UFC’s Featherweight roster. Unfortunately for him, Jury is a former Lightweight with the range and wrestling to do to Glenn what Dunham did. If Glenn can keep it standing and wear Jury down with his volume striking, he has a shot. More likely, Jury picks him off with one-two combinations between takedowns, never letting “The Gladiator” build the momentum he needs to impose his will.
Prediction: Jury via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Louis Smolka vs. Matheus Nicolau
Louis Smolka (11-4) opened his UFC career 5-1, earning two bonuses along the way and putting on one of last year’s best fights against Ben Nguyen. Despite this early success, “The Last Samurai” finds himself on a three-fight losing streak, although his battle with Tim Elliott in April was an instant classic.
He will have an impressive five inches of height over the Brazilian.
Fighting as a Bantamweight, Matheus Nicolau (12-1-1) reached the semifinals of TUF: “Brazil” 4, only to fall to teammate Dileno Lopes. He proceeded to beat Bruno “Korea” and John Moraga, but this will be his first fight in more than one year, as he failed a drug test prior to a planned fight with Yuta Sasaki two Novembers ago.
His professional wins are split evenly between knockouts, submissions and decisions.
Smolka is a phenomenal talent held back by nonexistent and — by his own admission — alcoholism. Now that he’s dealing with the latter, I expect significant improvement from him in all areas of the game and, considering his raw potential, the results could be incredible.
Nicolau is skilled in all areas of the game and, at 24, has plenty of room to grow himself. I just can’t pick against Smolka with his back against the wall. Unless Nicolau can box him up something fierce, Smolka catches him in transition for another impressive finish.
Prediction: Smolka via second-round submission
The most violent woman on Earth and a pair of Top 10 showdowns with title implications? Sign me up! See you Saturday, Maniacs.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 219 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the pay-per-view (PPV) main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.