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UFC 219 main card: Cris Cyborg vs Holly Holm full fight preview

UFC 214: Weigh-ins Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight strikers Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm clash TONIGHT (Dec. 30, 2017) at UFC 219 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight’s main event is a truly odd fight. On one hand, Cyborg has been completely dominating everyone willing to step into the cage with her, but she also is fighting her fourth Bantamweight opponent in a row despite holding the 145-pound strap. Meanwhile, Holm has lost three of her last four fights, yet she’s pretty much the only possible choice for a title shot and represents a massive step up in competition for the Brazilian. It’s easy to look at this fight and laugh it off based on their recent results, but there’s more to it than meets the surface. Let’s dig a little deeper into the keys to victory for each woman.

Cris Cyborg
Record: 17-1 (1)
Key Wins: Marloes Coenen (Invicta FC 6, Strikeforce: Miami), Gina Carano (Strikeforce: Carano vs Cyborg), Tonya Evinger (UFC 214), Leslie Smith (UFC 198)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Cyborg is a destroyer, a physical powerhouse with brutal kicks, knees and a nasty right hand. She’s looking technically sharper than ever, but Cyborg’s base game is to overwhelm her opponents with violence.

The Brazilian has finished 16 of her opponents via knockout.

In this bout, Cyborg will want to advance and cut off the cage without over-extending. Cyborg does her best work at a closer range than Holm, but she has to enter that distance without providing easy counters for her opponent. To make that happen, Cyborg has a couple things to keep in mind. First and foremost, Cyborg has to kick with Holm to prevent her from gaining a points advantage. Last time out, Cyborg’s low kicks did big damage and slowed her foe down, and they should be especially effective against a fighter who relies so heavily on lateral movement like Holm. In addition, Cyborg’s head movement will be tested. She has to be wary of the sudden high kick, but Cyborg will find definite success if she advances, slips the counter, and fires back as Holm tries to recover her position.


Holly Holm
Record: 11-3
Key Wins: Ronda Rousey (UFC 193), Raquel Pennington (UFC 184), Marion Reneau (UFC Fight Night 71)
Key Losses: Germaine de Randamie (UFC 208), Miesha Tate (UFC 196), Valentina Shevchenko (UFC on FOX 20)
Keys to Victory: A professional boxing champion with a nasty left kick, Holm’s combination of high output kicks and counter shots has found her solid success inside the Octagon. While she’s struggled opposite fellow high-level strikers, Holm is undoubtedly one of the craftiest women in the sport.

If we’re all being honest, Holm has only looked truly impressive in the bout that saw her destroy Rousey and capture the title. In that bout, Holm turned her foe’s aggression into a major liability, and she’ll likely attempt a similar plan tonight. Cyborg is nowhere near as sloppy as Rousey, but she can be baited into over-aggression. To encourage that result, I’d love to see Holm really focus on jamming Cyborg up with oblique kicks, as well as side kicks to both the knee and mid-section. Another great tool in Holm’s arsenal is the left kick underneath the right hand. If she can get Cyborg to reach with her cross, Holm is quite good at sneaking the left kick into the liver, a devastating strike that would help Holm wear her dangerous foe out in a big way.

Bottom Line: It’s a really strange fight with a title on the line.

For Cyborg, it’s taken many years of dominance to earn a UFC title. Now that her division is a bit more real, it should draw out a higher level of competition, even if most of her foes will continue to be natural Bantamweights. Holly Holm — and potentially Amanda Nunes, who expressed an interest in fighting Cyborg — is a far more skilled foe than most of Cyborg’s past opposition.

It’s up to Cyborg to really prove that there’s more to her game than raw physicality. A win does just that, while a loss would really hurt Cyborg’s legacy.

As for Holm, she’s in an extremely high stakes position. If she wins, she’ll be held up as one of the greatest in history, the first woman to knock off both Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg. Circumstances be damned, that would be an insane statistic. On the flip side, Holm has had some really ugly performances too. If she’s defeated by Cyborg, she’s no longer in any title picture. Plus, that sole excellent performance over Rousey starts to mean less and less without “Rowdy” still competing.

At UFC 219, Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm will battle in the main event. Which fighter will leave the Octagon strapped with gold?

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