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UFC 214 fight card: Cris Cyborg vs Tonya Evinger preview

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MMA: UFC Fight Night-Cyborg vs Lansberg Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight finishers Cris Cyborg and Tonya Evinger will throw down this Saturday (July 29, 2017) at UFC 214 inside Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

Despite being under UFC’s employ for well over a year now, the unarguable best female Featherweight on the planet is without a title strap. Luckily, UFC is finally going to fix that, having stripped Germaine de Randamie and awarded Cyborg a shot at the now-vacant strap. For those who don’t know her, Evinger is a long-time women’s mixed martial arts (MMA) pioneer and the current Invicta FC Bantamweight champion. She’s fought above 135 pounds in the past, so this is not a complete mismatch like many of Cyborg’s fights.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both women:

Cris Cyborg
Record: 17-1 (1)
Key Wins: Marloes Coenen (Invicta FC 6, Strikeforce: Miami), Gina Carano (Strikeforce: Carano vs Cyborg), Leslie Smith (UFC 198)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Cyborg is a destroyer. There isn’t a woman alive who can match her size and physicality in the cage, and Cyborg isn’t a bad technician either. Her striking is brutal, and she’s proven skilled on the mat as well. This may be a tougher foe for Cyborg than most, but it still should look like a usual Cristiane Santos mauling.

Cyborg is the bigger woman by quite a bit — just think back to all that drama about her making 140 pounds, whereas Evinger has fought plenty at Bantamweight. Furthermore, it’s clear there will be a massive speed and power discrepancy. Without the power to hurt Cyborg or the grappling to stymie her, Evinger doesn’t really have anything that can stop Cyborg from putting on the hurt.

VS.

Tonya Evinger
Record: 19-5 (1)
Key Wins: Yana Kunitskaya (Invicta FC 22), Pannie Kianzad (Invicta FC 14), Sarad D’Alelio (Invicta FC 7)
Key Losses: Sara McMann (Titan FC 19), Alexis Davis (RW 10, RW 7)
Keys to Victory: A collegiate wrestler, Evinger has spent much of her career forcing opponents to the ground and dominating. She has finished 15 of her opponents almost evenly split between knockouts and submissions, and “Triple Threat” hasn’t actually lost since 2011.

As illustrated above, this will be no easy task for Evinger. There may be some technical weaknesses to Cyborg’s attack, but they’re not exactly gaping holes. Plus, technical weaknesses don’t matter as much when the athletic playing field is far from level. With that in mind, Evinger’s sole strategy should be to drag this thing into the later rounds, where Cyborg’s power punches will be a bit less dangerous. Even at 145 pounds, Cyborg has a rough cut that could affect her gas tank.

With Evinger’s wrestling background, her strategy is obvious. As Cyborg pushes forward, Evinger can level change into a shot or the clinch. It’s unlikely to work early on, but if Evinger can force a constant wrestling match, there’s a chance it’ll pay off later on.

Bottom Line: After the de Randamie disaster, this is a fresh start for the division. A division of one, maybe, but it’s still something. That one is Cris Cyborg. She’s the reason the division was created the first time. And she’s the reason UFC is trying again now. Cyborg is a major star in Brazil, and winning here would grant her the UFC title she’s deserved for some time now. It would be a great symbol of all her years of dominance that happened on smaller events with fewer viewers.

Meanwhile, a loss would be beyond shocking ... and the biggest upset of the card.

As for Evinger, she wasn’t the first choice to face Cyborg. That said, she’s definitely a respectable opponent, having defended her Invicta title twice. It’s a massive step up in competition, and few expect her to win. If she does come out on top, she’ll have a place in history as the woman to take out Cyborg, and the bonus cherry on top comes in the form of a golden strap.

If not, Evinger got a spot in UFC out of this whole ordeal.

At UFC 214, Cris Cyborg will attempt to finally claim the Featherweight strap by defeating Tonya Evinger. Which woman will take the vacant strap?