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UFC 222: Yana Kunitskaya, ‘Fighter to Watch’ tonight in Las Vegas

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Former Invicta FC bantamweight champion Yana Kunitskaya will have the opportunity to shock the combat sports world later tonight (Sat., Mar. 3, 2018) at UFC 222 live on pay-per-view (PPV) from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, when she takes on UFC women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg in the main event. “Foxy” will be looking to become the first fighter to defeat the Brazilian knockout artist since her first professional bout back in 2005.

Needless to say, Kunitskaya will be fighting an uphill battle the second she steps foot inside of the cage this weekend at UFC 222. Not only will the 28-year-old be moving up to featherweight for the first time in years, but she’s doing it against a massive 145-pound champion who has to cut meaningful weight to make the featherweight benchmark. It will also be the first time that Kunitskaya is competing in Las Vegas.

With massive odds stacked against her, Kunitskaya has the opportunity to turn the mixed martial arts (MMA) world on its head and put an end to Cyborg’s 13-year unbeaten streak. It’s much easier said than done, especially for a UFC debut, but “Foxy” is a talented striker and a big enough bantamweight to do damage on her feet. Kunitskaya’s ground game is less desirable than her kickboxing or Muay Thai, but she’s proven to be a formidable threat in any department.

People need to remember that Kunitskaya retired from MMA in 2012 to pursue a career in coaching. After a three year absence she returned to the sport and quickly found her way in Invicta FC. Kunitskaya ended up submitting then bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger, who Cyborg defeated via TKO at UFC 214 to claim the featherweight strap, but a controversial referee call eventually overturned the win to a no contest. Kunitskaya would lose the rematch with Evinger via submission before defeating Raquel Pa’aluhi this past August to claim the vacant Invicta FC bantamweight title.

If Kunitskaya had stay retired there would be another unassuming contender stepping inside the Octagon tonight at UFC 222 with the task of overthrowing the legendary Cris Cyborg. Everything happens for a reason and this could be the MMA gods’ way of telling “Foxy” she made the right choice to return to fighting.

We shall see if Kunitskaya has the overall skill set and composure to pull off the greatest upset in women’s MMA history. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 222 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

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