Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the main event of UFC 222 as the women’s featherweight title is on the line as Cris Cyborg defends her title against UFC debutant and former Invicta title challenger Yana Kunitskaya.
Title fight odds are courtesty of Several Bookmakers.
Cris Cyborg (Record: 19-1, -1900 Favorite, Power Ranking: A++)
The widely considered top pound for pound fighter in women’s MMA enters this fight on an unbeaten striker of over 12 years. She had finished her last 14 opponents prior to a hard fought decision over former bantamweight champion Holly Holm. This is her second title defense.
The current featherweight champion is the most feared fighter in women’s MMA. She’s as physically strong of a fighter as there is in the division. She has rare one punch knockout power and her aggressive, volume heavy approach makes her an absolute nightmare for opponents. She throws punches in bunches landing a whopping 6.92 significant strikes per minute. Not only is she volume heavy, but she lands with accuracy at 52%. She’s a muay thai striker and she’ll typically throw to both the body and the head. She’s awesome in combination and does a good amount of work to the body. Combining that with heavy power, makes her extremely tough to beat. The one thing to remember about Cyborg is that she has a formidable ground game capable of dominating opponents on the mat, but since she is so good on the feet the majority of her bouts stay standing. In terms of her grappling defense, her takedown defense percentage is 94%. It forces her opponents to beat her on the feet and she has yet to face a stern test in that regard.
Yana Kunitskaya (Record: 10-3, +1030 Underdog, Power Ranking: C+)
The Russian born bantamweight makes her UFC debut after a successful stint in Invicta. She had submitted Tonya Evinger in Invicta in 2016, but the result was eventually overturned due to a refereeing mishap in the bout. This is Kunitskaya’s first time at featherweight since 2012.
Kunitskaya comes from a family of gynmasts. Her father was a professional skier while her mother was a professional gymnast. She took combat sports a teenager participating of discplines including boxing, rukoposhnomu, and taekwondo. When competing in Russia, she excelled on her feet winning nearly all of her bouts by knockout. After a three year absence from the sport after her first child, she made the move to compete in the UFC in Invicta, but her power hasn’t translated in that promotion as she’s yet to earn a win by finish. On the feet, she has decent boxing fundamentals, but does not have the aggression to go out and seek finishes. She’s at her best pushing her opponents against the cage and controlling in tight ranges. She’s good at making a fight ugly. Her takedown defense is above average, but when she is taken to the mat her opponents have the abilty to advance position and threaten with submissions. Overall, she’s got a good motor and can fight a consistent bout over 25 minutes.
The gambling community has made Cris Cyborg one of the most lopsided favorites in UFC title fight history as she takes on UFC newcomer Yana Kunitskaya. As nearly a 20 to 1 favorite, this fight is expected to be one sided domination. Kunitskaya hasn’t fought at featherweight in years and doesn’t have the skill set to challenge Cyborg. On the feet, she’ll be desperate to get this fight against the cage where Cyborg cannot land punches at full force. That will be struggle in and of itself, but even if she does that she’ll struggle to defend takedowns. On the mat, Cyborg is vicious capable of landing elbow strikes after elbow strikes. There really is no formula to beat the champion and even if there was, Kunitskaya is not the fighter to do it. Look for Cyborg to win this fight in whichever method she feels inclined to do so in this bout. If she wants win on the feet, she’ll win by knockout. If she wants to take her to the mat, she will do so and win by TKO or submission. It’s not a question of if she will win, it’s how she will win and by what method? Look for a trademark Cyborg victory and for her to do so in the later part of the first round or early second round.