First there was the Terminator, then we had Robocop. Now there's yet another robotic killer in the form of Cristiane Justino. Otherwise known as ‘Cyborg’, Justino is, without doubt, the most dominant female fighter. Coming out of Brazil and blowing through all but one of her 20 opponents, Cyborg is loved and feared in equal measure.
At UFC 222 on March 3, the queen of combat will step into the Octagon once again – this time against former Invicta bantamweight champion, Yana Kunitskaya. The Russian fighter has a record of ten wins and three losses, but this will be the first time she’ll compete under the bright lights of the UFC.
For most fighters making their UFC debut, there’s an immense amount of pressure. However, for Kunitskaya, this may not be the case. On paper, few give her a chance. Indeed, when you check the odds at Ladbrokes, the bookies have Cyborg as the 1/16 favourite. For Kunitskaya at 9/1, there really isn’t any pressure.
Yes, there’s always a certain amount of trepidation before a fight, but the Russian could use her underdog status to her advantage. On top of this, she’s part of Jackson Wink MMA, which means she’s got a ton of experts around her. As well as top trainers Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, Kunitskaya counts Holly Holm as a training partner.
Having just completed 25 minutes in the cage with Cyborg, Holm will have an acute insight into what Kunitskaya will be facing. Another interesting wrinkle to this match is the fact Kunitskaya is a former Taekwondo and Muay Thai champion. In other words, she knows how to kick, and that might be enough to keep Cyborg at bay.
Of course, that’s easier said than done when it comes to the UFC champion. Thanks to her Shootbox days, Cyborg has a berserker style that can overwhelm any female fighter on the planet. Add to this a new, more measured approach courtesy of trainer Jason Parillo, and you’ve got someone that’s capable of fighting two ways.
Overall, despite some apparent positives for Kunitskaya, Cyborg will likely be too much. For those wanting to eke out some value from this the main event at UFC 222, look for odds on a KO win for Cyborg in the third round which Ladbrokes's online bookmaker is covering with some pretty generous odds.
Beyond the main event, the co-main featuring Frankie Edgar and Brian Ortega is an intriguing matchup. For hardcore MMA betting fans, Edgar is a veritable legend in the sport and his ability to seamlessly transition from boxing to wrestling has helped him beat some of the best in the world.
On the other side of the Octagon, Ortega is a rising star who, according to pundits like Joe Rogan, has one of the best guards in the business. Seemingly capable of submitting anyone from his back, Ortega poses a real danger to Edgar. Indeed, after taking out Cub Swanson in his last outing, the American will be full of confidence.
However, there’s a reason Edgar’s nickname is ‘The Answer’, and that’s because he typically finds a way to beat people at their own game. In this contest, the fight will likely be determined by who secures a takedown and how they do it. If Ortega can get in close and lock onto Edgar, there’s every chance he’ll submit him.
However, if Edgar stays true to form, he’ll set up the angles on his feet and then move in for a takedown. Interestingly, if you watch Edgar fight, he often takes his opponents’ back. Against Ortega, this could be crucial as it’ll keep him away from the guard and give him time to work.
Based on his experience and overall skillset, Edgar is rightly the 1/2 favourite at Genting Bet. However, it would be madness to write-off Ortega in this one. A slick submission as the fight progresses is more than possible, which is why you shouldn’t ignore Paddy Power offering odds of 11/8.
The final UFC 222 fight worth mentioning is Stefan Struve vs. Andrei Arlovski. Whenever two heavyweights throw down, it’s entertaining and this will be no exception. At close to 7ft tall, Struve is a tough fight for anyone, but Arlovski has a ton of experience. In reality, his best chance in this fight will probably be an overhand right similar to the one Mark Hunt used to knockout Struve.
Picking Struve at 4/9 with Ladbrokes would certainly be the sensible option as he’s younger, fresher and has more skills on the ground. But, with Arlovski always able to deliver something special, the bet of the night could be a victory for the Pitbull at 15/8. No matter which bout you plan to wager, UFC 222 is clearly packed with value!