It’s almost crazy to think, that after Featherweight Champion Max Holloway pulled out of his title defense against Frankie Edgar, that UFC 222 was in jeopardy of being cancelled/No longer a PPV. With no main event and Frankie Edgar, who was guaranteed a title shot, wishing to remain on the card, the UFC was fortunate to have a willing fighters step up on short-notice. One of which is undefeated Featherweight contender Brian Ortega. The submission specialist was most likely going to fight the winner of Holloway against Edgar, had Holloway not gotten injured. So, two fighters, one who was assured of a title shot and the other looming, stepped up to fight each other. They better get payed double!
Another two fighters who should get double pay, is the headliners, Women’s Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg and Invicta’s Bantamweight Champion Yana Kunitskaya. Talk about irony too. From exiled and forgotten, to needed when the UFC was in dire need, Cyborg stepped up. After defending her Featherweight belt on December 30th, 2017, the Champion is back in action practically two months later. Perhaps after this, now the UFC can do their job and focus on forming the Women’s Featherweight division.
Anyways, let’s get to the Predictions!
UFC 222 PPV Main Card (10 p.m. ET):
145 lbs.: UFC Women’s Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya – You’re brave Kunitskaya, but this isn’t your weight class. Nor is this the fighter you want to fight period. I just can’t… Cyborg via knockout.
145 lbs: Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega – This is the best fight on the card and it’s anyone’s guess what the hell is going to happen. The undefeated Brian Ortega is a machine right now. He’s finished five consecutive fights, four of which he defeated his opponents in the third-round. His most recent fight broke that third-round finish streak, as he took out perennial contender Cub Swanson in the second round. I’ll tell you this, I’ve never seen a fighter like Ortega. Once he gets an opportunity at submission attempt, it’s literally all but over. It’s borderline insane!
As for Edgar, the former Lightweight Champion comes into this bout on a two-fight win streak. He’s won seven of his last eight fights and has shown no signs of slowing down. You’d think that after twenty two UFC fights, the amount of wars and punishment he’s taken, just maybe he’d lose a step. Nope. In fact, Edgar seems to be getting better and more vicious. Minus the goose egg he dropped against Jose Aldo, Edgar has finished four of his last six victories. That includes the likes of Cub Swanson, Chad Mendes, Yair Rodriguez and B.J. Penn.
As for a prediction, I’ve got Edgar via decision. His pace, cardio and in-out-style is exactly what beats Brian Ortega. The young Featherweight Ortega is excellent everywhere, but at times he’s flatfooted on the feet and susceptible of getting hit. However, he’s got literally an iron jaw. Anyways, considering Ortega was arguably losing in all four of his third-round finishing fights, I really think Edgar can expose him. And not in the way like Cub Swanson, but in a rather decisive decision in which Edgar simply outpoints him. In fact that’s my call… Edgar via decision.
135 lbs.: Sean O’Malley vs. Andre Soukhamthath – After two consecutive split decision losses, Soukhamthath stepped in on short-notice with his UFC career potentially on the line against Luke Sanders. Not only did Soukhamthath pick up his biggest win, but he finished Sanders. However, my only concern with Soukhamthath is his volume. He just doesn’t throw enough strikes, which is exactly the opposite of O’Malley. The lanky and unpredictable striker has all the ingredients of becoming a future star in the UFC.
As for a prediction, I’ve got O’Malley. I believe his volume striking and more importantly, the barrages he puts on opponents will eventually put down Soukhamthath. So with that, I have O’Malley winning via knockout.
265 lbs.: Andrei Arlovski vs. Stefan Struve – If Struve fights the way he did in the last fight, he should knock out Arlovski early. However, if Arlovski stays patient and picks his shots, dragging it into the later rounds, then he should knock out a tired Struve. I’ll go with the later. So with that, I have Arlovski winning via knockout.
135 lbs.: Ketlen Vieira vs. Cat Zingano – At first, I had Ketlen Viera in this fight not only due to her skill set, but because of Cat Zingano’s layoff. Then, I realized Viera had beaten a flyweight in Ashlee Evans-Smith and Sara Mcmann, who’s fight IQ at times is questionable and her submission defense may be the worst in the division.
Now, Zingano may have been out for over a year, but she seems to have a renewed tenacity about her. Add that with her already slick grappling, athleticism and experience, and I believe that Zingano edges this one out via a close decision.
UFC 222 Prelims on FOX Sports 1 (8 p.m. ET):
115 lbs.: Mackenzie Dern vs. Ashley Yoder – This is a practically a coming out party for the debuting Mackenzie Dern. While her striking isn’t yet there, it’s her grappling that is unmatched. Once this fight hit’s the mat, it’s practically a wrap. So with that, I have Dern via decision.
155 lbs.: Beneil Dariush vs. Alexander Hernandez – I appreciate when unknown fighters step up, but this won’t end well. Dariush is one of the most well rounded lightweights, who pressures opponents and puts them against the fence. Once there, it’s a beatdown. So with that, I have Dariush winning via submission.
135 lbs.: John Dodson vs. Pedro Munhoz – This is a tough fight to call. It essentially comes down to Dodson’s speed and Munhoz’s ability to pick his shots. Dodson has lost two of his last three fights via split decision. It’s not like he’s not doing enough to win, as his volume striking usually should be enough to sway the judges. However, for whatever reason, Dodson’s not getting the job done. Munhoz on the other hand has been on a roll of late, winning four consecutive fights. The most recent submission victory over Rob Font stands out, as Munhoz made quick of the tall and talented striker.
As for a prediction, I’m going to side with Munhoz. I believe on the feet, he’s going to have a difficult time early with Dodson’s speed. Then as the fight wanes on, he will pick his shots and land takedowns to secure rounds en route to a decision victory.
185 lbs.: C.B. Dollaway vs. Hector Lombard – When the Bellator Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard entered the UFC, he spotted a insane 31-2-1 record. However, Lombard hasn’t lived up to the hype, going 3-6 in the UFC. Worst of all, he is currently on a four-fight losing streak, having been finished in three of those fights. With cardio issues and a shaky chin, people are probably writing him off. Not me though! Well, at least in this fight. Power is the last thing to go and in his four-fight losing streak, it’s his power is what almost finished Neil Magny and Dan Henderson had the referee intervened.
In my opinion, this is a terrible matchup for Dollaway. His wrestling is practically useless against the Judo-based Lombard. And on the feet, Dollaway’s chin is just as bad. Perhaps Dollaway’s chances of winning is surviving the initial onslaught or landing a counter power shot. I don’t see it happening though. So with that, I have Lombard via first-round knockout.
UFC 222 Prelims on Fight Pass (6:30 p.m. ET):
205 lbs.: Zak Ottow vs. Mike Pyle – Zak Ottow most likely wins this fight, perhaps via knockout. However, under the circumstances in which this Mike Pyle’s retirement fight, I will predict one last ho-ray for the entertaining, mullet wearing, eighteen UFC fight veteran. So with that, I have Pyle via split decision.
135 lbs.: Bryan Caraway vs. Cody Stamann – People may have forgotten, but prior to injuries, Brian Caraway had been ranked well within the the top ten. Caraway had defeated Eddie Wineland and Aljamain Sterling, which had aligned him for a big fight against Jimmie Rivera. However, after a year and half layoff, Caraway is pitted against a young gun in Cody Stamann. Now, while Stamann is well rounded and an excellent wrestler, he is yet to face an opponent whom can out-grapple him should he choose to wrestler. And given that’s his bread and butter, I expect Stamann to quickly realize the mistake in that. Ao with that, I believe Caraway will out-scramble and sweep Stamann en route to a decision victory.
205 lbs.: Jordan Johnson vs. Adam Milstead – Jordan Johnson is an excellent wrestler and Adam Milstead isn’t. When Milstead fought Curtis Blaydes, he essentially was helpless. It might not be that bad in this fight, but I expect Johnson to grind this one out via decision.