UFC 222 suffered a main event change, but a title fight still headlines the pay-per-view, and Cageside Press has their picks set.
|Staff Writers||Zingano vs. Vieira||Struve vs. Arlovski||O'Malley vs. Soukhamthath||Edgar vs. Ortega||Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya|
|Heath Harshman (28-13)|
|Paarth Pande (27-14)|
|Jesse Gillette (26-15)|
|Eddie Law (25-16)|
|Dan Doherty (24-17)|
|Mike Straus (24-17)|
|Jason Payne (21-20)|
|Gabriel Gonzalez (21-20)|
|Jay Anderson (20-21)|
|Mike McClory (20-21)|
From a men’s featherweight title fight to a women’s featherweight title fight. That was the change UFC 222 underwent and now we have Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya in the main event.
Cris Cyborg has made the most of her opportunities in the UFC without a division to speak of behind her. Cyborg won a pair of fights in the Octagon before winning a vacant title against Tonya Evinger, then defended in a great fight against Holly Holm. Kunitskaya was the reigning bantamweight champion of Invicta before salvaging this card. Cageside Press unanimously believes Cyborg’s 20-fight undefeated run will continue on Saturday.
The number one contender in the featherweight division will be determined in the co-main event between Frankie Edgar and Brian Ortega. Ortega is a jiu-jitsu phenom who has never lost in his 14 career fights including five third-round finishes. Since 2008, Frankie Edgar has only lost in four title fights to Benson Henderson and Jose Aldo. Edgar is 7-0 at featherweight in non-title fights, and all but one Cageside Press writer believes that trend continues at UFC 222.
Promising strikers Sean O’Malley and Andre Soukhamthath will bring the firepower to the T-Mobile Arena with 14 career knockouts between the two. O’Malley had an impressive showing in his promotional debut against Terrion Ware which followed a dynamic knockout on the Tuesday Night Contender Series. Soukhamthath got his first Octagon win with a great KO after dropping two split decisions in his first appearances. Cageside Press interviewed Soukhamthath this week and six of 10 writers picked him (no bias, I promise).
A few heavyweights outside of the title picture will hit the Octagon in Andrei Arlovski and Stefan Struve. The former champion Arlovski has seen better days, and was on a five-fight losing streak (four stoppages) before outstriking the young Junior Albini in November. Stefan Struve seemed to be turning a corner with a pair of impressive stoppages in 2016, but went on to lose a main event battle with rising contender Alexander Volkov. With Arlovski approaching the end of his career, only three writers sided with “Pitbull.”
Opening up the main card is fan favorite Cat Zingano against quietly surging contender Ketlen Vieira. Vieira is a talented Brazilian with black belts in judo and jiu-jitsu. She is 9-0 in her career, with three victories in the Octagon, the last of which being a submission against former top contender Sara McMann. Zingano fights infrequently to say the least. Cat has not stepped into the cage since UFC 200 when she lost a tough fight to Julianna Pena, although she does hold victories over Miesha Tate, Amanda Nunes, and Raquel Pennington. Cageside Press believes in the great story of Cat Zingano, with seven writers picking her.