After a two week break the UFC is back in our lives on December 30th with a fairly solid UFC 219 PPV card in Las Vegas. This end of the year show is generally a flagpole event for the UFC, but they were unable to really put together a top end main event, so we have to settle for Cyborg vs Holm, with a solid main card below it.
I have my picks for all of the main card fights below with the odds taken from BetOnline.ag. It was difficult to find any underdog plays, but I did settle on one dog who I think has a legitimate path to victory. Here’s our full BetOnline review for you to check out if you’re interested in opening an account and placing some bets.
Cris Cyborg vs Holly Holm
Holly Holm is milking being the first woman to defeat Ronda Rousey for all it’s worth. Yes, that was a remarkable knockout that is etched in everyone’s memory, but since that win Holly has gone 1-3, and it took the UFC bringing in Bethe Correia, who is absolutely awful, for Holm to finally get back in the win column. Holm didn’t even dominate Correia either. She only landed 25 significant strikes in the entire fight before landing a knockout kick similar to what knocked out Rousey.
Holm is ridiculously overrated and she doesn’t even have an exciting style, instead opting to fight very tentatively standing up, while trying to outpoint opponents or else land her head kick.
All of that said, this is still a big step up in competition for Cris Cyborg, who has mostly been going in and destroying much lesser competition because no top ladies would step up and fight her. Don’t get me wrong, she has crushed each of her opponents, and ladies like Leslie Smith and Tonya Evinger are no slouches, but this still seems like a step up to Holm.
If Cyborg had of gone in and charged Holm like she used to do against weak competition that she could get out of there with her initial flurry, I would be worried betting her, but I don’t think she will be that dumb in this fight. She showed a lot of patience in both her last two fights and I think that was conscious choice to adjust her style for these future match ups with dangerous opponents. She likely could have charged Evinger and put her out early, but she took her time, got the better of the exchanges and ended up getting the finish in the 3rd. If she employs that strategy against Holm, she should have no trouble getting the win, whether it’s a decision win or she finds an opening to unload.
The only shot Holm has in this fight is if Cyborg gets overly aggressive and walks into some punches from Holm or that high kick. I think the chances are very small though as Cyborg is the better fighter everywhere in my opinion.
Play: Cyborg -375
Edson Barboza vs Khabib Nurmagomedov
Nurmagomedov is a beast who is undefeated for a reason, but I’m still not sure how good he is against the top fighters in the division. His win over Rafael dos Anjos is really the only win on his record that truly impressed me. Even the Michael Johnson win didn’t do it for me. Yes, he dominated that fight, but Johnson landed some shots early as well.
Basically, this fight will come down to whether Khabib can get Barboza to the mat with ease, like he’s done against everyone else he’s ever fought. Barboza hasn’t been taken down in 5 fights, and was only taken down once in his last 9 fights. That said, he’s been fighting mostly stand up opponents who don’t have nearly the takedown skills of Khabib.
I do think that Khabib will get takedowns in this fight, but Barboza should be able to survive on the ground and each round starts standing up. That gives Barboza 3 rounds to do real damage to Khabib and possibly time a knee on Khabib coming in similar to how he did against Beneil Dariush. Barboza’s timing on his striking has only been getting better and he definitely has a shot to finish Khabib, who has been rocked before.
Play: Barboza +225
Jimmie Rivera vs John Lineker
We know that Lineker is going to come forward throwing bombs in this fight, and I think that will play into Rivera’s counter striking style perfectly. Rivera will likely sit back and have no trouble picking Lineker apart on the feet. I could also see Rivera landing some takedowns if Lineker overextends himself.
Rivera is the real deal and he should get the win here unless Lineker lands a bomb.
Play: Rivera -180
Carla Esparza vs Cynthia Calvillo
Another prospect who is the real deal is Cynthia Calvillo. In my opinion she has a similar style to Esparza, but is much better on the feet, which allows her to set up her takedowns with more variety. Esparza is a pure wrestler who often looks out of sorts in a stand up fight. She is very short and now that other ladies have improved their hands and takedown defense, the style that worked in the early stages of women’s MMA is no longer successful.
In this fight, Calvillo should have a big advantage on the feet, while this fight could be a wash on the mat, with Calvillo actually having more dangerous finishing ability if this fight does go to the ground. I don’t expect Esparza to overpower Calvillo in the wrestling exchanges, and even if she does get top position, I think Calvillo will be able to work back to her feet, where she will have a significant advantage.
This fight is the case of the new guard taking the place of the old guard. I expect a fairly dominant performance from Calvillo.
Play: Calvillo -300
Carlos Condit vs Neil Magny
I’m not high on either of these guys. Condit is 2-5 in his last 7 fights, even though I am one of the majority of people who think he beat Lawler in their title fight at UFC 195 (Condit out landed Lawler by close to double in significant strikes in a purely stand-up fight). That said, Lawler is another overrated fighter, who always gets outstruck, and he was the perfect match-up for Condit because he doesn’t go for takedowns.
I admit that Condit is a terrific striker, but he gets taken down very easily. His takedown defense is only 59% and he was taken down 7 times by GSP, 12 times by Hendricks and 3 times by Woodley, in 3 of his recent losses. Condit is usually good at getting back to his feet, but against Maia it only took the one takedown for Maia to get the rear naked choke.
Condit will have a massive advantage on the feet in this fight, but Magny is actually quite good at getting takedowns for a guy his size. He’s landed at least one takedown in every single one of his UFC wins. I expect him to get this fight to the mat with relative ease. The question becomes whether Condit can get back to his feet quickly enough to win rounds with his striking, or whether Condit can land a finishing blow on the feet. I think both are very possible, but the fact that I know Magny has a very real path to victory through takedowns and top pressure, I have to go with the underdog here.
Having poor takedown defense is a recipe for disaster in the UFC these days. Magny is arguably the worst ranked welterweight fighter in the UFC, but he still could win this fight because of Condit’s lack of takedown defense.
Play: Magny +155