UFC 222: Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya betting picks

The UFC is back home in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC 222, headlined by Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya for the women’s featherweight title.

Some injury troubles with Max Holloway derailed the original main event for the men’s 145lb strap, in which ‘Blessed’ was due to take on Frankie Edgar, but ‘The Answer’ remains on this card for an intriguing fight with BJJ ace, Brian Ortega. Add in the exciting prospect of another submission specialist, Mackenzie Dern, who takes on Ashley Yoder, and you’ve got three top scraps to wager on this Saturday.

5Dimes, as always, provides the odds for each of the recommended bets.

 

Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya

Cris Cyborg has proven herself time and time again as the most vicious, most violent and most brutal fighter in the women’s MMA. There was a time when many felt that Ronda Rousey had the capability to top the UFC featherweight queen, but most will now look back on those days with a wry smile. To put it bluntly, Cyborg would smash Rousey into the middle of next week, and the week after. She is so scary that Germain de Randamie chose to be stripped rather than fight her.

Yana Kunitskaya makes her debut for the UFC, in a title fight, as a relatively unknown athlete coming off a loss. At any other time, and on any other card, this match would not be made. ‘Foxy’ is a late addition to save the event after the collapse of a fight with far more mass appeal. She feels like a sacrificial lamb,  It would be one of the biggest upsets in MMA history if Cyborg were to lose. I don’t see it happening and she will run through her opponent inside the distance. It’s such a mismatch that the betting lines barely offer any value whatsoever. If you fancy a punt onthis one, it’s got to be for the champion to defend her belt in style.

The bet: Cris Cyborg Inside the Distance – 6 units at -600 (1/6) @ 5Dimes

 

Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega

Frankie Edgar is a guy who just misses all the breaks. As the former 155lb champion, he lost his title to Benson Henderson by the narrowest of margins, losing the rematch by an even narrower one. He was desperately unlucky to come up against José Aldo when he dropped weight classes, then missed out on a shot at Conor McGregor due to ‘The Notorious’s ambitions in other divisions. He lost another title shot when he was injured before UFC 218, then was denied when the champion pulled out this time.

To stay active, he has accepted a fight against an opponent with everything to gain and precious little to lose. Brian Ortega has risen from relative obscurity to the cusp of a title shot in a little under four years with the UFC. Undefeated as a pro, he has chalked up many statement victories, most recently when defeating Cub Swanson, a perennial top-five fighter. The fight with Swanson echoed my thoughts about this fight; Ortega had everything to gain a little to lose. When he submitted Swanson, he took his place in the top five and made himself the name on everyone’s lips.

Ortega has capitalised on some poor fight IQ in amassing those wins, many in fights he was losing. He has incredible submissions that are near impossible to escape once they are locked in. Edgar doesn’t have poor fight IQ. He can be hit, but he can recover hand should be smart enough to avoid the guillotine attempt. However, I’m going to take a flier on Ortega. He is young and, on a roll. Although Edgar is still a top contender he is now 36, which in featherweight terms, is ancient. This may very well be that time where the past catches up with him.

The bet: Brian Ortega – 1 unit at +150 (6/4) @ 5Dimes

 

Ashley Yoder vs. Mackenzie Dern

It isn’t on the main card, but I’ve been wanting to write about Mackenzie Dern for a long time. She may be a novice in MMA, but she’s almost peerless in BJJ. Dern is a multiple-time world champion in gi and no-gi competition and even has a victory over heavyweight Gabi Garcia on her résumé.

She seems to have adapted to life in the cage quite well, with five wins from five professional bouts so far. Her biggest challenge had been the scale. Dern has missed weight twice, a mishap that probably cost her a shot in the UFC a year ago.

Welcoming her to the Octagon is a woman with a 0-2 UFC record, Ashley Yoder. The ‘Spider Monkey’ has been on the receiving end of two decision losses to Angela Hill and Justine Kish and will be aware that another loss will likely see her return to Invicta.

While Yoder does possess a solid submission game, 80% of her wins have come via armbar, she simply doesn’t come close to Dern. As a former world champion, you can expect Dern to get this to the mat and attack the limbs, before taking the back, the neck and the victory.

The bet: Mackenzie Dern Inside the Distance – 2 units at -156 (4/6) @ 5Dimes