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UFC 222: Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya post-fight results and analysis

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Mookie Alexander recaps an up-and-down night of fights that transpired at UFC 222 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Cris Cyborg unsurprisingly demolished a game but woefully overmatched Yana Kunitskaya in the UFC 222 main event. Kunitskaya got a career payday ($100,000) to take this fight on short notice, and apart from the early takedown and almost taking Cyborg’s back standing, the reigning women’s featherweight champion just smashed the Russian’s face with a multitude of right hands. It honestly could’ve been stopped sooner than it was.

Other than Megan Anderson or the Amanda Nunes-Raquel Pennington winner, the viable challenges for Cyborg are just not there. Germaine de Randamie isn’t bothered to fight her, so that’s another option gone. She’s just a cut above the rest, and has been for a long time. This was a clear mismatch on paper, but I won’t pass up the opportunity to watch Cyborg do her thing.

Meanwhile, in the co-main event, Brian Ortega did the unthinkable and knocked out Frankie Edgar. KNOCKED OUT Frankie Edgar. We’re so used to seeing Edgar avoid getting finished, but he could not do it this time. Ortega rocked Edgar with an elbow, then the fight-ending uppercut was just filthy. It’s rough for Edgar to go from having two scheduled and ultimately canceled title bouts vs. Max Holloway to out of a title shot altogether. The real story though is Ortega, who is must-see TV and should give Holloway an absolute hell of a scrap.

More thoughts on tonight’s show:

Main Card

  • Sean O’Malley dazzled and styled on Andre Soukhamthath for two rounds, then ran into some trouble with an injured foot. Soukhamthath... opted to wrestle him for almost all of round 3, quite clearly in need of a finish. Spoiler alert, he didn’t get hte finish. I don’t get it. Anyway, O’Malley is a really intriguing and entertaining prospect, and this was another great showing.
  • Andrei Arlovski’s takedowns (!!) were a key to him getting a unanimous decision over Stefan Struve, in what was a foul-filled, forgettable bout. I won’t lie, I was paying attention to the Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz boxing match on Showtime, and that was of a much greater quality than Arlovski-Struve.
  • Ketlen Vieira made a strong case for a women’s bantamweight title shot by beating Cat Zingano in the PPV opener. Why Marcos Rosales scored it 29-28 Zingano is beyond me, but this was a truly awful night of judging, so something’s in the water. Vieira countered Zingano’s wild striking in round 1, outgrappled her for much of the fight as a whole, and despite Zingano’s spirited comeback in round 3, it wasn’t enough to get Cat the W. The Brazilian is a much-needed new contender at W135, and she’s one of the more physically imposing figures in the weight class.
  • There was a really touching tribute for Bruce Connal, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 62. Connal was the lead producer of all UFC PPVs over the past 20+ years, and judging by reaction from Joe Rogan, Jon Anik, Brian Stann, Mike Goldberg on the Bellator broadcast on Friday night, you could tell that he was not just an important part of the UFC family, but a beloved figure. May Mr. Connal rest in peace.

Preliminary Card

  • Mackenzie Dern’s UFC debut was a rough one, but she still got the win over Ashley Yoder. The decorated BJJ world champion had terrible takedowns, awful striking (which led to her getting knocked down in round 2), but she never looked discouraged, and got a critical takedown in the final round. From there, she was on Yoder’s back in an instant and ready for the rear-naked choke. Yoder survived but it shows just how dangerous it is to be with Dern on the ground for even a few seconds. There’s no reason that Yoder should’ve gotten a scorecard in her favor... except Adalaide Byrd was judging, so nonsense was destined to happen.
  • Dern has to work on a lot of things. Striking, wrestling, her entries into the clinch, etc. She needs to be booked carefully moving forward. Oh yeah, and I can’t finish my write-up on this without mentioning that Dern actually had Jorge Gurgel translating questions for her from Portuguese to English.
  • ...I don’t think anyone saw Alexander Hernandez crushing Beneil Dariush that easily. He started out by faking the glove touch and throwing a kick, and roughly 40 seconds later, Dariush was out cold. A vicious left hand KO had Dariush out in an instant, and that’s as big a win for the UFC newcomer as it is devastating for Dariush’s already waning title hopes. Wow, that was a real stunner.
  • In the final fight of his current UFC contract, John Dodson saw a split decision go his way, as he edged out Pedro Munhoz in a bit of a weird contest. Munhoz was content to kickbox, and his terrible defense saw him get lit up repeatedly by Dodson’s left hand, but the Brazilian had some effective moments and was constantly pressuring. I thought Dodson did enough to win -- as frustrating as that sounds when you watch him compete — now we wait and see where John’s next bout will be.
  • C.B. Dollaway got knocked out by Hector Lombard... except it was late, and therefore illegal, thus Dollaway was declared the winner by disqualification. Lombard’s team will appeal on the basis of the referee not really being forceful with his intervening as the horn sounded, but regardless of the outcome of that case, it’s hard to see Hector getting another UFC fight. For what it’s worth, all three judges gave Dollaway round 1.
  • Mike Pyle’s farewell fight didn’t go as planned, as Zak Ottow got the quick TKO halfway through the opening frame. Pyle has taken some brutal punishment over the years, and you know the resistance is gone when someone like Ottow, who seldom wins by strikes, can wipe “Quicksand” out. I wish Pyle the best in retirement, as he’s been one of the more entertaining and tough fighters in the sport.
  • In a tough, grueling fight, Cody Stamann cemented himself as a new bantamweight contender with a split decision win over #7 ranked Bryan Caraway, who started out strongly but struggled after round 1. The final minute could’ve easily seen Caraway get round 3 and thus the fight, as he and Stamann went back-and-forth trading big shots.
  • Of note in Caraway vs. Stamann was the return to UFC judging for one Adalaide Byrd, of “118-110 Canelo over Golovkin” fame, as well as countless other awful boxing and MMA scorecards. Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier effectively spent much of the final round having a laugh knowing Byrd’s past, but Byrd thankfully didn’t turn in some absurd score for this one. She just waited for Dern-Yoder to do that.
  • Jordan Johnson got the split decision over Adam Milstead to start off the night. It definitely wasn’t good to watch and I’ve largely forgotten how I scored it. Johnson remains undefeated in the UFC, and since he’s a light heavyweight, he might be ranked by default next week.