Guidence: this article contains scenes of violence - the type you'd expect from a UFC event...
UFC women’s featherweight champion of the world Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino further solidified her dominance with a comprehensive TKO victory over Russian challenger Yana Kunitskaya in the main event of UFC 222 on Saturday night.
Justino took the fight on three weeks’ notice after the originally-scheduled main event between Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar fell through due to UFC champ Holloway’s injury.
And with a title fight needed at the top of the card, ‘Cyborg’ answered the call, agreeing to face Invicta bantamweight champion Kunitskaya in Las Vegas.
In the build up to the fight Kunitskaya had said the Brazilian didn’t possess knockout power, but Justino’s first punch of the fight sent the Russian shooting in for a takedown as she immediately went looking for cover.
Kunitskaya used her grappling well in the early stages, forcing Justino up against the fence, but when the pair eventually separated and the fight returned to the middle of the cage, the momentum swung decisively in the Brazilian’s favour.
A push kick from Justino forced Kunitskaya back to the fence, and a huge overhand right sent her to the canvas, where a vicious series of hammerfists forced referee Herb Dean to step in and end the contest at the 3:25 mark in the opening round.
After the contest, Justino said she wanted to face reigning UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes next.
Speaking after the fight, Justino said: “Now I wait for Amanda. Amanda called me out.
“I know Brazil against Brazil is sad, but she called me out, and when you call Cyborg out you have to handle that.”
A champion versus champion fight with Nunes would certainly offer a mouth-watering match-up, but Nunes isn’t the only fighter to call out Justino. Immediately after the bout, Australia’s former Invicta featherweight champion Megan Anderson issued a challenge of her own.
Brian Ortega makes history in the co-main event
When undefeated featherweight contender Brian “T-City” Ortega stepped into the octagon to take on UFC legend and former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, most believed his best shot at victory was through his world-class submission game.
But the 27-year-old Californian showcased his striking in a breathtaking performance to hand 36-year-old Edgar the first stoppage defeat of his 29-fight career.
Edgar started fast, pushing the pace on his younger opponent, throwing multi-punch combinations and forcing Ortega onto the back foot. But it didn’t take Ortega long to settle as he began to land with strikes of his own, and a huge short elbow stopped Edgar in his tracks as the former lightweight world champion came in looking to throw another combination from short range.
Spotting the opening, Ortega calmly positioned himself and scored with a succession of punches, before unleashing a huge uppercut that lifted Edgar off his feet and down to the canvas.
The win was even more impressive given the fact that Ortega stepped in at short notice to face Edgar after UFC world featherweight champion Max Holloway was forced out of his scheduled title bout with Edgar through injury a month before the event.
Ortega’s spectacular finish came with 16 seconds left of the opening round and took his stellar record to 14-0 (with 1 no contest) and the anticipation is already building ahead of a possible Holloway v Ortega title fight later this year.
Welcome to The Sugar Show
One of the moments of the night came during the featherweight bout between rising star “Sugar” Sean O’Malley and Andre Soukhamthath.
O’Malley was dominating the contest with his unorthodox, spectacular striking style, but appeared to suffer a broken foot mid-way through the final round.
Sensing an opportunity, Soukhamthath moved in, but rather than allowing his man to stay standing so he could kick the injured leg of his opponent, he inexplicably took O’Malley to the mat, allowing him to survive the round and make it to the scorecards.
And, when the scores were totalled, O’Malley was declared the winner while still lying on his back having his injured foot attended to by the doctors.
He then went on to conduct a post-fight interview with UFC co-commentator Joe Rogan while still lying flat out on the canvas, signing off by declaring: “Welcome to The Sugar Show, everybody!”
Also on the card…
Heavyweight veterans Andrei Arlovski and Stefan Struve went toe-to-toe for three rounds, with former world champion Arlovski picking up the decision victory, while the opening main card bout of the night saw Brazil’s Ketlen Vieira continue her winning run inside the octagon with a split decision victory over former title challenger Cat Zingano.
And on the preliminary card we saw the debut of former Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Mackenzie Dern, who picked up a split-decision win over Ashley Yoder after three hard-fought rounds.
The UFC will now take a week off before landing on British soil for UFC Fight Night: Werdum vs Volkov on Saturday 17 March at The O2 Arena in London.
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