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Handicapping

UFC 219 Preview

UFC 219 Picks
When: Saturday, December 30, 2017 at 10PM EST
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: PPV
by Scott of Predictem.com

Fight Analysis:

On December 30, the 2017 year closes for the UFC with a big PPV card out of Las Vegas. A top womanís fight headlines the bill, with UFC Featherweight Champion and juggernaut Cris Cyborg taking on former UFC Womenís Bantamweight Champion Holly Holm. Can Holm resume her role as giant-killer or will Cyborg continue making mincemeat out of her opponents? In the co-main event is a high-impact lightweight bout with top unbeaten contender Khabib Nurmagomedov battling it out with noted striker, the dangerous Edson Barboza.

Cris Cyborg, 18-1 (16 KOs), (-360) vs. Holly Holm, 11-3 (8 KOs), (+300)
Cris Cyborg defends her UFC Womenís Featherweight Title against former champion Holly Holm in the main event of UFC 219. Itís a good matchup, with the long-dominant Cyborg finally getting in there with a real name-opponent in Holm, who is no stranger to thriving in the role of underdog. In her last fight, Cyborg, 32, won her first UFC belt with a TKO of Tonya Evinger for the vacant 145-pound belt. But in Holm, 36, she is facing a decorated fighter across different disciplines and her most-accomplished opponent to date. The former boxing champion-turned-MMA fighter looks for a similar result to when she shocked the world by knocking out Ronda Rousey in 2015.

There are some issues both fighters face heading into this matchup, beyond whatever stylistic problems their opponent represents. For Holm, where is she exactly in terms of her career? Before reminding some of her vintage self with a head-kick knockout of Bethe Correia in her last fight in June, she had dropped three straight fights. There was the late choke-loss to Miesha Tate where she gave up her title, followed by a pair of close decision losses to Valentina Shevchenko and Germaine de Randamie. Thatís not exactly the recent form youíd be hoping to see from a potential upset candidate to beat Cyborg. But those last two fights were pretty close and she showed in her last fight that sheís still a lethal striker. Even so, sheís 36 and after a long boxing career and fighting at the top level in MMA the last several years, the mileage could be adding up.

Cyborg has been able to settle in at 145 pounds, but with added age, even that weight is no picnic for the controversial Brazilian champion. The stage seems to be set for her to start making her mark at the highest level. But that might coincide with a reduction in her powers and mounting weight problems. She had that big fight with Gina Carano eight years ago and since then; itís been hard for her to make a huge impact befitting her dominant skills. But after three fights in the UFC, she can now start to do that with this big fight against Holm. The issue is whether or not she grew stale waiting for this or if all the weight-cuts and mileage have taken a toll.

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In the evolution of womenís MMA, the talent-structure is a little different than at the menís level. The gap between the truly elite in womenís MMA and rest of the back is pretty substantial. The evolution of MMA has also made it so there is a vastly different level of ability now compared to when Cyborg beat Gina Carano. And with all the heavy-hitters having been in the UFC, Cyborg hasnít faced the top women in this modern version of the sport. She has beaten some tough ladies, but no one who has managed to make it to the top, other than Carano, which might as well have been 20 years ago. Could the jump from who she has been fighting to the likes of Holm be a bigger jump in class than what weíre forecasting?

Even if thatís the case, Cyborg still represents the alpha-dog of womenís MMA, by far the most feared and remarkable physical presence ever seen in a cage. You can argue whether she has the credentials to match some of her contemporaries, but her record speaks for itself. After losing her debut in 2005, no one has gotten close to her and most of her wins have been violent and ultra-dominant. She is absolutely brutal and when her opponent is hurt, she can close escrow.

To say Holly Holmís chances are tiny is not grasping the full-scope of what she brings to the table. What female fighter has the kind of hardware that Holm has won in boxing and MMA? You donít get to the top of two sports by not having massive ability. She can offer movement, punches, and head-kicks that could easily trouble Cyborg. What if she hits Cyborg with one of those lethal head-kicks or if she confuses Cyborg with movement and savvy? And itís not like her style doesnít work against aggressive fighters, as has been graphically illustrated before.

There are a lot of questions for both competitors in this championship five-rounder. At the end of the day, I would like to see Holm in better form with this task that lies ahead. Stylistically, she could have an edge that she didnít have in some of her recent fights. She has a good chance, but the overall physicality of Cyborg and having to wait so long to make her mark should result in her showing up very ready for this fight, physically and mentally. Iím taking the champion.

My Pick to Win: Iím betting on Cris Cyborg at -360. As long as the weight-cut goes somewhat-well, she might be too much of a physical task for Holm. The striking, experience, and technical abilities of Holm will be hard to overcome, but Cyborg is just too much of a force. Bet YOUR UFC 219 pick and get a massive 100% REAL CASH bonus up to $500 FREE at GTBETS!

Khabib Nurmagomedov, 24-0 (8 KOs, 8 Submissions), (-200) vs. Edson Barboza, 19-4 (11 KOs, 1 Submission), (+160)
In a battle of 155-pound contenders looking to get in the mix of some big-money action, undefeated top contender Khabib Nurmagomedov battles Edson Barboza. This is a fight that will feature ample fireworks and a riveting matchup of styles between the smothering and ultra-strong Nurmagomedov, 29, and the lethal-striking Barboza, a very dangerous contender looking to get to the top of the pile. Who can get it done in the co-main event of UFC 219?

This is an important fight for Khabib after having a botched weight-cut leading up to this interim title fight with Tony Ferguson, forcing a cancellation of the fight. He needs to show he can make this weight before getting back in the organizationís good graces so he can become champion and maybe get a fight with Conor McGregor up the road. The weight issues really set back his career. And with a title shot already being long-overdue for the 24-0 mauler, he needs to be impressive here and get people talking about him for the right reasons again.

Barboza, 31, has lifted his profile since losing to Tony Ferguson in 2015. Wins over ranked Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis led up to his flying-knee KO of contender Beneil Dariush in March in his last fight. With 17 UFC fights, he has always been a dangerous fighter capable of beating anyone, but has fallen short in fights against the top guys he has faced. He looks to make that right with what would be a huge win here and heís put himself in a good position to do it, improving his overall game over the years, while working with the best people.

With Barbozaís kicking ability, which he can wield to the legs up to the head with equal aplomb, heís as dangerous as they come. I just see his margin for error in this fight being a bit narrow. Nurmagomedov will close the distance and when he sinks in his clamp, there is nothing anyone can do. Barboza has gotten better on the ground and in his takedown defense over the years, but this is a different level. I see Nurmagomedov overcoming some anxious moments and grinding down Barboza en route to a win.

My Pick to Win: Iím betting on Khabib Nurmagomedov at -200. Barboza is a lethal underdog and it canít be that big of a surprise when he manages to light someone up with his kicks. But Khabib has worked hard to get to this spot and with people watching his intake and weight more-closely, I see him getting back to his dominant ways on December 30.

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