The UFC is closing out the year with the biggest possible fight in women’s MMA: a title fight between featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino and former bantamweight champion Holly Holm.
This is the year that Dana White was forced to recognize that Cyborg is a bona fide star. No other fighter delivers systematic violence as consistently as the Brazilian mauler. At times it’s almost hard to watch. And until this main event, no top-level woman fighter would willingly step into the octagon with her.
Holm broke out when she shattered Ronda Rousey’s unbeatable aura. Now, she has an even more difficult task in front of her. If “The Preacher’s Daughter” can once again do the unthinkable, that’s instant legend status.
In the co-main event, Khabib Nurmagomedov will fight for the first time in 2017, meeting human highlight reel Edson Barboza. The Russian’s appearances are something of a rarity these days, but he usually dishes out a brutal reminder as to why there’s still a ton of folks who feel that he’s the best 155-pounder in the world.
Also on the pay-per-view main card is a bantamweight contender matchup between body shot wizard John Lineker and rising contender Jimmie Rivera – winner of 19 straight fights. Rounding things out is a women’s strawweight matchup featuring blue chip prospect Cynthia Calvillo, and the return of action fighter Carlos Condit.
There’s tons to cover here, so let’s jump right into your best betting options. We’re using the UFC odds at BookMaker.eu, and you can head over to their site to place any of the following bets.
Cris Cyborg -400 vs. Holly Holm +300
Over/under 1.5 rounds, over -250, under +200
Lightning is not striking twice for Holm. Against Rousey, the 36-year old was able to expose a complete lack of striking depth. Cyborg’s got not weaknesses to speak of – she’s a Muay Thai monster and a BJJ black belt. And every single physical advantage – from strength to size to athleticism – belongs to Justino.
The scariest part about Cyborg is that she’s gotten better in the UFC. Training under Jason Parillo, she’s no longer just a hyper aggressive axe murderer who steamrolls opponents. This new version of Cyborg is far more patient and efficient with her movement. She took two rounds to finish Lina Lansberg and three to put away Tonya Evinger – but they were both fights she probably could’ve finished in a single frame.
Cherry Pick: Parlay Cyborg to win at -400
If Holm had the kind of money line she did against Rousey (around +1250), you could maybe talk me into a small bet. There’s always the chance that Greg Jackson comes up with the perfect game plan to put Cyborg in deep water where she’s not familiar. But Holm would have to fight the perfect fight, and Cyborg would have to forget how to grapple. This is an easy pick, but the price is too expensive to be anything but a parlay booster.
Smart Risk: Cyborg inside the distance at -170
We’re not surprised at all that this is still a chalk play. Though Holm has only been finished once, she’s fighting a serial killer with 18 straight finishes. There’s not a woman in the world who can go the distance with Cyborg.
Lottery Ticket: Cyborg wins by submission at +1125
Cyborg doesn’t do submissions, but this is a case where she could easily snatch one against an outmatched grappler should she run into trouble on the feet.
Khabib Nurmagomedov +225 vs. Edson Barboza -285
Over/under 2.5 rounds, over -135, under +115
Nurmagomedov is like a boogeyman who appears once every few years to mangle some poor soul, only to disappear into myth because of an injury or some other drama. In this case, a failed weight cut and the month of Ramadan put him out of action for months. The UFC is tossing right back into the shark tank with a matchup against Edson Barboza.
The big question here is how much damage Barboza can do before he ends up on the ground. If he can land the type of clean hits that Michael Johnson was able to in half a round, Nurmagomedov might be irreparably damaged or left unconscious.
We’ve seen time and time again that Barboza only needs a split second to end a fight, from his spinning wheel kick of Terry Etim to the flying knee beheading of Beneil Dariush. And those aren’t even his best weapon – the Brazilian’s leg kicks are the best in the business. It only took a few to leave Gilbert Melendez hobbled.
But as dangerous as Barboza is on the feet, Khabib is even deadlier on the ground. It only takes a single takedown to change the course of the fight – his GNP is that deadly. And after the first takedown, it only gets easier for The Eagle to land the next one. Barboza’s explosiveness works against him, as he’ve seen him worn down by relentless pressure.
Lottery Ticket: Barboza to win by KO/TKO at +530
If Barboza pulls off the upset, it’ll likely be with a fight-ending assault. The longer he keeps it standing, the more desperate Khabib will get, leading to a mistake that Edson capitalizes on.
Cynthia Calvillo -260 vs. Carla Esparza +210
Over/under 2.5 rounds, over -210, under +165
Calvillo is a blue chip prospect from Team Alpha Male, and she’s a good wrestler and even better scrambler – typical of a fighter from the Sactown fight team. Esparza is a wrestler too, setting up a test of strength between the two.
The edge goes to Calvillo here, who has a clearly higher ceiling. If Esparza cannot be the bully, she has no plan B. The former champ doesn’t have the strength to overpower the undefeated Calvillo, and she’s completely lost on the feet. Cynthia might not be a natural striker, but she can be effective in spurts.
Cherry Pick: Over 2.5 rounds at -210
As is the case with most women’s strawweight matchups, the rounds over is a sold play. Calvillo’s submission wrestling is a threat, but Esparza’s well-versed enough on the ground to defend.
Smart Risk: Calvillo wins by submission at +300
Calvillo is evolving into a very good submission wrestler, though she will have to soften Esparza up to the point of exhaustion to make a mistake.
Carlos Condit -175 vs. Neil Magny +135
Over/under 2.5 rounds, over -135, under +105
It’s good to have “The Natural Born Killer” back. Whether he’s a contender anymore is questionable. Still, he could play an important role at welterweight – and his dynamic, creative style is always a fun watch.
Both Magny and Condit are long, rangy fighters who do their best work in space. Condit likes to outwork opponents with volume, while Magny likes to pick guys apart behind a stiff jab. The striking is pretty much a wash between the two, although Condit is better at attacking with all limbs.
Smart Risk: Magny to win at +135
The difference here could be Magny’s wrestling. Takedown defense has always been an issue for Carlos, as he only successfully defends against 40% of attempts. Magny lands just over 2.5 per fight at a 45% clip. He could steal a round or two on the ground.
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