The re-imagined UFC 222 main event sees the Women’s equivalent of the Featherweight title up for grabs as the unmatched Brazilian Cris Cyborg faces promotion newcomer, and former Invicta FC Bantamweight queen Yana Kunitskaya in Las Vegas, Nevada.
A short notice new headliner after a leg injury to original title defender Max Holloway, Cyborg last featured on the New Year’s UFC 219 card, defending the Featherweight crown against former Bantamweight champion Holly Holm in a five-round unanimous decision, while Russia’s Kunitskaya most recently managed her own clear-cut decision against Raquel Pa’aluhi to claim the Bantamweight 135lbs championship..
Regarded as the consensus best female mixed-martial artist of all time, Curitiba favorite Cris Cyborg is undefeated since her professional bow, stopping fellow pioneers, Gina Carano, Charmaine Tweet and Shayna Baszler, Cris has also brutally finished the likes of Tonya Evinger, Leslie Smith, Sweden’s Lina Lansberg, Marloes Coenen, Faith Van Duin and maybe most shockingly, Jan Finney, with referee Kim Winslow receiving considerably flack for a terribly late stoppage.
Now under the tutelage of Jason Parillo, Cyborg has reverted from her early career aggressive style to evolve into a comfortable almost counter striker, but still possesses the deadly killer instinct from her Strikeforce or Invicta FC days. With a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt under the legendary Andre Galvao also at hand, Cyborg may have to revert to her grappling arsenal as to avoid the often dangerous striking of Yana Kunitskaya.
A three-time Muay Thai, Taekwondo and UKADO champion, ‘Foxy’ Yana Kunitskaya is a dangerous customer for any female mixed-martial artist the world over, including Cris Cyborg. Making her premier Invicta FC walk against now fellow UFC competitor Tonya ‘Triple Threat’ Evinger, Yana picked up an eye-catching first-round armbar to claim the Bantamweight crown, until Tonya filed to have the submission loss overturned to a ‘No Contest’ due to a poor referee call which ultimately set up the armbar victory for Yana.
As the pair ran it back in early 2017, Kunitskaya was this time submitted via a tight rear-naked choke in the second round. After Tonya’s signing with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Yana faced Raquel Pa’aluhi for the now vacant 135lbs title, winning a unanimous decision victory against the Waianae native. Plying her trade out of Albuquerque’s Jackson Wink MMA, Kunitskaya is obviously a dangerous striker evident from her 7 knockout victories, but also presents a solid grappling base for Cyborg to deal with.
Ultimately, I don’t think Cyborg is troubled enough to threaten her title by anybody not named Megan Anderson or even Amanda Nunes, but Yana’s striking can always cause concern. Similarly to each of her previous UFC stoppages, I see Cyborg overwhelming Kunitskaya for the opening five or seven minutes before a barrage forces the referee to step in and call the bout.
Cris Cyborg via knockout.