Khabib Nurmagomedov hadn’t fought in more than a year. Cris Cyborg hadn’t been in a competitive fight in much longer than that.
The favorites in the two headlining fights at UFC 219 Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena came into the year-end card with major questions, and left having answered them in resounding fashion.
Nurmagomedov put on arguably the best performance of his career in mangling Edson Barboza via unanimous decision (30-25, 30-25, 30-24). Cyborg followed by outlasting the rare fighter who was capable of hanging with her in Holly Holm.
Holm landed just as many strikes as Cyborg, but the latter’s hit harder. Cyborg retained her women’s featherweight title with a unanimous-decision win (49-46, 48-47, 47) over Holm.
“She is an amazing fighter,” Cyborg said afterwards while still in the octagon. “She did really well.”
Most of the rounds between Cyborg and Holm were tight, the direct opposite of the co-main event. Nurmagomedov took Barboza down in the opening minutes, and rained ground-and-pound for the duration of the first rounds.
Things hardly improved in the next two frames, as Nurmagomedov kept an exhausting pace in plastering Barboza with punches. Nurmagomedov improved to 25-0, and put himself back in line for a shot at either lightweight champion Conor McGregor or interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson.
“If UFC gives me one hour rest, I can fight one more time with Conor or Tony no problem,” Nurmagomedov said.
Finding opponents for Cyborg could present more of a challenge. She’s now on a 19-fight win streak, with Holm emerging as the first fighter to as much as win a round off of her in more than a decade.
The main card spoiled another future women’s fight the UFC was eyeing when former strawweight champion Carla Esparza knocked off undefeated prospect Cynthia Calvillo by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28). Calvillo protested the decision, but the final two rounds were razor-thin.
There was no other controversy, as Neil Magny dominated Carlos Condit in the main-card welterweight opener. Magny won every round but one combined on the three judges’ scorecard.
In a late replacement pay-per-view bout, lightweight Dan Hooker provided the only stoppage of the night in upsetting Marc Diakiese via guillotine choke 42 seconds into the third round. Nurmagomedov bemoaned not being able to finish Barboza, but he was extremely close.
He might have been the only one with anything critical to say of a performance where he succeeded exactly in in the best possible fashion . Same goes for Cyborg.
Check back to lasvegassun.com later for full coverage from UFC 219.
A transitional year for the UFC comes to a close tonight at T-Mobile Arena with the final fight card of the year.
UFC 219 serves as the annual New Year’s Eve weekend pay-per-view event this year. It will conclude the locally based promotion’s first full year under new ownership, Endeavor, in fitting fashion.
Cris Cyborg defends her women’s featherweight championship belt against Holly Holm in the main event, making it a first time pay-per-view headlining role for the most decorated female fighter in the world. As a year, 2017 has tested the UFC’s ability in developing new stars with the forces it’s ridden the last couple years — Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey — having never appeared in the octagon.
Holm is a slightly more proven commodity, having beaten Rousey two years ago in the main event of one of the sport’s all-time best selling pay-per-views as well as having fought in several other high-profile events. She’s seen as the best bet to give Cyborg, who’s won 18 straight fights dating back to 2005, any type of challenge.
Two lightweight bouts are in direct support, with another star who was otherwise absent from 2017 fighting for the first time in 13 months. Khabib Nurmagomedov, who was forced to pull out of an interim title fight with Tony Ferguson due to weight issues nine months ago, re-emerges to face Edson Barboza.
Nurmagomedov is 24-0 in his career.
Dan Hooker and Marc Diakiese are in the other lightweight bout, which will follow another budding undefeated star in Cynthia Calvillo taking on former champion Carla Esparza in a women’s strawweight bout.
There are links to the past at UFC 219 too. In the pay-per-view opener, longtime fan favorite Carlos Condit come back for the first time in 16 months. Condit will take on Neil Magny, who memorably went on a seven-fight win streak in 2014-2015.
The Sun is cageside for all of the action, so follow along here for updates from the main card all night. Check below for full results from the preliminaries.
It took until the final preliminary fight for an upset, but it was the biggest underdog on the card who ultimately came through. Michal Oleksiejczuk defeated Khalil Roundtree via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) in a light heavyweight bout
Myles Jury continued his climb back up the lightweight rankings with a second straight victory. Jury controlled the action throughout in securing a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) over Rick Glenn.
Martin Vettori and Omari Akhmedov fought to a majority draw in an action-packed middleweight bout. Vettori staved off exhaustion to finish strong and secure a draw in the final round.
Matheus Nicolau defeated Louis Smolka via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-25) in a flyweight bout. Nicolau appeared to get stronger as the fight progressed, wearing Smolka out with body shots.
Tim Elliott's grappling was far too much for Mark De La Rosa in a flyweight bout. Elliott finished De La Rosa via anaconda choke for a submission victory at 1:41 of the second round.