UFC 219
UFC 219 Poster. Credit UFC.

This weekend the UFC returns with its final event of 2017, UFC 219. The card takes place inside the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada and will see the ‘Baddest woman on the planet’ Cristiane Justino Venâncio, defend her featherweight title against former women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm.

Saturday night’s card will also feature a Lightweight clash between two of the divisions elite as Khabib Nurmagomedov takes on Edson Barboza. Carlos Condit will also mark his return in Las Vegas when he faces off against Neil Magny.

Cyborg vs Holm battle for the title of ‘baddest woman on the planet’ at UFC 219 

Although the final card of the year doesn’t have the same aura around it as previous years it is headlined by a bout to perhaps determine the baddest woman on the planet. Cris ‘Cyborg’ is perhaps the most decorated female fighter to ever step foot in the Octagon, she is a former Strikeforce and Invicta champion and now the Brazilian looks to continue to assert her dominance in the UFC by securing her first title defence.

Despite being known for her aggression and power she is no doubt the most well-rounded female on the roster and likes to compete in not only in mixed martial arts, but also in other combat sports such as Muay Thai, Competitive Grappling & Wrestling. The Brazilian has won world championships in the IBJJF purple belt division (2x), bronze medalist ADCC, and two-time amateur wrestling champion in Brazil (Snr Freestyle State Champion & Snr Freestyle Brazil Cup International Champion).

She currently remains undefeated in the promotion after securing two TKO victories over Leslie Smith and Lina Lansberg; she then went on to win featherweight gold making it three consecutive TKO victories defeating Tonya Evinger at UFC 214.

Holm too has experienced a decorated career which spreads over multiple sports, prior to joining the promotion she was a multiple time boxing champion and became the first woman to hold titles in both combat sports when she dethroned woman’s MMA icon Ronda Rousey at UFC 193. She enters this weekend’s bout looking to make it two consecutive wins after defeating Bethe Correia in her most recent outing at UFC Fight Night 111 to earn another shot at the UFC 145lb strap.

This victory snapped a three-fight losing stint including her bantamweight title loss to Miesha Tate and the UFC inaugural featherweight title loss against Germaine De Randamie. Now she will look to once again make history in becoming the first woman to win titles in multiple UFC weight divisions.

Khabib and Barboza eye interim gold

In the co-main event #2 ranked Khabib Nurmagomedov will return to the Octagon for the first time since he was hospitalised prior to his bout with Tony Ferguson at UFC 209. The Dagestan fighter is currently undefeated in his professional career holding a record of 24-0(8-0, UFC). He holds victories over the likes of Abel Trujillo, Pat Healy and former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos. Nurmagomedov’s success so far in his career has come down to his utter dominance once he gets a hold of his opponent, he has the third-highest takedown rate in UFC history and once took down Trujillo 21 times the most takedowns ever recorded by one person in a bout.

In his most recent outing he showcased his exceptional grappling skills in his domination of Michael Johnson at UFC 205. His biggest downfall so far has been his inconsistency when it comes to weight management now however according to his new nutritionist Tyler “Melee” Minton, Khabib has made great improvements and was on course to make weight this evening, which he successfully done. If successful this weekend Khabib will no doubt be eyeing to put pen to paper for a third time for a bout against UFC Interim lightweight champion Ferguson.

Sharing the co-main with him is a man who stylistically is the complete opposite to Khabib. #4 Edson Barboza is a KO/TKO artist and perhaps one of the most deadly strikers in the UFC.

The Brazilian has a range of strikes at his disposal and has KO’s stemming from the likes of roundhouse kicks to flying knees. He will no doubt have the advantage on the feet but will be weary that one missed strike opens the door for Nurmagomedov to take the fight to the ground.

You may call it ring rust but from the Dagestan’s last bout we do know he can be found out in the stand-up; Barboza will have to use his footwork and lead-hand punches to keep his opponent on the outside and make the most of the five-inch reach advantage or even better catch him on his way in. The difficult thing, however, is that in the past Barboza has struggled against aggressive pressure attackers such as in his upset loss against Jamie Varner and then against now interim champ Tony Ferguson.

Angles have been a big factor of Barboza’s development and with his arsenal of strikes he can prove to be a very tough opponent as has proved in his victories against Anthony Pettis and Gilberto Milendez. He enters the bout on a three-fight win streak most recently securing a highlight reel KO over Beneil Dariush in March.

As to when UFC Lightweight champion Conor McGregor will return to action is currently unknown, both men will have their eye on a title bout with Ferguson if successful this weekend.

Diakiese vs. Hooker promoted to UFC 219 main card

The UFC 219 main card took a substantial blow when John Lineker was forced out of his fight with Jimmie Rivera due to a tooth infection. Rivera was thus pulled from the event and the UFC have now turned to British prospect Marc Diakiese to fill the void when he matches up against Dan Hooker.

Diakiese’s lightweight contest with Hooker has now been promoted to third on the main card of UFC 219 behind Nurgomedov. The 24-year old holds a record of 12-1 and will step back in the Octagon for the first time since being dealt his first pro loss by Drakkar Klose back in July. The Brit now has the chance to end 2018 on a high and will no doubt be looking to land another of his trademark KO’s.

The New Zealand man Hooker enters this weekend’s bout looking for back to back wins for the first time since joining the promotion. He is 4-2 in the promotion having secured a second round KO victory over Ross Pearson in his last bout. He has losses to top lightweight opposition such as Jason Knight and  Yair Rodriguez but Diakiese may prove to be his hardest opponent yet. No doubt he will be hoping to add another Brit to his list of defeated opponents when he steps in the Octagon this weekend.

Former champ Esparza takes on rising prospect Calvillo

Elsewhere on the card the inaugural straw-weight champion Carla Esparza looks to show she is still a serious contender at 125lb when she takes on undefeated Cynthia Calvillo.

It was a little over three years ago that Carla Esparza was crowned the UFC inaugural strawweight champion when she defeated Rose Namajunas; now ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ season 20 winner looks to make it back to back wins for the first time since being dethroned by Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 185.

The 30-year old has won two of her last three bouts including her most recent victory over Maryna Moroz back in June. Despite this, her upset split decision loss to Randa Markos has now left her adrift of the top contenders in what is a stacked division.

Someone who is ascending in the 125lb ranks is Cynthia Calvillo, the Team Alpha Male product is undefeated with a professional record of 6-0 and has impressed since joining the promotion where she has went 3-0. The 30-year old has secured stoppage wins over Amanda Bobby Green and Pearl Gonzalez before a decision victory over Joanne Calderwood in her most recent bout. Calvillo will now look to continue her surge through the division and add a former champion to her list of defeated opponents.

Neil Magny welcomes Carlos Condit on his two and a half year return

This weekend’s bout also plays host to the return of Carlos Condit after two years and four months, he is welcomed back by Neil Magny in a welterweight match-up. He is aiming to bounce back from his UFC on Fox 21 headliner loss against Demian Maia.

There were questions as to whether ‘The Natural Born Killer’ would return to the Octagon after 40 pro-MMA fights as well as his kickboxing career; our questions are now answered as he looks for his first win in three. Condit has been an elite welterweight for a number of years but has sometimes come up short when facing the divisions best. He is 2-5 in his last seven falling to the likes of George-St Pierre, Johny Hendricks, Tyron Woodley and Robbie Lawler in their 2016 ‘Fight Of The Year’ bout.

The 33-year old is known for his hell for leather attitude at times but the question is whether or not wear and tear along with the time out has hampered his durability. Despite holding a few first-round finishes he is often a slow starter, something his opponent will look to take advantage of.

Neil Magny has had a habit of causing an upset or two and has held his own in what is perhaps the most stacked division in the promotion. He enters the bout off the back of a first-round submission loss to former Lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC 215. Prior to this loss he went 11-2 defeating the likes of Kelvin Gastelum, Johny Hendricks and Hector Lombard. His two other most recent losses have come against top welterweights Demian Maia and Lorenz Larkin. Now is perhaps the perfect time to face Condit after his time out from the sport and secure a win over another former title challenger.

UFC 219 PPV Main Card:
Women’s Featherweight: (C) Cris Cyborg (145) vs. Holly Holm (144)
Lightweight.: Edson Barboza (155) vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov (155.5)
Lightweight: Marc Diakiese (155.5) vs. Dan Hooker (155.5)
Strawweight: Cynthia Calvillo (116) vs. Carla Esparza (115.5)
Welterweight: Carlos Condit (170.5) vs. Neil Magny (170.5)

UFC 219 Prelims on FOX Sports 1:
Light-heavyweight: Michal Oleksiejczuk (203.5) vs. Khalil Rountree (205)
Featherweight: Rick Glenn (145.5) vs. Myles Jury (146)
Middleweight: Omari Akhmedov (185.5) vs. Marvin Vettori (185.5)
Flyweight: Matheus Nicolau (125.5) vs. Louis Smolka (126)

UFC 219 Prelims on Fight Pass:
Bantamweight: Mark Delarosa (135.5) vs. Tim Elliott (135)