After Jason Powers and Brandon Sibcy argued the outcome of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Edson Barboza, we turn our attention to the main event of UFC 219, Cris “Cyborg” Justino vs Holly Holm. The two will fight for Cyborg’s women’s featherweight title, while two of our writers will fight for the Great Debate title. Keith Shillan will look to win his 6th Great Debate in a row and defend his title for a 5th time, while Jordan Carroll will look to steal the crown. Shillan is taking Cyborg, while Carroll will argue for the challenger, Holm.
Why Cris “Cyborg” Justino Win By Keith Shillan
After winning five Great Debates in a row, I feel like it is cheating to pick Cris “Cyborg” Justino to beat Holly Holm in the main event of UFC 219. Maybe, we shouldn’t even count this win in my streak. I am saying this because I am so confident in this pick. I think this is one of the easiest picks to debate. Sure, Holly Holm is a former boxing champion. She also was able to pull off one of the most historic knockouts in MMA history, when she knocked Ronda Rousey out with a head kick at UFC 193. That said, she has an extremely slim chance of winning the UFC women’s featherweight title on Saturday.
So let me say this for the record, Holly Holm has a chance of beating Cyborg on Saturday. However, there are only two avenues to win and both are extremely unlikely. The first way the “Preacher’s Daughter” can win is by landing one of her head kicks. Her best strike since turning to MMA has been her head kick. Her last two wins have been by head kick, crushing knockouts of Ronda Rousey and Bethe Correia. If Cyborg stays on that fringe outside range, Holm could land a Hail Mary kick and put Cyborg out, but it is extremely unlikely.
The other way Holm could pull off another massive upset will be to stay at range, and throw a high volume of strikes in the air while making the loud “he-yah” sound that she likes to do with every strike. If she does this, while moving away from Cyborg and never really hitting her, she could win the fight. The judges and the fans could be tricked into thinking that Holm is landing strikes, while really just landed strikes on open space.
The biggest reason why I think Cyborg wins and Holm losses are because Cyborg is a great fighter, and Holm isn’t. I know that this isn’t a popular opinion, but it is true. I am shocked at how many people are picking Holm to pull the upset. Sure, she beat Ronda Rousey, but did we forget that she lost three fights in a row right after that. She lost her title to Miesha Tate by being taken down and submitted. She then got outstruck on the feet by Valentina Shevchenko and Germaine de Randamie in back to back fights. Suddenly by knocking out Bethe Correia, everyone forgets that she is 1-3 in her last four fights. 1-3 and suddenly she is gonna move up in weight and beat Cyborg? Yeah right!
I believe Cyborg could beat Holm in every area of MMA. Cyborg holds a huge advantage on the ground. Go back to some of Cyborg’s fights in Invicta, Strike Force, and Elite XC. She has some of the most ferocious ground and pound in not just women’s MMA but all of MMA. Here strength and top pressure are second to none. She is great at pressing her opponent’s face against the cage or mat and unloaded with her free hands until the referee has seen too much. Let’s not forget that she is a multiple time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion. Cyborg might decide to play it safe and take Holm down. Once she does, Holm will either be in a world of hurt or be submitted quickly.
Holm spent several portions of the fight with Germaine de Randamie by working to the clinch. If she tries this gameplan that would be the biggest mistake in sports since the NFL brought back the Cleveland Browns. Cyborg developed as a fighter in the infamous Chute Boxe Academy where she inherited their legendary clinch game. Cyborg’s unmatched strength and desire for violence are greatly displayed in the clinch. She batters her opponents with knees and elbows until they crumble to the canvas.
Many people think that Cyborg might lose if Holm keeps this fight on the feet. This is wishful thinking for Holm fans. Though Holm is a boxer, she doesn’t fight very technical. Her best punch is a lunging left hand. This falls right into Cyborg’s trap. Cyborg is one of the best counterpunchers in MMA history. Think Conor McGregor or a prime Jose Aldo Jr but better than both. She tracks her opponents down with presser from her jab or hard leg kicks, and when her opponents try to stand their ground and strike back, Cyborg slides her head out of the way and has two of the best strikes in MMA. Her check left hook and straight right hand. Her straight right hand will counter the southpaw Holm’s best strike. This was a punch that was landing for de Randamie against Holm. Cyborg’s striking accuracy is 51% compared to Holm’s 35%. Her punches are also meant to cave a women’s head in unlike the point striking Holm’s attempts (besides the high kicks). Holm was picked apart by a flyweight in Valentina Shevchenko and Raquel Pennington dropped her with a punch. What do you think happens when she gets tagged with one of Cyborg’s missiles?
The hardest part of the fight for Cyborg will be making weight on Friday. If she can make it, Holm will be punished. My counterpart Jordan can wish upon a star or sprinkle pixie dust on Holm, but nothing will help her. She doesn’t have another miracle in her. Cinderella doesn’t get to marry the Prince twice. Based on Holm’s incredible toughness, I say she makes it past the first round, but it won’t be pretty.
Prediction: Cris “Cyborg” Justino beats Holly Holm by 2nd Round TKO
Why Holly Holm Will Win By Jordan Carroll
UFC 219 is almost here and I, for one, am extremely excited about it. I believe this card has the potential to be one of the best of the year. We’ve got the return of “the natural born killer”, Carlos Condit. We’ve got Team Alpha Male’s up and coming Cynthia Calvillo finally getting a shot at some elite competition in the form of former UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza. Then the most terrifying man at 155 pounds, Khabib Nurmagomedov comes back to take on violent knockout artist Edson Barboza. Despite how awesome these matchups promise to be, undoubtedly the biggest fight on the card is the main event, Holly Holm vs UFC women’s featherweight champion and consensus number 1 female fighter on the planet, Cris “Cyborg” Justino. Though I’m in the minority, I believe Holm wins this fight. Before you write me off as crazy, let me tell you how and why.
I’m going to kick off with a question. Do you remember the last time that Holly Holm was fighting an unbeatable opponent? I do. Holm shocked the world when she knocked former bantamweight queen Ronda Rousey out with one of her patented head kicks. One for the highlight reel to be sure, but sometimes the flashy finish makes people forget about the rest of that fight. Ronda had nothing for her from the beginning. Holm circled and moved, avoided everything Ronda threw at her, picked her apart and eventually finished her. She wasn’t beaten before she ever got in the cage as a lot of Rousey’s previous opponents had been. The moment wasn’t too big for her, and this one won’t be either.
Now I’m sure a lot of the people writing off Holly’s chances are doing this for one of two reasons. They truly believe that Cyborg is the best in the world and it isn’t close, or they look at her 1-3 record in her last four outings and think “that’s the record and a downward trending fighter”. Three losses out of four fights don’t look good on paper and I understand that, but let us take a closer look at them.
Her most recent loss was a close decision loss (that I scored for Holm) to Germaine De Randamie in February. Oh yes, we all remember that one. De Randamie hit Holm after the bell not once, but twice. No point was taken, De Randamie wins a questionable decision, and then proceeds to vacate the title and leave the division rather than fight Cyborg. Her second loss on this streak was another very close decision loss to the consensus number two bantamweight in the world, Valentina Shevchenko. Now I thought that they scored that fight correctly, but I will say that I don’t believe there’s any shame in losing a tight decision to someone who’s given the current champion (Amanda Nunes) everything she could handle… twice. Now the third loss came in the Miesha Tate fight at UFC 196. I’m sure you know what happened there. Holm dominates the entire fight until halfway through the fifth and final round. She gets overly aggressive halfway through the round and winds up getting taken down and caught in a rear naked choke with just ninety seconds left in the fight. So to recap, we’ve got two razor-thin decisions that were one small move or two away from being a win, and a late mistake that cost her a fight in which she absolutely dominates one of the best female fighters of all time. Those three losses in four fights become a tad underwhelming when you really look at them.
Now if you’re of the mindset that Cris Cyborg is just the best there is, I understand why you feel that way. She’s big, she’s intimidating, and she finishes fights almost every time. Plus, she hasn’t lost since 2005. That is a long time. Let’s take a closer look at Cyborg’s record while we’re at it. Oh wow, maybe she really is the best in the world. Jan Finney? Leslie Smith? Lina Landsberg? Daria Ibragimova? Fiona Muxlow? I’m assuming you’ve picked up on my sarcasm by now. I’m not saying that Cyborg isn’t a great fighter or that she’s dodging or ducking anyone, but I’d be willing to bet that Holly Holm, along with any other legitimate top 5 or 6 fighters in their respective division, could put a streak of wins together against some of the names that I just mentioned. As far as I’m concerned you aren’t the best unless you’re beating the best. That simply hasn’t been the case with Cyborg.
I believe Holm to be the better striker of the two. Although Cyborg has a lot of knockouts, she’s never fought anyone remotely close to being as elusive or busy as Holm. Cyborg tends to explode forward with combinations. She’s not the most creative as it’s mostly hooks and straight punches, but her power can be devastating. Holm, as a former multiple time Boxing world champion and professional Kickboxer, is no stranger to having high-level strikers standing across from her. She’s seen it all, aggression, technically sound, sloppy, big power, combinations, head kicks. I find it tough to believe that Cyborg surprises her with anything. I think Cyborg will have trouble finding Holm in there. Holm never stops moving, using her footwork and sidekicks to keep her opponent from walking her down. Not to insinuate that Cyborg isn’t a high-level striker or isn’t an absolute threat on the feet, but Holm has been given problems by high level and technical striking. Cyborg, although she is a good striker, isn’t always the most technical. She tends to turn into Wanderlei Silva at times and just sort of rush her opponent, relying on her power to put them down. That will be a mistake against the counters of someone like a Holly Holm. Now if this goes to the ground, I do concede in that area. I assume Cyborg to be the better grappler, although Holm is no slouch from what I understand. That’s likely to be a non-issue however as both women typically prefer to stand and trade.
I see this coming down to pressure vs footwork, aggression, and power vs movement and counters. Think bull vs Matador. I think Cyborg will be aggressive like she usually is, I think Holm will play the footwork and counter game like she usually does, and I think Cyborg gets countered all night long. I’m sure Cyborg will land a few things as five rounds is a long time, but I think Holm lands more. Look for Holm to pepper Cyborg with small counters, racking up points and winning rounds. She’s likely to throw the home run ball a few times in the form of one of those violent head kicks she possesses, and if she lands one, it’s nap time for the great Cris Cyborg. Maybe she lands one, maybe she doesn’t. I’m operating under the assumption that she won’t. Cyborg’s striking chops won’t allow me to reserve the credit that she’s earned. I do believe, however, that she gets outpointed and ultimately loses the fight.
Prediction: Holly Holm Defeats Cris Cyborg via Unanimous Decision