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UFC 219 Recap: Khabib got next; Cyborg simply too good

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UFC 219 ended the 2017 fight year off with an exceptional bang. All of these fights were exciting in their own ways, whether you saw a slobber knocker, or and intense display of grappling or just technical fighting all around.

Co-headlining UFC 219 was #2 Lightweight in the world, Khabib Nurmagomedov, going against the #4 Lightweight in the world, Edson Barboza. This lightweight bout was important because of the frenzy Conor McGregor has left the division in.

As of now, McGregor is the champion, but the belt hasn’t been defended in over 13 months. Tony Ferguson defeated Kevin Lee for the interim title, which have been as valuable as a title eliminator all year. So, if Conor decides to come back, him and Tony Ferguson would be throwing down to unify the belts. If Conor decides to not come back for an extended period of time, they have to make Tony Ferguson the undisputed champion and the winner of the fight between Barboza and Khabib the new #1 contender.

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This fight between Khabib and Barboza was a battle of styles as Barboza being the world-class striker he is, going against the world-class grappler. The fight was not even close. Barboza Is probably the fastest striker in all of MMA, but Khabib completely neutralized Barboza with his forward pressure and wrestling. Barboza hit Khabib with some starching inside leg kicks, but Khabib just walked right through them and didn’t seemed fazed at all. Khabib ate about three wheel kicks and nothing. Khabib mauled Barboza, getting a hold of  him and rag-dolling him to the ground. Overwhelming ground and pound just broke Barboza and after watching the fight, I find it hard to believe that anybody can beat this man. It’s a tough fight for Tony Ferguson and I certainly think it’s a tough fight for Conor McGregor. At some point in time, I’d like to see all of these fights happen. Conor vs. Tony, Conor vs. Khabib and Tony vs. Khabib. These are the most competitive fights in the UFC today, in my opinion. Khabib is next in line for a title shot, whether it’s against Tony right away or after McGregor and Tony scrap it out, whatever the case may be, it’ll be worth the wait.

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Onto the main event, it was a really intriguing fight. This was by far Holly Holm’s biggest fight, but this was also Cris Cyborg’s biggest fight as well. Holly Holm is the most decorated combat sports athlete in the UFC holding multiple championships in boxing, kickboxing and having won the UFC Bantamweight title against arguably the best women’s fighter in UFC history at the time, Ronda Rousey. There were a lot of questions I had going into this fight. Can Holm avoid the big shots from Cyborg and use her footwork to go into the championship rounds? Can Holly catch Cyborg with her counter striking because of Cyborg’s aggressive style of forard pressure? How would Cyborg react to the counter-striking of Holm? If Holly survives into the later rounds, how will Cyborg’s gas tank hold up? Is Cyborg going to finish this chick lile she’s done to most of her opponents up to this point?

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All of these questions were answered and here’s what I got. Holm is a warrior and she dragged out the entire and didn’t fold for one second. She took some hard shots from Cyborg, but was still coming back for more. Although I thought Cyborg won 4 out of 5 rounds, Holm caught her clean in a lot of exchanges and I believe there is a blue print out there to give a fighter a chance in a fight with Cyborg. Holly Holm being a southpaw, Cyborg was caught with a bunch of shots, leaving her right side of her face exposed in a lot of those exchanges. Cyborg has an amazing chin, so she was able to fight through it. Cyborg was fighting the majority of the fight with a bloody nose as well, so she is indeed vulnerable in some areas if you can exploit them. Cyborg didn’t entirely run through Holly and definitely had her hands tied. Cyborg was patient, was pressing the action and let off some great combos and power shots. She showed great cardio in the championship rounds, showing that she was just as powerful and precise in the 5th round as she was in the 1st round. Overall, both gals showed us a great fight and it was a joy to watch. Holly was one the only girl that wanted to fight Cyborg, she took the challenge, didn’t come out with the victory, but ultimately held her own in the fight and took Cyborg the distance. A performance she can certainly be proud of. For Cyborg, she is a dominant fighter and definitely the baddest woman on the planet. The question is, what is next for her. This featherweight “division” is close to non-existent. Cyborg is the only true featherweight in the UFC and the rest have been girls who will accept the fight out of their respective weight class. There is no rankings, there are no women in that division and it’s a case of who will accept a title fight with Cyborg at this point. Nobody is fighting to climb the ranks, nobody is fighting for a title eliminator. The only fighter that’s a true featherweight, willing to fight, and ultimately next in line is former Invicta Featherweight champion, Megan Anderson. Anderson is not a big name, but it’s a fight hardcore fans absolutely would love to see and Cyborg acknowledged her during her post-fight interview calling for a fight with Anderson on UFC 221 in Perth, Australia, where Anderson is from, which is already headlining Middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker and Luke Rockhold for the strap in February. It seems that Cyborg is fresh and ready to go and Anderson has yet to make her UFC debut and hasn’t fought in a while as well. Seems like the fight to make, the time and place is still up for discussion, but nonetheless it’s a fight I’d like to watch.

UFC 219 capped off the 2017 fight year with a bang and 2018 is going to be insane, especially the next card coming up in Boston with Francis Ngannou challenging Stipe Miocic for the Heavyweight title and Daniel Cormier defending his Light Heavyweight title against Volkan Oezdemir in the co-headliner. There is a lot to look forward to in the upcoming year.

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Brandon Tubens

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