If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to witness a pair of Roman gladiators whaling on each other, roll up for UFC 219.
The T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas is the modern-day Coliseum, as 145lb of pure fury, AKA Chris Cyborg, defends her featherweight crown against former bantamweight champ and consummate strike machine Holly Holm.
Who’ll be left standing when the smoke of battle clears? Our UFC odds expert Mark Sylvester sizes up a titanic encounter.
Standing in the cage with Chris Cyborg bearing down on you must be something like First World War troops watching the first tanks ploughing through their barbed wire fences and pulverising their defences.
The Brazilian-born champ is quite simply a force of violent nature. Or, given her adopted name of Cyborg, maybe the result of some weird experiment where a pair of mad scientists set out to see what violence looks like in Lycra.
Not since her MMA debut in 2005 when she submitted to a kneebar, has Cyborg tasted the bitter cup of defeat. Since then her reign of terror has seen 18 opponents dismantled like cheap Lego, with 16 bedding down on the canvas before the final bell.
Cyborg’s like a scaled down, female, Mike Tyson, climbing inside her opponent’s grill before they’ve got their mouth-guard in properly, and pounding away at any exposed body part, while they try to adjust their game-plan and pray for a power cut.
It’s that all-or-nothing, relentless aggression that’s produced a showreel of brutal destruction, which makes this clash so intriguing.
In Holly Holm, Cyborg is facing the complete counter-striker, with fast hands and flawless footwork. Power meets precision, and it will be pretty to watch. In a slightly harrowing way!
The one thing you can stake everything you own, and ever might own, on, is that Cyborg will go in for the kill. Its pages one through 220 of her playbook. She’s just so good at it.
…We ain’t mad about it.
— FloCombat (@FloCombat) December 12, 2017
After leaving every other MMA organisation looking like that bar in Terminator after Arnie’s been for a swift one, Cyborg finally joined the UFC top table in January 2016.
After a couple of orgies of violence – officially termed catch-weight contests – in which Leslie Smith and Lina Lansberg were brutalised in a flurry of combos, she was given a shot at the featherweight strap against former Invicta FC champ Tonya Evinger.
Evinger is as tough as they come, but was buckled with a left-hand right off the bat, and spent the next three rounds fighting off the back foot, while desperately searching for the fire escape.
A big knee against the fence brought the curtain down.
Holly ‘Preacher’s Daughter’ Holm will have no illusions, that to triumph in this apocalyptic encounter she’ll have to dull Cyborg’s devastating power and speed. The former WBF light welterweight and welterweight boxing champ certainly has the tools to out-strike Cyborg and the flawless footwork to keep herself out of trouble.
But Cyborg’s prepped well for this one, racking up sparring rounds against current undisputed world welterweight boxing champ Cecilia Braekus. If she can use that training to step inside Holm’s defence and unleash hell, or throw her to the ground, the Preacher’s Daughter doesn’t stand a prayer.
#Cecilia Braekhus says Cris Cyborg’s speed will surprise Holly Holm at UFC 219 has been published on Sports Headlines – https://t.co/6FIq2thnge
Currently ranked as the #1 Pound for Pound female fighter in Boxing according to Ring Magazine Cecilia… pic.twitter.com/TPbzqJosgr
— sportsheadlines (@SportsHLnews) December 12, 2017
Cyborg to finish it early is what it looks like on paper.
However, leopards really do hate changing their spots, and that’s just science. If Cyborg simply can’t help defaulting to her bloodlust-fuelled, route-one hunting down of her foe, Holm has the wily skills to pick her off with that straight-left counter and melt away before she’s torched.
Route one, throwing stun grenades, isn’t the greatest tactic against Holm, as Ronda Rousey discovered on that memorable night back in 2015 when the Rowdy legend – and very nearly her jaw – shattered, against Holm’s left foot.
Rousey is a similar fighter to Cyborg, who also wore that apparent armour of invincibility. But, like the wolf at the house of bricks, Rousey’s huffing and puffing did not bring Holm’s defensive house tumbling down.
Instead, the sultan of strikes simply circled away from the big bombs, stunned Rowdy with lefts, and landed that seismic kick as a frustrated Rowdy flailed for a clinch, to steal the bantamweight belt.
It’s true Holm hit the skids after clinching the crown, with three defeats on the bounce, being submitted by Miesha Tate and then outpointed by Valentina Shevchenko and Germaine de Randamie.
However, I think the weight of picking up the torch of seeming invincibility from Rousey, was just too much and Holm simply went off the boil (even though she had bludgeoned Tate for four rounds before a single mistake in the fifth left her choking for air).
She landed back with a bang (which was the sound of her opponent hitting the ground) when, after toying with Bethe Correia, she landed a high kick forged in the fires of hell, and followed up with a massive left for pudding.
The longer the fight goes on, the more possible it is that Cyborg will get bored of chasing shadows and find herself in the phone box along with Rousey and Correia.
Nobody’s unbeatable, and Holm has the skills to show Cyborg an early bath.
It’s possible that opening won’t quite come. But Holm could still come out on top of this particular game of cat and mouse, pulling the fuses out of Cyborg’s bombs with those crafted counter-punches and combos, while foxtrotting out of range. Her 11-3 record has three decisions along with eight KO’s, and if she can avoid being mauled to the floor a win on the judges’ cards is possible. Holm’s to win is at 9/4.
The sensible money will probably be on Cyborg to finish this early. It’s what she does. However, if Holm dances for her life – as she almost certainly will – the champ may simply not find the window to climb through and disconnect Holm from her senses.
But she will win.
And that’s a statistically simple 3/10. She’s just too strong, skilful and single-minded. Like a psychotic Mountie, she always gets her man. But, just for a change, she’s going to hear the final bell this time. Maybe.