Last Updated: 2017-12-27
Ten bouts are on the card for the final UFC event of 2017 on Saturday December 30. T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will be the venue for UFC 219 with a main event in the women’s featherweight division between Holly Holm and Cris “Cyborg” Justino.
A matchup between Dominick Cruz and Jimmie Rivera was supposed to be on the card, but Cruz broke his arm in training. Rivera’s replacement opponent, John Lineker, was forced from the fight as well. Now, that fight has been completely removed from the card, hence the 10 fights scheduled for Saturday night. Two fights originally set for this card have also been moved to UFC 220 in three weeks in Boston.
The end result is a little bit of a watered-down conclusion to the 2017 calendar year for UFC, but we still have some interesting fights to say the least. We’ll go in-depth on the five main card fights, but also look at the odds and matchups for the preliminary card courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook.
One fight is set for the UFC Fight Pass digital network, as Tim Elliott takes on Mark De La Rosa. Elliott is a -220 favorite over the UFC debutant with a perfect record. De La Rosa is 9-0, but the 23-year-old has fought on a lot of lower-tier promotions. Elliott, a former titleholder in Titan FC, really needs a bounce back effort after his first-round loss to Ben Nguyen back in June.
Coverage begins on Fox Sports 1 with the middleweight fight between underdog Omari Akhmedov (+185) and favorite Martin Vettori (-225). Akhmedov has won two straight after losing two straight, but he has gotten back on track with decision wins over Kyle Noke and Abdul Razak Alhassan. Vettori is a step up in class for the 30-year-old. Vettori is 2-1 in his three UFC fights. The over 2.5 at -130 looks like a good play here, as each of Akhmedov’s last two fights have gone 15 minutes and so have Vettori’s.
Louis Smolka (+240) is a big dog against Matheus Nicolau (-280) in this flyweight fracas. Nicolau has been impressive in two UFC fights with wins over John Moraga and Bruno Korea. He hasn’t fought since July 8, 2016, but oddsmakers don’t seem to be worried about the long layoff. Smolka has dropped three straight and the 26-year-old, who headlined events back in 2015, certainly needs a bounce back performance. He has a five-inch height advantage and is still a big dog against a guy with two career fights at this level. That’s not a good sign going forward.
Rick Glenn is listed at +200 for his fight against Myles Jury at 145 pounds. Glenn is two up and one down in his three career UFC fights. He’s a big hitter with good size at six feet tall, but each of his last four fights have gone the distance because he hasn’t been able to land as many clean strikes as he has risen to stronger promotions. Jury, who is -240 here, has a reach advantage against Glenn and is coming off of a very impressive win over Mike de la Torre at UFC 210 after almost a year and a half away from the cage. Jury looks like a safe money line parlay piece.
A couple of light heavyweights wrap up the FS1 coverage. Dan Hooker is +155 against Marc Diakiese, who is -175. This one is heavily juiced to the over at -165. Diakese came to UFC with some hype after rolling up a 9-0 record and he won his first three fights before suffering his first career loss to Drakkar Klose at the TUF 25 finale. He’s in search of a bounce back here and it seems like he has a good opponent for that. Hooker has alternated wins and losses over his last five fights. He did beat Ross Pearson for his first knockout win in over two years back in June, but consistency has been an issue for the 27-year-old. This is an important fight for both guys, but UFC would like to see Diakese, the fighter with more upside, emerge victorious.
Michal Oleksiejczuk (+245) vs. Khalil Rountree (-290); Total: 1.5 (170/-200)
Michal Oleksiejczuk makes his UFC debut as a sizable underdog to Khalil Rountree. Oleksiejczuk is taking the place of Gokhan Saki, who was originally slated for this fight, but got hurt in training. The 22-year-old has an impressive 12-2 record, but Oleksiejczuk hasn’t fought a whole lot of top competition in TFL or FEN. He is a big hitter with eight of his 12 wins coming via KO or TKO, including each of his last three fights in first-round fashion.
Khalil Rountree, the runner-up in cycle 23 of The Ultimate Fighter, has won each of his last two fights with first-round knockouts. The 27-year-old Los Angeles native was actually kicked off of the show, but got a second chance because another competitor suffered a neck injury and he made it all the way to the finale. This is a good chance for Rountree against a big hitter without a whole lot of experience. Rountree is also relatively new to MMA, especially at the upper levels.
Pick: Michal Oleksiejczuk (+245)
While Rountree should win the fight, as the betting odds suggest, this is likely to be a quick fight with two enormous hitters. We’ve seen Rountree’s power at this level. We haven’t seen Oleksiejczuk’s, but with a short fight anticipated with -200 on under 7:30, taking a stab with the big dog when one big strike could end it makes some sense.
Neil Magny (+145) vs. Carlos Condit (-165); Total: 2.5 (-135/115)
From two relative newcomers to two seasoned UFC veterans, we look at the welterweight fight between Neil Magny and Carlos Condit. Magny’s last fight came back in September when he lost to Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 215. Condit’s last fight came 16 months ago. Magny is a very athletic and lanky fighter, but he’s had mixed results lately. He has some impressive wins with triumphs over Kelvin Gastelum and Johny Hendricks, but also fell in the first round via submission in that dos Anjos fight and lost to Lorenz Larkin by first-round knockout at UFC 202. We really don’t know what to expect from Magny and that’s why he’s a noticeable underdog against a guy that hasn’t fought in well over a year.
Carlos Condit needed some time to figure things out. His split-decision loss to Robbie Lawler at UFC 195 with the welterweight strap on the line was a highly controversial, and possibly wrong, decision. Eight months later, he lost to Demian Maia via first-round submission and it was clear that Condit’s mind still wasn’t right. We’ll have to wait and see if he’s had the chance to figure some things out during his time off. We certainly don’t need to read about his accomplishments or past fights because he was once at the top of the welterweight division with guys like Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz. He’s only 33, so tapping back into that time period isn’t as hard as it would be for some others.
Pick: Carlos Condit (-165)
Magny’s maddening inconsistency is the reason why Condit is a big favorite here. He’s had the chance to reassess his career and figure some things out with a little bit of downtime. Condit is highly motivated off of two straight losses and should get one in the right column here. We’ll see if he’s able to move back up the division ranks, but this should be a springboard.
Carla Esparza (+215) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (-255); Total: 2.5 (-210/175)
Carla Esparza really needs to win this fight against Cynthia Calvillo, but it may not be in the cards. Esparza hasn’t been the same since taking some punishment from Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 185 nearly over two-and-a-half years ago. Esparza’s last three fights have all gone to the cards, and she has won two of them, but she has been a different fighter. There isn’t as much aggression in her game. She beat Juliana Lima and Maryna Moroz, but now she’s stepping up in class in a big way. Given her recent performances, the time may not be right for that.
How about the year for Cynthia Calvillo? In January, she knocked out Montana De La Rosa in the third round in a LFA fight. By December, she’s fighting her fourth UFC fight and her fifth fight of the calendar year. Calvillo has wins over Amanda Cooper, Pearl Gonzalez, and Joanne Calderwood. The 30-year-old strawweight did struggle with Calderwood, who missed weight, but that may have served as a wake-up call. The fight went the distance and Calvillo won by unanimous decision, but many felt that the fight was closer than that.
Pick: Carla Esparza (+215)
Esparza is experienced and has fought some of the top competitors in this weight class. Five fights in a year is a lot and Calvillo showed some weakness in that July fight against Calderwood. Calderwood was an experienced opponent capable of controlling the pace of the fight. Though she didn’t have as much success as she wanted, she did create a bit of a blueprint for other fighters. This seems like a fight that Esparza can win.
Edson Barboza (+240) vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov (-280); Total: 2.5 (-130/110)
Edson Barboza is hoping to ride the wave of a three-fight winning streak into an upset of heavily-favored Khabib Nurmagomedov at 155 pounds. Barboza has wins over Beneil Dariush, Gilbert Melendez, and Anthony Pettis, so he has bounced back very nicely from his loss to Tony Ferguson at the TUF 22 Finale just over two years ago. Those three wins are very impressive, especially the knockout of Dariush back in March. Barboza has experienced something of a resurgence lately and he has some advantages in this fight. The long-limbed Barboza has a big reach advantage over Nurmagomedov and his kicks are something that few fighters have learned to defend. This fight was supposed to happen at that TUF 22 Finale, but Nurmagomedov pulled out and Barboza lost to the replacement. In that respect, there’s a bit of a revenge factor here.
Khabib Nurmagomedov hasn’t lost in 24 professional fights. He has eight knockout wins, eight submission wins, and eight decision wins. He topped Michael Johnson back at UFC 205 via submission in his last bout. Nurmagomedov has been pretty quiet this season because of a hospital stay that kept him from fighting. Making weight has been a big issue for him. He didn’t make it in his fight against Darrell Horcher after a two-year layoff and also missed it at UFC 160 in his last Las Vegas fight.
Pick: Edson Barboza (+240)
The timing seems right for Barboza here. He’s not the better fighter, but Nurmagomedov has been so worried about making weight, his hospital stay early this year, and a back surgery in Germany that flew under the radar. Nurmagomedov certainly has the talent to overcome, and a big 2018 could be on the horizon, but Barboza is fighting as well as he has at any point in his career and is worth a look as a big dog.
Holly Holm (+315) vs. Cris Cyborg (-380); Total: 1.5 (-250/210)
Former bantamweight champion Holly Holm makes her return to featherweight to take on current champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino. The 36-year-old Holm, who lost the featherweight title to Germaine de Randamie back in February, made a brief stop at bantamweight to knock out Bethe Correia before deciding to go after the title. Holm represents a different type of opponent for Cyborg. Her boxing background makes her extremely dangerous and she is easily the best opponent Cyborg has faced in her career. Holm also had some exposure to kickboxing early in her career. This is a diverse skill set unlike anything Cyborg has seen.
On the other hand, Cyborg may be the best female fighter in the world. She is 16-1 in her career with 16 knockout wins. Her three UFC fights have all been knockout wins, including her title victory over Tonya Evinger. De Randamie was stripped of her belt for refusing to fight a “known cheater”, so that’s why Cyborg fought Evinger, the bantamweight champion in Invicta. Basically, Cyborg has avoided the top talents for one reason or another. She won’t have that luxury here against Holm.
Pick: Holly Holm (+315)
Nobody expected Holly Holm to be the one to beat Ronda Rousey. She obviously had some problems after losing her title to Miesha Tate, but now she has that type of opponent that forces her to step up her game. We’ve seen her do it before against a prominent fighter that was viewed as invincible. Cyborg may win, but there’s no denying that Holm is the most talented, polished, and accomplished fighter she has faced. Because of that, a dog shot is worth it.
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