Cris Cyborg will return to the Octagon just two months after arguably the toughest fight of her Ultimate Fighting Championship career. The reigning UFC women’s featherweight will defend her title against Yana Kunitskaya at UFC 222 on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Cyborg, who holds a perfect 4-0 record in her UFC career, is just almost two months removed from her unanimous decision win over Holly Holm. The Brazilian superstar was not supposed to fight again until late this year, but she decided to step in to save the UFC 222 fight card.
Max Holloway was supposed to defend his UFC featherweight title against Frankie Edgar in the main event, but the reigning champion had to pull out due to an ankle injury. UFC turned to Cyborg, who admitted that she initially turned down the offer, considering the fact that she is still resting following her title defense against Holm.
“I feel great and I’m taking this fight for the team,” Cyborg told Brett Okamoto of ESPN when asked about stepping in on short notice. “I’m thinking old school, where you have to be ready for every opportunity.”
While she has not trained a lot over the past several weeks, Cyborg remains a heavy favorite to win on Saturday night. Kunitskaya is virtually unknown to many casual mixed martial arts fans, and will just fight in the UFC Octagon for the first time in her career.
Before moving to UFC, Kunitskaya won the Invicta FC women’s bantamweight title in August last year. But while she is just making her UFC debut on Saturday, it was revealed that the fight against Cyborg was actually several years in the making. She was considered to face Cyborg in a Strikeforce title fight in 2012, but she failed to get a visa to enter the United States to make the showdown happen.
Winning against Cyborg, who is considered as the most dangerous woman in the Octagon, is a long shot for Kunitskaya. In fact, Okamoto predicted a first-round knockout, in 68 seconds to be exact, for Cyborg.
Meanwhile, Edgar still secured a spot in the co-main event of the UFC 222 fight card. The 36-year-old will go up against Brian Ortega, who agreed to step in for Holloway.
Edgar is an odds favorite to win on Saturday night. However, Brian Mazique of Forbes said that fans should not count Ortega out. In fact, Mazique predicted an upset win via submission for Ortega, saying that his striking and submission skills might be too much for Edgar in a short-notice bout.
The other main card bouts will feature Sean O’Malley against Andre Soukhamthath, Andrei Arlovski against Stefan Struve, and Cat Zingano against Ketlen Vieira. Fight fans can catch the early preliminary bouts on UFC Fight Pass, the preliminary bouts on Fox Sports Go, and the main card on UFC TV and the official UFC YouTube channel.