WildCard Predicts: UFC 222 (Cris Cyborg VS Yana Kunitskaya)

Tommy "WildCard" Hayden Tommy "WildCard" Hayden

Fox Sports Asia previews UFC 222 and shares our predictions for the Cyborg-Kunitskaya bout.

I have been a fan of Cris Cyborg ever since her brutal defeat of my friend and old teammate Jan Finney at Strikeforce: Fedor VS Werdum in 2010. I began following her ever since that fight, in my opinion she is and has been the best pound-for-pound female fighter ever to grace the MMA scene.

Never having the opportunity to meet this true champion, I have only heard great and wonderful things about her. That being said, her evil streak comes out when the cage door locks and the bell rings. She is a BJJ purple belt world champion and received her brown belt from multiple time black belt world champ and all-time great Andre Galvao. She is also a decorated kickboxer and muay Thai fighter, as well as an accomplished freestyle wrestler, regularly honing her striking skills at Phuket Top Team in Thailand.

She has risen to the pinnacle of women’s MMA after her first documented fight in 2005, when she suffered her one and only loss. This powerhouse of female MMA has been tearing up top competitors for over 12 years, with only 2 of her 19 wins coming by unanimous decision, the other 17 occurring via KO/TKO. The only thing that will beat Cyborg is time, and that time has not yet come.

So who is Yana Kunitskaya? Well, it turns out she won lots of tournaments in TKD (Tae Kwon Do) as a kid. She then went on to compete in rukoposhnomu fights, where she apparently went undefeated. I had never heard of rukoposhnomu, so I did a quick Google search and found some fight footage that looked like a Steven Seagal-style martial art for self-defense. After a good laugh, I looked up Yana’s past fights as well as her highlight reels

Yana can’t be counted out; she is aggressive and seems to have some power to her punches. She also uses a few tricky TKD techniques that we used to see Lyoto Machida have success with at the highest level of MMA, like the spinning back kick and front snap kick. She has good timing on her spinning back kick, and is decent at using her front snap kick to keep distance and set up combos. One thing I noticed, is she doesn’t seem to have anywhere close to the same gas tank as Cyborg. This will certainly be her biggest test to date, as it is for any female MMA fighter squaring off against Cyborg.

In this matchup I see Cyborg, who stands at the peak of women’s MMA fighting, against a girl who is still at base camp. Time and time again, promotions have searched for women to beat Cyborg, and time and time again they have failed. Cyborg is a true well-rounded mixed martial artist and Yana is someone who still has a lot of growing to do. Time will be the downfall of Cyborg, and in this fight Cyborg’s relentless style will be the downfall of Yana. I would have much rather seen UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes vs Cyborg in a super fight, but the UFC seems to want to make us all wait.