WildCard Reviews: UFC 222 (Cris Cyborg def. Yana Kunitskaya)

Famous UFC brawls

Tommy "WildCard" Hayden Tommy "WildCard" Hayden

FOX Sports Asia recovers from the UFC 222 mania to deliver our verdict on the Cyborg-Kunitskaya bout.

Yana makes her UFC debut against Cyborg, the best pound-for-pound female fighter ever, and no surprise, Yana is also one of the biggest underdogs in UFC history. Yana’s entrance was slow and somber on her way to the cage. She had a look of determination on her face, but let out a sigh on her way to the cage and another when she got into the cage. The sighs told me it wasn’t a look of determination, but more like a look of acceptance to the task at hand.

Cyborg on the other hand looked bored at first, and then started to bounce down the aisle towards the cage high-fiving spectators on her way. When she finally made it to the cage, she was singing along with her entrance music and had a nice smile on her face. As Bruce Buffer introduced both fighters, Yana was still looking stoic, but managed a slight smirk, while Cyborg, now looking all business, Thai wai-ed the crowd and was ready for action.

Round one started off as I figured it would – Cyborg began to put pressure on Yana right away and threw one overhand right that connected, and you could instantly see Yana rethinking her life choices as she fell back against the cage. However, not to be counted out, Yana shot for a low single leg and secured the takedown. However, Yana was unable to establish any ground and pound.

Cyborg showed no respect to Yana as she literally crawled to the cage with Yana clinging to her back. As Cyborg started to stand, Yana attempted a rear naked choke but was unsuccessful. Yana then took control of the fight in the best way possible. She smashed Cyborg against the cage and entered the clinch. Yana proceeded to throw multiple unanswered knees to Cyborg’s legs and body.

Then signs of fatigue started showing. Yana began to move her hips farther away and lean on Cyborg more which gave Cyborg the opportunity to counter with her own knees. When Yana had enough of the knee battle, she smashed Cyborg back up against the cage before fighting for another takedown. Yana was demonstrating a lot of strength and some decent wrestling, but Cyborg was able to defend the takedown and get the space to strike again.

As Yana retreated, Cyborg began her march of attrition leaving a broken Yana in her wake – this was quite possibly one of the meanest beat downs I have seen in women’s MMA. Cyborg swatted away front snap kicks and countered with a vicious right cross to the body, followed by another swatted snap kick and counter in the form of a right cross to the head, then a lead uppercut followed sending Yana to the canvas.

Yana scrambled for a takedown but Cyborg made space allowing Yana to stand up. Cyborg walked her down and started throwing vicious crosses to the body and head, then she backed off letting Yana compose herself. Cyborg went back in, throwing another cross that landed flush on Yana’s face. Cyborg then caught Yana’s kick and followed with a cross that sat Yana down.

Yana threw a few up-kicks which didn’t land before Cyborg smashed her to the ground and brutally ended the fight with about twenty full power punches before the referee separated them, Cyborg retaining her UFC Women’s Featherweight Title.

Yana surprised all of us today, she took on the best pound-for-pound female fighter ever on three weeks’ notice and at a weight class higher than her normal fight weight. She showed immense strength and an incredible amount of heart.

Speaking from personal experience, it takes a lot to get in there and fight someone better than you. The difference between me and Yana, is that she had to fight a living legend that is still at the top of her game. She showed a lot of heart and my hat is off to her for her performance tonight.

Opposite Yana was Cyborg, whose experience level was vastly different. This fight really wasn’t a test for Cyborg and Cyborg let everyone know it. From the first punch you could see that Yana wanted nothing to do with Cyborg on her feet. The standup game was ultimately her downfall and Cyborg walked away with her victory inside the first round.

Cyborg then called out UFC Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes, telling her if she wants to talk, then she needs to step up.

Tommy “WildCard” Hayden is a former UFC fighter and Head MMA Coach at Elite Fight Club, Bangkok.