Former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm (11-3) has been here before, sitting as a big underdog in a title matchup opposite one of the most feared fighters in the sport.
This time, Holm will get the opportunity to claim the women’s featherweight belt when she takes on champ Cris “Cyborg” Justino (18-1, 1 no-contest) in the main event at UFC 219 in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night.
So far, the public seems to be siding with Holm in early wagering action, pushing her down from an underdog of around +300 (bet $100 to win $300) to +270 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. As MMA bettors may recall, Holm was a much bigger 'dog when she handed former women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey her first loss a little more than two years ago with a vicious head-kick knockout.
Since then, the former pro boxing champ has dropped three of four, though, including a controversial unanimous-decision loss to Germaine de Randamie for the inaugural 145-pound title.
De Randamie reportedly refused to defend her championship against Cyborg, who then claimed the vacated belt with a third-round TKO victory against Tonya Evinger at UFC 214 on July 29. Cyborg has knocked out her last 13 opponents, with one of them later overturned to a no-decision after she tested positive for a banned substance.
Cyborg remains a solid -360 favorite (bet $360 to win $100) despite facing less competition recently, which is the main reason bettors like Holm’s chances for another upset.
In the co-main event, two top lightweight contenders will square off on the men’s side, with unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0) returning to the Octagon for the first time in more than a year.
Nurmagomedov was expected to face Tony Ferguson for the interim 155-pound belt later vacated by Conor McGregor at UFC 209 back on March 4, but he suffered complications from a failed weight cut and was unable to compete. Ferguson went on to win the interim title against Kevin Lee at UFC 216 on October 7.
Nurmagomedov is now a big -280 favorite versus Edson Barboza (19-4) in his first fight since UFC 205 on November 12, 2016. Barboza is listed as a +240 underdog and rides a three-bout winning streak into this matchup, taking decisions over Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez before earning a Performance of the Night bonus for his second-round KO victory against Beneil Dariush at UFC Fight Night 106 on March 11 in Brazil.