UFC 219 Results: The Real Winners and Losers from Cyborg vs. Holm Fight Card
Each fighter in the main event of UFC 219 needed something very specific from the other. Each one had things in her core identity that perfectly filled in the gaps of her opponent's.
Holly Holm has fame and cross-demographic admiration. Cris Cyborg has dominance, an aura of true greatness.
Make no mistake: This went beyond Cyborg's featherweight belt. The champ wants Holm's profile, to finally step into the spotlight as the fighter to watch in women's MMA, no matter your interest level in the sport as a whole. Holm wants Cyborg's MMA gravitas, a legacy that extends beyond that Ronda Rousey head kick.
The stakes could not have been clearer. It was just a matter of who brought home the spoils.
It was a compelling matchup in and out of the cage in the main event in Las Vegas. But the intrigue was dense across this relatively brisk 10-fight lineup. In the co-main, super-phenom Khabib Nurmagomedov continued his halting climb toward a lightweight title bout when he returned (again) from injuries and bad weight cuts to face one of the best strikers in the entire UFC in Edson Barboza.
And don't forget about the return of Carlos Condit. The Natural Born Killer is less active than he once was. A collision with the excellent Neil Magny would determine if he still has it.
As always, the final stat lines only reveal so much. These are the real winners and losers from UFC 219. For the literal-minded among us, full results appear at the end. And hey...happy new year.
Winner: Cris Cyborg
Cris Cyborg may not be a runway model. She may not be immediately marketable. And her unanimous decision win over Holly Holm Saturday may have lacked a defining moment.
But make no mistake: Cris Cyborg, charismatic and inimitable, is the greatest women's MMA fighter ever. No matter how you slice it, she proved that by dominating Holm.
Cyborg is best known for storming forward and punishing opponents into oblivion. Against Holm and a loudly pro-Holm crowd, the champ instead was more patient. She deflected or simply absorbed Holm's volume punching and kicking, which was impressive for its sheer quantity but didn't consistently find the mark.
The champ laid back for the counter, and when she landed it, it landed heavy. Holm's swollen left eye at the end of the bout was a testament to that.
Holm was impressive in taking Cyborg the distance—something no one has done since 2008. She stayed on her bicycle and even initiated successful sequences from the clinch. Both athletes went the full five rounds in impressive displays of cardio.
But, in the end, the power and precision of Cyborg allowed her to maintain her title.
"I would like to fight maybe Megan Anderson," she told broadcaster Joe Rogan in the cage after the right, referencing the Australian fighter who competes in the all-woman Invicta FC. "I would love to fight in Australia. I have a lot of fans there."
The call-out underscores the dearth of challengers for Cyborg. That's an ongoing problem for all parties involved.
Even so, it would be good for the UFC and stakeholders to unite behind Cyborg and announce her for what she is—the best ever. An outstanding fighter and a likable personality, Cyborg can be a star for the star-hungry UFC, even if she doesn't fit their traditional mold.
Winner: Khabib Nurmagomedov
Oh my goodness.
Conor McGregor fans may bristle at the notion. Team Tony Ferguson may have a thing or two to say. But realistically, is there a lightweight on planet Earth you'd rather avoid than Khabib Nurmagomedov?
The Dagestani proved once again Saturday that his only real competition is himself. When he's not injured and when his weight is on point—in other words, when he actually gives himself a chance to fight—Nurmagomedov is unbeatable. The 29-year-old moved to 25-0 as a pro with a thorough and terrifying beating of a game but overmatched Edson Barboza.
Barboza looked terrific—for about 35 seconds. He kicked the legs, he stayed evasive. But then Nurmagomedov hit the takedown, and the ground-and-pound ensued.
Nurmagomedov pressures on the feet and the ground, in the clinch and on the mat, like few fighters before him. Before the first round was over, Barboza seemed to see the outcome with vacant eyes. He fought on (and perhaps his corner should have done something to save him from that), but outside of those approximately 35 seconds, it was an absolutely dominant display.
Simply put: Nurmagomedov takes souls, and he takes them quickly. The 30-25, 30-25 and 30-24 judges' scorecards speak to the nature of the performance.
So, who's next? Ferguson? McGregor? Is McGregor still competing in MMA? It seems anything else outside those two would be silly for the Dagestani.
Nurmagomedov, as you might expect, had his own take.
"I am 25-0 and that is the real belt. Conor and Tony are nothing," he said in a statement emailed to reporters after the fight. "It does not matter to me which one I get next. If the UFC will allow me, I will fight them both in the same night. I want the title fight in April.”
There it is. After this fight, and everything else that preceded it—and assuming those weight-management issues are truly behind him—there's no demand that seems unreasonable.
Winner: Neil Magny
Yes, the big story of the fight was Carlos Condit. He was flat-footed, slow and generally unable to mount substantial offense. When you're the former interim welterweight champ, with so many memorable bloodbaths under your belt, your performance typically takes center stage, good or bad.
But it's time to recognize the guy across the cage: Neil Magny.
Before the fight, broadcaster Jon Anik described Magny as a "division staple." After he spent three rounds pressuring, stifling, taking down and frustrating Condit, Anik and Rogan called him an "overachiever."
After going 12-3 over the past four years, with wins over Condit, Kelvin Gastelum, Johny Hendricks, Tim Means and many others, isn't it time to give Magny a little more credit? No, his style isn't always electric. But it certainly can be—just ask Hector Lombard about that or go back and watch their remarkable bout from March 2016. He has strong skills everywhere, and a crazy reach for the division at 80". He always has good game plans and he executes them accordingly.
Yes, he has dropped a few bouts to top contenders, most recently Rafael Dos Anjos. But he always rebounds, and he deserves to be in the title picture. Would a bout with Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson be so distasteful for his next matchup?
Meanwhile, Condit has been fighting roughly once a year since 2014. He's now 33 years old. He's a beloved legend in this sport for good reason, but he may need to decide soon whether to fish or cut bait. No one made it very far at this level with MMA as a hobby.
Loser: Cardiovascular Endurance
Khalil Rountree continued to cement his legacy Saturday as a fighter with lots of power and talent but struggles when he can't land the quick knockout.
Rountree seems to understand this about himself, and as such he blitzed forward against newcomer Michal Oleksiejczuk. For all his knockout prowess, though—two first-round stoppage wins in his last two contests—he couldn't do it against the Pole.
And then he was out of ideas. Out of ideas and out of breath.
Oleksiejczuk went on to wear down an increasingly exhausted Rountree over the next two rounds and took the unanimous decision win.
Rountree is an engaging fighter and personality, and the UFC will continue giving the The Ultimate Fighter veteran plenty of opportunities to succeed. But the book is out on his blatant inability to maintain cardio past the first five minutes. If he is to take advantage of these opportunities, he'll probably need to change that.
Winner: Tim Elliott
Tim Elliott looked terrific in his UFC bantamweight debut. With his trademark herky-jerky striking and aggressive, scramble-centric grappling, Elliott confounded UFC newcomer Mark De La Rosa and wrapped up an anaconda choke submission early in the second round.
So, why was he in tears after the fight?
It wasn't the win but the great personal loss he and everyone at the Xtreme Couture gym in Las Vegas suffered recently after the suicide of coach Robert Follis. A beloved figure across the MMA community, Follis was mourned far and wide, and Elliott was clearly and understandably still reeling from the blow when he stepped into the cage on Saturday.
When Rogan gave him a chance to speak after the victory, Elliott, clearly on the verge of losing his composure, kept his comments brief.
"Robert Follis, I love you," he said. "Thank you for everything." Then he walked away.
In a statement emailed to reporters after the fight, Elliott expanded:
"Everyone has good basic skills like striking or jiu-jitsu but my coach, Robert Follis, once told me 'it's the space between the notes that makes the music' so my coaches have trained me to fight through those awkward moments. After the fight, I told [coach] James Krause that I want to get back in practice and back to the drawing board. We're going to go back and figure out what's next."
Here's hoping Elliott's win brings a modicum of happiness to a dark time.
UFC 219 Full Card Results
Cris Cyborg def. Holly Holm by unanimous decision
Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Edson Barboza by unanimous decision
Dan Hooker def. Marc Diakiese by submission (guillotine choke), 0:42, Rd. 3
Carla Esparza def. Cynthia Calvillo by unanimous decision
Neil Magny def. Carlos Condit by unanimous decision
Michal Oleksiejczuk def. Khalil Rountree by unanimous decision
Myles Jury def. Rick Glenn by unanimous decision
Marvin Vettori vs Omari Akhmedov ruled majority draw
Matheus Nicolau def. Louis Smolka by unanimous decision
Tim Elliott def. Mark De La Rosa by submission (anaconda choke), 1:41, Rd. 2