UFC 222 appears to be saved.
Despite fears that the event would be cancelled after featherweight champion Max Holloway was forced to withdraw from his title defense against Frankie Edgar due to injury, the card now has a new main event and a new co-main event.
As previously rumored, Edgar will still be on the card and will be facing off against fast-rising prospect and undefeated standout Brian Ortega. Ortega is 13-0 and is known for his frantic pace and slick submission game, making a clash with Edgar very interesting.
Edgar has had some bad luck getting back to a featherweight title shot since dropping a decision to the division’s former kingpin, Jose Aldo. He was forced to withdraw from a previous bout with Holloway due to injury, and now its Holloway whose health is holding up their scheduled rematch.
But Edgar was reportedly adamant about still wanting to fight on the card, and an undefeated prospect may have enough star-power to help make for an interesting headliner. The bout won’t be for a title or an interim title – as such, it will only be three rounds instead of five.
The winner of the bout will likely face Holloway when he returns. Although Edgar’s title shot may be in jeopardy, he will still get to compete after training hard for the headliner.
With the main event salvaged, the card as is may have been passable. But the UFC matchmakers wanted to ensure they didn’t have to cancel a show – a move they’ve only had to make two other times in the promotions history. Both card cancellations resulted from a headline being pulled from an already thin lineup with few other marquee bouts that could sell the show.
The UFC is bringing in one of their bigger stars, a woman who hasn’t tasted defeat in a decade. Cris Cyborg will defend her featherweight championship on the UFC 222 card, taking on Invicta bantamweight champ Yana Kunitskaya.
While the challenger is 2-2-1 in her last five fights, she comes from one of the top camps in all of MMA. She trains out of JacksonWink MMA and helped teammate Holly Holm train for her unsuccessful run at Cyborg’s title last December.
Invicta president Shannon Knapp spoke about her fighter, saying: “She’s strong in the clinch or can fight at long range. She’s able to end a fight quickly, as we saw against [Tonya] Evinger, or has the cardio to go five rounds. And she’s tough as Mother Russia.”
Cyborg was tentatively being penciled in to face off against Amanda Nunes, the current bantamweight champion, in a champ-versus-champ showdown aimed at UFC 226. Taking place during international fight week, the card has had many big fantasy matchups pitched in the past several weeks.
With UFC 222 salvaged and apparently ready to go with two new headliners, the promoters can breathe a little easier and focus their attention on building cards for the latter part of the year.