Published Saturday, March 3, 2018 | 6:54 p.m.
Updated Saturday, March 3, 2018 | 9:57 p.m.
Note: Scroll to the bottom for full results from the preliminary card.
The UFC came out of Saturday night’s pay-per-view card at T-Mobile Arena with a pair of 145-pound title fights to make immediately.
A superfight between women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg and women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes seems like a lock to come together after the former dispatched Yana Kuntiskaya with no trouble. Cyborg fought in her vintage fashion, overwhelming Kuntiskaya with punches for a stoppage at 3:25 of the first round in the main event of UFC 222.
Afterwards, she asked for Nunes.
“Amanda called me out,” said Cyborg, who was initially hesitant to fight her fellow Brazilian champion. “So now I’m here for her.”
Cyborg vs. Nunes came into the night with the most buzz of a potential future pairing, but it might now be in a secondary role because of what transpired in the co-main event. Undefeated featherweight Brian Ortega shed the “prospect” label from his profile for once and for all.
Ortega became the first fighter to ever stop Frankie Edgar, just as he promised, with a knockout at 4:44 of the first round. He called out current champion Max Holloway immediately afterwards to get fight fans salivating over a matchup between two fearless finishers.
“I always try not to look too far ahead,” Ortega said. “I just look far enough to know where I’m going next. But, I’ve dreamed about fighting Max. We are both young guys out here changing the game.”
Ortega may have changed perceptions regarding his own game against Edgar. Known mostly as a grappler, Ortega never pursued going to the ground with Edgar.
He thought it was unnecessary, instead biding his time until he found an opening. That opening presented itself near the end of the first round, when Ortega snuck in a left elbow to stun Edgar.
“I knew he was going to be in my face and pressuring me, and because I have these long, gangly arms, I was going to have to use my elbows,” Ortega said. “I wanted to use them as much as I could.”
The decisive shot would be the one that followed the elbow, as Ortega lifted Edgar off the ground with an uppercut bound to stick on UFC highlight videos for years to come.
Another young striker made his own ascent in the bout before Ortega.
Bantamweight Sean O’Malley picked apart Andre Soukhamthath with style through two rounds in a fight oddsmakers had as a pick’em. He appeared to suffer a serious leg injury in the third, and had to be carried out of the octagon but still held on for a unanimous-decision win (29-28, 29-27, 29-27).
Seconds after he was screaming in pain while doctors stabilized his leg, O’Malley raised his hands in victory from the ground while fulfilling his post-fight interview with commentator Joe Rogan in the octagon.
“I try to be unique and dynamic when I fight,” O’Malley said. “I want to do things no one has done before. I don’t know what happened. My foot went numb and I can’t feel it. Just happy to fight through it and get the win. Welcome to the Sugar show.”
Like O’Malley and Ortega, women’s bantamweight Ketlen Vieira was able to maintain an undefeated record. She defeated former top contender Cat Zingano by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) with an overpowering wrestling game.
The final main card fight saw former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski win his second straight with a unanimous-decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) over Stefan Struve. The 39-year-old Arlovski said his goal was another title fight, but he has a ways to go before reaching that plateau.
The fighter who rose to the championship-bout level at UFC 222 was Ortega.
“I have worked really hard to get here,” Ortega said. “It’s even more surreal than I could have imagined.”
For all the talk of what UFC 222 lacks, there should be at least some mention of what it promises.
Despite injuries and changes that have left tonight’s pay-per-view card at T-Mobile Arena thinner than normal, the event still has one unimpeachable selling point: It offers a chance to see two surefire future Hall of Famers in headlining bouts.
Despite having been in the UFC for less than two years, Cris Cyborg has already reached that level by being the top female fighter in the world for nearly a decade. Frankie Edgar is entering his 12th year in the octagon, and he nearly has two championships to show for it.
Edgar is the former lightweight champion, despite being the smallest fighter in the division when he competed there, and has fallen just short on multiple occasions of winning the featherweight belt. Tonight was supposed to be his third title shot at 145 pounds, but champion Max Holloway came down with a leg injury to force a cancelation.
Never one to back down from a fight, Edgar accepted a replacement bout with undefeated Brian Ortega. It’s quite the risk for the 36-year-old Edgar, because the 27-year-old Ortega could steal his status as the top contender with an upset.
By the odds, the challenge looks far less considerable for Cyborg. The UFC women’s featherweight champion is holding as nearly a 20-to-1 favorite over Yana Kunitskaya, who will make her UFC debut after winning the Invicta bantamweight championship last August.
Cyborg and Edgar are the main draws, but they aren’t the only pay-per-view veterans featured at UFC 222. Heavyweights Stefan Struve and Andrei Arlovski are in the main card’s second fight, and have provided a number of slugfests in similar spots over the years.
Former women’s bantamweight top contender Cat Zingano opens the main card against up-and-comer Ketlen Vieira. Bridging the gap between the headliners and the two openers is a bantamweight bout between Sean O’Malley and Andre Soukhamthath that the UFC has put considerable promotional heft behind.
O’Malley and Soukhamthath have talked more trash to each other than any other opponents on the card. UFC 222 might not have the most star-studded lineup, but there’s more than enough to provide a solid helping of fights.
Stay tuned to lasvegassun.com for live round-by-round coverage of the main card, and find preliminary results listed below.
In women's strawweight action, Mackenzie Dern secured a late takedown to fend off a near-upset by Ashley Yoder. Dern slipped past Yoder via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29).
Alex Hernandez might have managed both the Knockout of the Night and the Upset of the Night in a lightweight bout against Beneil Dariush. Hernandez, who came in as high as a 4-to-1 underdog after taking the bout on short notice, knocked out Dariush 42 seconds into the first round.
Fights don't get much closer than the one between bantamweights John Dodson and Pedro Munhoz. Dodson was at a size disadvantage but out-slicked Munhoz en route to a split-decision victory (29-28, 29-28), 28-29).
Hector Lombard landed a punch after the bell to floor C.B. Dollaway, and was therefore disqualified in their middleweight bout. The result officially goes down as a first-round disqualification victory for Dollaway over Lombard.
Mike Pyle was too disappointed to find words to express how he felt after his retirement fight didn't go as planned. Zak Ottow caught Pyle with a straight right for a knockout at 2:34 of the first round in their welterweight bout.
Cody Stamman spoiled Bryan Caraway's first fight in more than a year and a half by coming on strong late. Stamman defeated Caraway by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) after withstanding a rough first round in their bantamweight bout.
Jordan Johnson got more from Adam Milstead than many expected, but he still held up to thwart the upset bid. Johnson defeated Milstead by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 27-30) in a card-opening light heavyweight bout.