Cristiane Justino gave the MMA world the beatdown it was expecting.
Justino overcame some mild adversity to retain the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s featherweight title, as she took care of Yana Kunitskaya with punches in the first round of their UFC 222 headliner on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The latest in a long line of “Cyborg” victims, Kunitskaya (10-4, 0-1 UFC) bowed out 3:25 into Round 1.
To her credit, the challenger did not hold back. She executed a low single-leg takedown against Justino early on, employed a dogged clinch and nearly advanced to the Brazilian’s back. However, Justino’s ferocious punching power proved to be far too big of an obstacle. “Cyborg” had Kunitskaya ducking for cover with more than one overhand right and finally drove her to the mat with a straight right hand down the middle. Standing-to-ground punches followed, forcing referee Herb Dean to act.
The 32-year-old Justino (20-1, 5-0 UFC) has rattled off 10 straight victories, nine of them finishes.
Related » UFC 222 Round-by-Round Scoring
Ortega Punches Out Edgar
Former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Brian Ortega established himself as the clear No. 1 contender at 145 pounds, as he put away the indomitable Frankie Edgar with punches in the first round of their co-main event. A replacement for injured featherweight titleholder Max Holloway, Ortega (14-0, 6-0 UFC) brought it to a spectacular close 4:44 into Round 1.
Edgar (22-6-1, 16-6-1) pressed the issue, unleashed body-head combinations and forced the undefeated Rener Gracie disciple onto his back foot. During a close-quarters exchange, Ortega turned the tide in an instant with a devastating standing elbow. Edgar staggered and retreated but found no refuge. Ortega floored him with a crushing right uppercut, trailed him to the canvas and closed the deal with a pair of hammerfists.
The loss snapped a two-fight winning streak for Edgar, who had never before been finished.
O’Malley Bests Soukhamthath Despite Injury
Unbeaten MMA Lab prospect Sean O'Malley kept his perfect professional record intact with a unanimous decision over Andre Soukhamthath in a featured bantamweight confrontation. All three judges sided with O’Malley (10-0, 2-0 UFC): 29-27, 29-27 and 29-28.
Soukhamthath (12-6, 1-3 UFC) had no answers for his 23-year-old counterpart. O’Malley switched stances and assaulted him from every imaginable angle with a variety of strikes, including a spinning backfist and a spinning hook kick in the first round. At the end of the first five minutes, a dazed Soukhamthath stumbled back to his corner on unsteady footing. O’Malley showed off his submission skills for much of the middle stanza, where he made passes at a triangle choke, an armbar, a guillotine and a rear-naked choke, further flummoxing Soukhamthath.
Ahead on the scorecards, all of O’Malley’s hard work nearly went for naught in the third round. There, he suffered a lower leg injury on a blocked head kick. Unable to stand, he retreated to his back and managed to survive for what seemed like an eternity. Soukhamthath unwittingly aided the ailing Arizonan’s cause by securing a pair of takedowns and allowing him to ride out the remaining time.
Resurgent Arlovski Overcomes Struve
American Top Team’s Andrei Arlovski won for the second time in as many appearances, as the former UFC champion recorded a unanimous decision against Stefan Struve in a three-round heavyweight feature. Arlovski (27-15, 16-9 UFC) swept the scorecards with 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 marks from the judges.
Outside of an exchange on the ground in the second round, Struve (28-10, 12-8 UFC) failed to shift out of neutral. Arlovski backed up the 6-foot-11 Dutchman with multi-punch bursts, tore into his leg with kicks and showed off a new wrinkle to his game, executing a career-high five takedowns.
Struve, 30, has suffered back-to-back defeats.
Still-Perfect Vieira Sinks Zingano
Takedowns, ground-and-pound and positional control carried undefeated Nova Uniao standout Ketlen Vieira to a split decision over Cat Zingano in a women’s bantamweight showcase. All three judges scored it 29-28: Sal D’Amato and Dave Hagen for Vieira, Marcos Rosales for Zingano.
Zingano (9-3, 2-3 UFC) paired clubbing right hands upstairs with kicks and knees to the body, but she could not keep the Brazilian at bay. Vieira (10-0, 4-0 UFC) countered effectively and landed a takedown in the first round, then found another gear in the second. There, she executed a beautiful judo throw and threatened with an arm-triangle choke before settling in guard and applying her ground-and-pound. Zingano conceded another takedown in Round 3 but escaped to her feet and fought with a sense of urgency, as she unleashed punches, knees and body kicks. Even so, her efforts fell short and she remained winless since September 2014.
Prelims: Unbeaten Dern Outpoints Yoder
In preliminary action, two-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Mackenzie Dern (6-0, 1-0 UFC) pocketed a split decision -- 28-29, 29-28, 29-28 -- over Ashley Yoder (5-4, 0-3 UFC) in their three-round battle at 115 pounds; Alexander Hernandez (9-1, 1-0 UFC) knocked out Beneil Dariush (14-4-1, 8-4-1 UFC) with a left hand 42 seconds into the first round of their lightweight clash; John Dodson (20-9, 9-4 UFC) took a split decision -- 28-29, 30-27, 29-28 -- from Pedro Munhoz (15-3, 5-3 UFC) in their bantamweight pairing; Hector Lombard (34-9-1, 3-7 UFC) was disqualified in his middleweight match against C.B. Dollaway (17-8, 11-8 UFC) after he landed a punch after the first-round bell; Zak Ottow (16-5, 3-2 UFC) stopped Mike Pyle (27-14-1, 10-9 UFC) with punches 2:34 into the first round of their welterweight encounter; Cody Stamann (17-1, 3-0 UFC) eked out a split decision -- 28-29, 29-28, 29-28 -- over Bryan Caraway (21-8, 6-3 UFC) in their bantamweight tilt; and Jordan Johnson (9-0, 3-0 UFC) was awarded a split decision -- 29-28, 27-30, 29-28 -- over Adam Milstead (8-2, 1-1 UFC) in a three-round light heavyweight affair.