Not much was expected of Yana Kunitskaya in the UFC 222 headliner, but for one fleeting moment, she had Cristiane Justino on the defensive.
After being rocked by a right hand in an initial exchange, the former Invicta FC titlist dove low for a takedown and was able to take “Cyborg” to the canvas. The Brazilian then rolled to her knees and attempted to crawl away. When she tried to stand, Kunitskaya briefly jumped on her back.
It didn’t last, however, as Justino was able to free herself from the predicament in relatively short order. Kunistkaya never really had an opportunity to attempt a rear-naked choke.
“It’s why I’m so sad, because I feel I can control this fight at some points,” Kunitskaya said at the post-fight press conference. “But what happened, everyone saw.”
Once the combatants resumed trading on the feet, it was only a matter of time before “Cyborg” asserted herself. Justino floored Kunitskaya with another big right hand and ended the contest with a barrage of hammerfists on the floor at the 3:25 mark of round one.
In the end, Kunitskaya met a fate similar to most of Justino’s opponents.
“It was a weird experience,” Kunitskaya said. “I was so nervous, and I hope to come back as fast as I can.
“I think I was nervous because I was facing Cris Cyborg, a great fighter that’s not in my weight class. But it was all a mental problem, I will try to fix it and comeback stronger.”
When she does come back, it won’t be at featherweight. Kunitskaya accepted the fight against “Cyborg” at 145 pounds on short notice to help save the UFC 222 card. It didn’t hurt that she was compensated with a disclosed $100,000 payday. Kunitskaya confirmed that her next UFC appearance will take place in the bantamweight division.
“Yeah, I will come back to 135,” she said.