UFC women’s featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino entered her title defense in the main event of UFC 222 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena as nearly a minus 2,000 favorite.
Once she created a little space between herself and Yana Kunitskaya, she fought like the price wasn’t steep enough.
Justino had to work back to her feet after an early slip and a brief submission attempt but made quick work of Kunitskaya once she got up.
After knocking Kunitskaya down against the cage, Justino sealed the deal with a series of right hands on the mat until the fight was stopped at 3:25 of the first round.
“All glory to God,” said Justino, who has won 20 straight fights and all five since joining the UFC. “I train all the time, so I took this fight on short notice, but I felt very prepared.”
Kunitskaya, a former Invicta bantamweight champion, was an emergency option on short notice when Justino agreed to fight on the card, which needed a new main event when Max Holloway was injured and forced out of the event.
There aren’t many contenders jumping at the chance to fight Justino, who said her next bout probably will be against bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes if Nunes defeats Raquel Pennington in May.
Also on the card, featherweight contender Brian Ortega remained undefeated and became the first fighter to finish off Frankie Edgar in his 29-fight pro career.
Ortega solidified himself as the unquestioned No. 1 challenger by staggering Edgar with a short elbow, then ending all doubt with a massive right uppercut at 4:44 of the first round.
“I have worked really hard to get here, and it’s even more surreal than I could’ve imagined,” Ortega said. “I just beat one of the best to ever do it. One of the real legends of this game is Frankie Edgar.”
Edgar hadn’t lost a nontitle fight since 2008, and all five of his losses had come by decision.
Ortega is 6-0 in the UFC and has stopped all six opponents.
Bantamweight prospect Sean O’Malley won a unanimous decision over Andre Soukhamthath despite suffering a leg injury that caused him to be taken from the cage on a stretcher.
Soukhamthath appeared to have an opportunity to take advantage of O’Malley’s injury after dropping the first two rounds, but he chose to take a hobbled O’Malley to the ground and essentially negated the edge.
O’Malley conducted his postfight interview laying on the mat and receiving medical attention before he was carried to a cageside stretcher.
Women’s bantamweight contender Ketlen Vieira remained undefeated and spoiled the return of title challenger Cat Zingano by winning a split decision.
Vieira is 4-0 in the UFC and 10-0 overall. Her strength in the clinch and on the mat proved too much for Zingano, who lost her third straight bout and was fighting for the first time since July 2016.
Former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski relied largely on his wrestling — a skill he had rarely shown in the past decade — to win a unanimous decision over Stefan Struve in a relatively uneventful bout.
Star women’s strawweight prospect Mackenzie Dern’s UFC debut highlighted the preliminary card, as she won a split decision over Ashley Yoder to remain undefeated.
Dern, one of the most accomplished jiu-jitsu competitors to enter the UFC, struggled to get the fight to the mat and in her comfort zone. She managed to land some good right hands, but was dropped by a straight left in the second round.
The fight probably was won late in the third round when Dern finally got a takedown and almost secured a choke.
Las Vegans Bryan Caraway and Mike Pyle lost on the undercard.
Pyle, 42, was knocked out in the first round by welterweight Zak Ottow. Pyle announced last week that it would be his final fight.
Caraway dropped a split decision to Cody Stamann in a bantamweight bout.
Lightweight Alexander Hernandez made an explosive UFC debut with a 42-second knockout of heavy favorite Beneil Dariush.
Bantamweight John Dodson won a split decision over Pedro Munhoz in a bout delayed by a month after Munhoz couldn’t make weight for the scheduled fight in Brazil.
Jordan Johnson edged light heavyweight Adam Milstead by split decision, though Milstead won all three rounds on the dissenting card.
Middleweight C.B. Dollaway won by disqualification when he couldn’t continue after Hector Lombard landed a punch after the bell ending the first round.
Results of Saturday’s main card bouts at T-Mobile Arena:
— Cris “Cyborg” Justino def. Yana Kunitskaya, knockout, first round (3:25), to retain women’s featherweight belt
— Brian Ortega def. Frankie Edgar, featherweights, knockout, first round (4:44)
— Sean O’Malley def. Andre Soukhamthath, bantamweights, unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-28)
— Andrei Arlovski def. Stefan Struve, heavyweights, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
— Ketlen Vieira def. Cat Zingano, women’s bantamweights, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)