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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino defends belt by decision but Holly Holm makes her work for it over five rounds at UFC 219 in Las Vegas

Brazil-born champion extends unbeaten run to 19 fights as challenger falls short of another trademark upset in closely scored fight

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 December, 2017, 3:03pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 December, 2017, 3:03pm

Cris “Cyborg” Justino used power strikes and kicks to beat Holly Holm by unanimous decision and defend her featherweight belt at UFC 219 on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

Judges scored it 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47, extending Justino’s unbeaten streak to 19 with a victory over a former bantamweight champion with a knack for big upsets. It was the first time that Brazil-born Justino was taken five rounds in her career.

The fighters exchanged early punches, standing toe-to-toe for much of the first round. Justino (19-1) was able to land some bigger strikes, including a solid right hook that was the best punch of the opening round. The second round went similarly before 32-year-old Justino pressed forward in the third with a solid right cross and a number of kicks. She finished the third with a flurry of punches and continued to hold a slight edge the rest of the way in a tight bout.

Holm’s face was beat up by the end, although neither fighter appeared seriously injured. The 36-year-old American (11-4) was trying for another marquee victory in a career highlighted by her upset of Ronda Rousey in 2015.

Earlier in the night, Khabib Nurmagomedov remained undefeated and staked a claim for a lightweight title shot with a dominant unanimous decision over Edson Barboza.

The second-ranked Nurmagomedov received winning scores of 30-25, 30-25 and 30-24 from the judges. Nurmagomedov improved to 25-0 overall and 9-0 in the UFC. Barboza fell to 19-5.

Current lightweight champion Conor McGregor’s fight status is unknown and interim lightweight champ Tony Ferguson is the only other man standing in Khabib’s way of a title shot.

Nurmagomedov applied pressure from the opening seconds of the fight and secured a takedown early. From there he was able to advance position while landing heavy shots, keeping the fourth-ranked Barboza on the mat for the remainder of the round.

Khabib forced the action to start the second round, continuing to pummel Barboza as he stalked him across the octagon. Nurmagomedov secured another takedown late in the round and again neutralised Barboza while inflicting a great deal of damage until the end of the round.

Khabib had Barboza pressed against the fence for the first half of the final round and secured yet another takedown, completely limiting Barboza’s ability to attack while cruising through the end of the round.

‘I’ve been here before,’ says Holly Holm as she faces mission impossible against ‘Cyborg’

Also, former strawweight champion Carla Esparza earned a hard-fought decision victory, handing sixth-ranked Cynthia Calvillo her first professional loss, and 12th-ranked Neil Magny topped former interim welterweight champ Carlos Condit by unanimous decision.