UFC 222 is alive and well as a pay-per-view event.
When Max Holloway withdrew from his featherweight title defense against Frankie Edgar, rumors began to circulate that the card could be downgraded to a UFC Fight Night – or even canceled altogether. However, some last-minute maneuvering by the Las Vegas-based promotion allowed the event to maintain its original status.
A women’s featherweight championship bout between Cristiane Justino and Yana Kunitskaya will serve as the new UFC 222 headliner. Promotion officials reportedly wanted to keep a title bout at the top of the card if UFC 222 was to remain a pay-per-view offering.
Meanwhile, Edgar will stay on the card and face Brian Ortega in the co-main event. The winner of the featherweight contest will likely challenge Holloway for the title when the Hawaiian returns to full health. MMAFighting.com first reported the new matchups on Wednesday.
UFC 222 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on March 3 and also includes a heavyweight tilt pitting Andrei Arlovski against Stefan Struve.
After claiming the vacant featherweight crown with a third-round TKO of Tonya Evinger at UFC 214, Justino made her first successful defense with a five-round verdict over Holly Holm in the UFC 219 headliner on Dec. 30. “Cyborg” had been rumored for a title defense against reigning bantamweight queen Amanda Nunes, but that bout has not yet come to fruition.
A native of St. Petersburg, Russia, Kunitskaya last appeared at Invicta FC 25, where she captured the promotion’s 135-pound belt with a five-round decision against Raquel Pa’aluhi on Aug. 31. The 28-year-old owns a 10-3 record with one no contest as a professional.
Edgar posted back-to-back triumphs over Jeremy Stephens and Yair Rodriguez to put himself in position for a shot at Holloway’s belt. “The Answer” has twice challenged for 145-pound gold, falling to Jose Aldo on both occasions.
Ortega is one of the promotion’s rising featherweight talents. “T-City” earned his fifth straight triumph in the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 123, as he submitted Cub Swanson with a guillotine choke 3:22 into the second round of their headlining bout on Dec. 9.